This site has been on the internet for two years now. Imagine that. Just before I started up Tentacle Armada, I was in the throes of World of Warcraft addiction. I abruptly quit the game when the Wrath of the Lich King expansion came out and decided to kick off a figure review site. I can scarcely recall what things were like back then; it feels like I’ve been running this site for as long as I can remember. Blog years ought to be measured in dog years, where a year of blogging feels like seven years of life.
I don’t spend much time talking about the site itself but as today is an auspicious day, I will make an exception. Let’s take a look at how Tentacle Armada has evolved over the past year.
When I started doing figure photographs, I stuck with plain-colored backgrounds: first a hideous blue curtain and then a lot of black and white. I got pretty bored of doing that so now I try to do weird stuff. However, being that I’m not a very experienced photographer, a lot of my ideas don’t turn out very well. Some of them are salvageable with some modifications or liberal Photoshopping, some of them require some re-thinking before becoming viable, and some of them are just so bad that I look back at them and wonder what in the world I was thinking in the first place. They say that there’s no teacher like failure, so this post is a tribute to the value of education.
I recently spent some time practicing my
Photoshop photography skills, and I shot some new pictures of Aegis and Rei. My Aegis photos were one of the earliest photo shoots in which I played around with shadows and a black background. I liked those photos a lot at the time and in retrospect, I can’t quite remember why:
I really am not digging the folds and creases in the background. It makes me want to re-shoot pictures of every figure I reviewed using a cloth backdrop.
I like my new pictures, but I wonder if I’ll look back at these photos a year or two from now and think, “What in the world was I doing? C’mon man.”
Here’s one more image that isn’t quite as dark as the first:
Rei was one of the earliest figures I photographed, and I was still using a ragged blue curtain then as the background. I also used three lamps, one shining from each side and a third illuminating from above. It made for a lifeless photograph, as if Rei were nothing more than a chunk of molded, painted plastic:
How boring is that? Really bloody boring. Rei’s an albino clone girl who slides herself into a tight bodysuit to fight off huge monsters bent on genocide in an apartment-sized robot; she shouldn’t be boring. I think my new pictures are more interesting than my old ones, even though I don’t really have any clue what I’m doing. They’re probably not quite as useful from a review perspective, but I’m comfortable with making that sacrifice in the name of prettier pictures.
Lacking anything more productive to do on this cold, wet holiday, I decided to reshoot Kokoro, being that my earlier pictures were particularly hideous. While I was at it, I thought that I’d provide a look at the “studio” in which I take my figure pictures. It’s not a particularly complicated setup, although it certainly is a mess.
Continuing through the figure photo re-shooting project, I took some new pictures of Good Smile Company’s Lineage II mage.
This was one of the more difficult photo sets I’ve taken. I originally used red cloth for the ground surface and it looked conspicuously incongruous with the foliage and flowers and such. I decided to reshoot the photos (making the final set a re-reshoot) using dirt for the ground, except since I didn’t like the idea of strewing actual dirt on my computer desk, I used instant coffee. Of course, I forgot that I hugely dislike the smell of coffee, which tends to make me feel nauseous. The process of taking these pictures was thus particularly arduous, and I’ve still got three fans blowing air in here to try to ventilate this space.
I said something a week or two ago about having a bunch of preorders due this month. Ha! I’ve watched with helpless dismay as figure after figure is pushed back to September and October. It’s almost enough to drive a man to tears. To assuage my lachrymose despondency I went ahead and re-photographed Senhime and Mishiro Akatsuki, the girl with the helicopter hair.
Does anyone think that anything is actually getting released this month? Should figure manufacturers just preemptively bump back all of their releases by a month? Was Michael Vick’s signing by the Eagles a good move? Maybe it’s time to work through the figure review backlog; Alter’s Nadie might be next up, then.
Back when I really did not know what I was doing, I took this picture of Subaru, the cutest amputee ninja around:
Man that looks bad. The background is bad. The figure looks bad. Everything is bad. The rest of the review’s pictures were just as bad. Now that I’m a bit more experienced with taking pictures, I decided to re-do Subaru’s photos:
Lately I’ve been making an effort at providing an interesting backdrop for my figure pictures. I think it makes for a much more appealing photo, and the backgrounds are a lot of fun (albeit rather time-consuming) to create. I’m also trying a few different things with respect to photographic technique. I’ve switched to the cheap 50mm f/1.8 lens for all my figure pictures, and I’m spending more time performing post-processing. My figure reviews take a lot longer to complete, but I think the time spent is worthwhile.
I got Meiya put back together and as one can see, she’s actually holding her sword now. Am I making a note here, huge success? Hardly; I did an awful job of reattaching her arm, but fortunately the paint is dark and her armpit isn’t visible from the front. Given a choice between ugly arm joint and a straight sword versus a clean arm joint with her sword passing over her right hand, I prefer the former.
I’ve been playing with the new cheap lens; it’s tempting to abuse its capabilities by jacking aperture width as wide as it’ll go. It’s noticeably sharper than the kit lens I’ve been using for all my earlier shots, but it seems more difficult to focus where I want it to. It’s also unusual in that I have to position my camera farther away from the subject than I’m used to; with the kit lens, I’m usually no more than a foot away from the figure, but with the f/1.8 lens I usually need to move back a meter or more to get it in the frame. It’s fun to experiment with, but it does provide a humbling indication of how little I really know about photography.
In miscellaneous news I looked at my preorders and I have something like ten figures scheduled for release this month. It’s gonna be spensive.
The re-shooting project continues apace, with my first three reviews ever getting do-overs. Looking back at my older pictures, I cringe at how bad they are. I haven’t been taking pictures for very long but I think I’ve made some improvement. I’m not saying that I’m any good now, mind you, only that I’ve begun doing things differently as of late.
Here’s a few comparison pictures of Haruka:
And a couple from my Nanjyou Ran photo sets:
And finally a couple before-and-after sets of Senhime:
I like how the flowers turned out, particularly on Nanjyou Ran’s shoot; they’re kinda psychadelic. I usually use plain black or white backgrounds but I think I might try to change things up a little bit with props every now and then.
Part of me says that I should keep the old pictures the way they are as a sort of historical record that shows how bad my pictures were. On the other hand, a much more strident and overpowering part of me says that this is my blog and I should do what I feel like and that newbie pictures aren’t something that I want to show off to the world.
Next up for reshoots are probably Lala and Canal. I’d like to re-shoot Alter’s Senhime too; I have some ideas for what sort of setting I’d like to use but it’s going to take some time to put it together.
Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day of remembrance for the men and women who have served in the military. Spurred on by Alter’s recent unveling of a Yoshika Miyafuji figure, I’ve decided to pay homage to the combat veterans of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing by watching the first episode of Strike Witches.
The opening story reminds me a lot of the beginning of Robotech (or Macross, if you prefer); you’ve got enigmatic, technologically-advanced alien invaders, a young, innocent civilian who shares a tenuous yet deeply personal bond with a high-ranking member of the military, and a wacky, wildly-impractical aviation system. One difference is that Yoshika does decline a chance to take a spin in the Striker Unit, and another departure is that the 501st’s pilots are loli girls. Who wear no pants. In fact, none of the girls in the episode wear pants, it seems. This prohibition on wearing pants is definitely a policy initiative that I can get behind.
One reason that I hadn’t watched Strike Witches when it was first aired are the animal ears and tails. I really don’t like them, and I’m sort of hoping that Alter’s figures have the option of removing them without me having to resort to a Dremel. It’s kind of like when I cook gumbo, I usually add whatever I’ve got. Celery? Sure. Seafood? I never have it around, but if I do, it’s great. Garlic? Absolutely. Baker’s chocolate? Hell no. You can have a great gumbo cooking with a variety of flavors but if you add one wrong ingredient, you’ve screwed it up. That’s how I feel when it comes to shows like this which try to pander to a multiplicity of fetishes; if you don’t like one aspect of the show, it makes it difficult to watch the whole thing. It’s a bit of a shame, as I like a lot of things in this show, such as how they placed the Akagi’s island on the port side and how they based the characters on combat aces, but man, I wish they didn’t have the ears and tails.
On a completely unrelated subject, I’m slowly going through and re-doing some old photos. I’ve got Cammy re-shot, and I’m probably going to re-do Sasara’s gallery next. I’m concerned the whites in my photos are excessively blown out, so I might have to revise my processing techniques.