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April Vampire - Monthly Project

I wish I could say I was super prepared and did amazing at preparing this month's image. That really was not the case. So here I am, barely 2 days left to April, rushing to create a blog post, so that I don’t break my monthly goal. But you know what, I’m still super proud that I made it another month. I am the type of person who does not do well at setting yearly goals, and the fact that I have made it 4 months is quite impressive to me.

This month's delay can solely be blamed on my video editing software. I was able to get my photo retouching and editing done around the 18th. Up until this point I had been using an old free version of Windows Movie Maker (and by old, I mean from Windows XP old) to assemble the “how I did it” videos at the end of each post. I want to be able to upload these videos to youtube eventually, but my good old trusty free video editor just can’t export the videos at a high enough resolution (they look grainy to me). This sent me into a spiral of trying to find free or free adjacent video editing software that wasn’t too complicated to use. I managed to limp my way through using one called VideoPad. It seems to work just fine and it exports at a resolution I am happy with. There is, however, a steep learning curve. This software is definitely for more professional users, and although I have some video editing experience, this program is not exactly user friendly or intuitive. This led to me spending most of the remaining days of the month editing the video and hoping for the best. I might try something different next month, but we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this month's portrait and video. I’ll just be here grumbling about video export time.

Vampire “We enjoy the night, the darkness, where we can do things that aren't acceptable in the light.” - William Hill

I find the history of vampires quite interesting. Although most people think that vampires were invented by Bram Stoker, or were inspired by the mad Vlaad the Impaler, that assumption would be quite wrong. There is evidence that the concept of vampires has been around since ancient greece. They called them “Vrykolakas” which loosely translates to “revenant.” Ancient Greeks believed that the dead were able to reanimate and exist in a state that is neither living nor dead, but rather "undead." Burials of suspected revenants have been discovered throughout the ancient Greek world. The earliest examples are from Cyprus and date to the Neolithic period. The isle of Santorini (nicknamed Vampire Island) was a burial ground for Greeks that were believed to be Vrykolakas. They believed that Vampires could not cross water, so if they buried someone they suspected of being a vampire on Santorini, they would not be able to leave the island and would eventually starve to death rather than have a chance to feast on the living.

Another cool thing about vampires is that there are stories about them in almost every society. Historians have found graves all over the world dating throughout all of history of people who were believed to be vampires. Although some of the details differ, there are generally some common features to a vampire grave:

- The person is either tied up, is facing down, or a combination of the two.

- They are usually staked in place or pinned to the ground in some way

- They are usually missing the heart. The deceased was tied down to prevent them from being able to dig their way out of their grave. They were faced down so that if they were able to dig, they would be digging the wrong direction. The stake was to prevent them from escaping or getting up. As for the heart missing, there were many different reasons why this organ would be taken, and each culture had a different reason. Some even ate the heart after burning it to ash. Generally speaking, it was just easy for them to believe if you didn’t have your heart you wouldn’t get back up. I highly recommend you read this wiki article on the different ways our ancestors handled their “vampires.” As I said, we have been dealing with the idea of vampirism throughout all of history and world wide, and I think this article does a good job of talking about the burial traditions throughout the world.

The Victorian Era is about the time the vampire got rebranded to what we more commonly see today. The real and terrifying revenant that used to haunt our ancestors' dreams was eventually romanticised, and with that came the creation of the ever so famous Dracula. It made sense for the time. The Industrial Revolution spelled major changes for horror literature in the 1840s. Literacy rates had improved. Cities were more crowded than ever. Penny Dreadful’s emerged as a cheap form of entertainment for mass audiences. Thomas Peckett Prest brought us Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber (originally The String of Pearls, 1847), James Malcolm Rymer was behind Varney the Vampire, or The Feast of Blood (1845), which had a huge influence on the vampire genre (including Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1897). In summary people could read, fiction literature was hot, and everyone loves a good horror story.

I think we can all agree, vampires are pretty cool, and have a solid place in our history books. I could literally spend my whole life learning and talking about them, because every culture and every civilization has their own stories about them, and I would still never learn everything there is to learn in my lifetime. I personally chose to design this month's self portrait after the romanticized version of the vampire, rather than the rotting corpse (although maybe a zombie could be a project for another month.) If you watch the video below you will see that, although the composition and editing of this image was quite easy, the masking was quite a challenge. I don’t know why I decided to go with the biggest wind blown hair and the lacy complicated dress, when I could have chosen literally anything else. If you are new to the world of masking, this choice meant I had to mask a lot of fine detailed items, and that’s not something you can do with a simple brush. I decided to relearn a technique that I had tried a few years ago, but didn’t really like at the time. I am happy to report I am now very happy with this technique and will probably use it a lot more in the future. I decided to use the technique where you convert your object to a Smart Object, use the RGB layers to create a mask, and refine the details from the RGB layer mask using the dodge and burn tool. It really sped things up and made things super easy. I highly recommend looking into this technique if you are working with hair. It’s a game changer.

My vampire took me roughly 3.5 hours to create. I used both Lightroom and Photoshop. It has 28 layers and 8 Groups, and is 673.0 MB. Stock images were provided by and

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