Thursday, January 31, 2013

What the Hell Made Me This Way?

Yeah, that's me--fifth grade, Green Acres Elementary School, Fairfax, Virginia (left)
Yeah, that's actually my sixth grade class going on a field trip to my house (right)

So, what makes us the way we are, huh?

The older I get, the more apparent it is that you are a culmination of the path you took and how you interpreted the events in your life for good or bad.

I was the baby of the family, so you can guess I was used to whining to get what I want, feeling as if I have no power, and always having older siblings push me away, so I was the much younger odd woman out. Then, I grew up in a spooky mansion on the hill in the middle of suburban tract homes. Another odd woman out. Do you think that made me the fun kid to hang out with? Not necessarily. The other kids grew up in the suburbs and knew each other. I was like a foreign exchange student. 

See that fifth grade picture? I was calling every girl in my class and the other classes on a Friday night for a sleepover. Were there any takers?  Nope. They knew about the infamous ghosts at my home. Then, there's the fact I was living on an estate. People assumed we were wealthy, but my parents bought clothes on discount and never ever bought us toys, so we had to learn to play outdoors and be creative. Yes, we also had a Victorian summer home on the Chesapeake and a cabin cruiser, but there were no status items amongst us. We lived extremely basic and, in fact, grew and caught our own food at the summer home to give us kids character, along with no television or radio. My parents were much much older and they grew up during the Depression Era, so they had a mindset to put their kids in a beautiful setting and let them just flourish.

So, how did I manage to keep myself from being a total outsider? Well, with a sense of humor is how.

As if things couldn't get worse, in sixth grade the teacher decided we must take a field trip to my home. Holy heck! Can you put a bigger freaking spotlight on what a weird place I lived? My friends lived in modern homes with split levels and shag carpeting. The floorboards in my creaky home were stained with the bloodstains of Civil War soldiers and the place was filled with antiques. It was like the freaking Munsters abode complete with heavy velvet drapes and flocked wallpaper.

So, here I am walking my class and the teacher (and a few nosy parents of the students) through a hole in a neighbor's wood fence to walk behind the barn and past the carriage houses and the orchard to the big scary Confederate Gray house. My mother puts on a good southern spread that embarrasses me again because I wanted it to be casual but the kids actually love the stuff she puts out, so point one for my mother.

They inspect the artifacts in the cases, ask tons of questions, want to use the metal detector. For the first time in my life, my weirdness of growing up using a metal detector and digging up relics is "cool" instead of dorky! (sounds like ghost hunting nowadays, huh?) We play soccer in the huge pasture out front and explore the place, showing off a treefort and the barn and the boxwood mazes and the creek. The kids have a blast and it shocks me.

It ends up my greatest embarrassment is also my greatest asset. Apparently, all these years they wondered about my place too but weren't brave enough to check it out.

So, how do I come to be the one running this blog? It makes perfect sense, a childhood in a haunted house, handling relics and reading their history, curiosity about what creates such conditions, and the knowledge that, if I tell people I'm into this, others will join in with great curiosity. After that field trip, kids would openly talk to me about the ghosts and the house and the history and I was no longer a freak but an expert. I learned to be able to be totally self-contained and happy with my own creative pursuits and not living in the suburbs or worrying about fitting in with the cliches, so I could be an independent thinker and self reliant.

The fact that my parents didn't buy designer clothes or toys made me terribly creative and unaffected by trends and status, as well as a writer and a romantic and a nature lover. The fact that I did live in a mansion in the suburbs made me work even harder to just a regular person, unaffected, and no different than anyone else, just "real folk."

When you look at your life and the things you were embarrassed by as a kid, did they really end up being your strengths?

When I'm writing fiction, I always keep that in mind; a person's strength is his weakness and his weakness is his strength.

Civil War Ghosts

I have a highly unusual experience with Civil War ghosts. I grew up in a home that was previously used as a field hospital during the Civil War by both the North and South at different times of the war. A war-time setting is the ideal breeding ground for ghostly activity.

We know that battlefields have earned enormous reputations as haunted locations, as have sites such as my childhood home that were used as hospitals for the dying, who died in agonizing and barbaric conditions.  This is an ideal set of conditions for some serious hauntings.

In the case of the home I grew up in, the estate had many apparitions on the land and a shadow like figure within the house. It had lots of voices and memory sounds like booted footfalls, as well as objects moving and poltergeist type "throwing" of objects upon occasion.

The ghosts of Gettysburg are most popular of all the Civil War ghosts, though the South certainly has a huge share of ghosts from the era from Atlanta to Charleston and places onward.

We have a lot of beloved ghosts in America based on an unusual and often times lawless beginning. It takes a great deal of trauma and strife to get to a place of productivity and prosperity. On the blood, sweat and tears of our citizens, we have built an amazing country, and perhaps a rather hefty ghost population of souls taken too soon.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Outlaw Ghosts

Outlaws and the Old West - you can't get much more American Legend than that. You also can't find a catalyst for more badass ghosts.

Investigating the Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone a couple years ago, I learned a lot about the amount of deaths associated with a place that was known for drinking, gambling and whoring by some folks who almost no scruples. Put that atop of copper mines running through the land beneath, and you have an almost too tempting conduit for a haunting.

Jesse James was seen as a Robin Hood of the West.  His body was buried at the family's Missouri farm and later moved to a cemetery, but folks at the farm reported his haunting there still with reports of doors slamming, lights moving, a feeling of being watched, and sounds of yelling and gun shots.

The 1930s outlaws, Bonnie and Clyde supposedly give off ghostly image at the location where they died when people take photographs of the marker.

This wonderful site reports this chilling outlaw ghost story -

 Thomas Edward Ketchum was born on October 31, 1863. He was the first person to be hanged on April 26, 1901 in New Mexico and the only one for train robbery under a law that was later found to be unconstitutional. He haunts his favorite hangouts.

A man who wants to remain anonymous saw Ketchum’s ghost when he was a boy. He and several friends were backpacking through the mountains and decided to camp under an overhang over one of the outlaw’s favorite hang outs. They built a fire and talked about their trip before going to bed. The boy drifted into sleep, thinking about Black Jack. He was awakened by a noise in the bushes. He felt paralyzed and couldn’t yell. He saw a black clad cowboy, holding a gun, run out of the bushes toward Ketchum’s hideout. The figure was solid, with some translucent parts. The cowboy was unaware of the boy. The boy heard men yelling and gunfire. The cowboy fired his gun six times into the trees, ran, stood over him and discharged six shell casings that fell onto his sleeping bag. Suddenly the wraith saw the boy and said, "You're not supposed to be here," before he vanished.

As the boy rolled up his sleeping bag in the morning, he found six shell casings. The boy told his friends about his experience. They were amused by the story and shrugged it off as a prank. The boy never mentioned the incident again, but kept the casings. Later, he saw a photo of Black Jack. He was the specter he saw. He contacted a gun expert who said the casings were dated from sometime around 1878, but were in almost mint condition.

Given their tenacity and single-mindedness and the angry ways in which they died, if anyone can haunt a site, an outlaw should make it happen.

What Does It Mean To Believe?

I hear people toss around the "belief" word a lot.

"I believe in ghosts."
"I believe in Bigfoot."
"I believe in ancient aliens."
"I believe in UFOs."

Belief is an interesting thing.

To some, belief involves hope and wishes,
"I believe (hope) we will the Super Bowl this year."

Then, there is belief that represents acceptance of a form of evidence,
 "I believe the Bible is proof of God.

Sometimes, it's a combination of hope and a form of evidence,
"I hope there is an afterlife and people with near-death experiences are evidence of that."

For some, belief happens without question. They accept something and never really understand the origins of that acceptance. They don't stop and reevaluate it. Perhaps they just find it "feasible." Such as, "I believe in Bigfoot." (But, have never seen one, read about it, pursued knowledge about it, it just sounded like a reasonable concept that others believe in--after all, the woods are big, right?)

All of us enter the field of paranormal research with beliefs. My personal belief is that I have no freaking idea what this phenomena is and so all explanations are open.  But, others might enter it with a firm belief that we are dealing with the souls of the dead that didn't make it to Heaven.

The problem sometimes with beliefs is that they color how we explain things.

An ideal researcher has no set beliefs in what the phenomena is, whether he has belief in God, Heaven and the afterlife.  I like to approach these things as if anything is a possible explanation. If your belief if strong, a haunted location is not going to make or break that belief.

I try to look at it from every angle including human psychology and perceptions, our weak senses, our fears and beliefs, self explanatory style, the setting and context, the weather and conditions, and so much more. It's a paranormal soup, but a truly good researcher stops and asks himself "what flavors are making up the soup and how did the cook go about making this fine dish?"

It's okay to have beliefs, just be aware when they color how you explain things that happen in the field of paranormal study.

 Do not use the evidence to support your belief.

If you are not in ghost hunting to prove a belief system, but to find out what might be happening, then you will be able to leave with your integrity and your belief system still intact.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Paranormal Geeks Radio Tonight!

Tonight launches the new Paranormal Geeks Radio with host Jim Heater.
It's on at this link
9 pm EST/8 pm Central/7 pm Mountain/6 pm Pacific
Call in number 646-378-0275

For this opening show, Julie and I will be the guests and giving away a signed copy of "Paranormal Geeks" book to one lucky person in the chatroom.

Opening music is provided by Jonathan Berman and his album "I Fall Awake."

The thrust of the show is to get a very wide range of paranormal experts and a great conversation going about all things PG (paranormal geek).  Jim Heather, the talented host and leader of the fantastic Illinois group, CHiPS and Spirits of Lincoln, will be probing the minds of a huge variety of paranormal experts. We hope to create unity within the paranormal field so there is no elitism, but only curiosity. If you were into ghosts before, bring on-board ancient aliens or psychics, cryptids or UFOs, and zombies. Don't be afraid to let your mind open even further!  

In upcoming weeks, here's the lineup (be sure to follow it at this blog)-
February 5th: Christopher Booth (paranormal documentary/show producer)
February 12: Marla Frees (psychic medium)
February 19: Jim Vieira (expert on ancient burial mounds/ancient giants)
February 26: David Lowery (paranormal highwayman)
March 5Sandra Wells (author, spirit medium)
March 12: MK Davis (video expert best known for being the first to stabilize the Patterson-Gimlin film)
March 19: Ben Hansen (you know him from Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files show. Ben has been and continues to be a serious paranormal investigator)
March 26: Maria D. Jones (author of PSIence and other fantastic books involving science and the paranormal)
April 2: Paul Kimball (Canada's leading paranormal and UFO specialist)
April 9: Lauren Lawrence (dream decoder) 
April 16: Kathleen Marden (expert on UFO abductions and expert on the Betty and Barney Hill case) 
April 23:  Linda Godfrey (expert on Dogman)
April 30: Jeff Mudgett  (talented author of "Bloodstains" He inherited his great-great grandfather's journals, one of the most notorious killers, Jack the Ripper.)

Gangster Ghosts

Gangster: A gangster is a member a gang out to perform illegal activities. They are also called mobsters. Perhaps one of these most infamous gangsters in America was Al Capone. He got to that position by cornering the market in prostitution, bootlegged alcohol and gambling in Chicago during the Prohibition Era.

In the case of Al Capone, he was believed to be haunted by a ghost from the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, Bob Dole, an Irish rival gang member.  

Jimmy Hoffa perhaps makes one of the most chilling ghosts.  From heading up the teamsters to nefarious mob work with jury tampering, bribing, and fraud. He was pardoned by Nixon and then went missing in 1975, believed to have been killed off.  There have been lots of theories about where his body is:

Buried under a driveway in Detroit. Supposedly, one of the men Hoffa was supposed to meet the day he went missing was mixing concrete for a new driveway at his home.

A horse farm 30 miles away where a backhoe was taken in that day, a reported mafia meeting spot.

Burned in a trash incinerator at a funeral home.

Dismembered and frozen until 5 months later when he was placed in concrete at a New Jersey stadium.

Buried in the concrete in the foundation of the Detroit Renaissance Center.

Dumped into the Great Lakes.

This thorough site reported some of the rumors of Hoffa's demise - 

According to Ralph Picardo, the convict who gave up the main suspects in the case, Hoffa’s body was put in a 55-gallon steel drum and carted away in a  truck. Picardo said he didn’t know where it was taken but one theory had it that the drum was buried on the grounds of Brother Moscato’s garbage dump, a toxic waste site in Jersey City, New Jersey. 

According to another snitch, Hoffa’s body was taken to New Jersey where it was mixed into the concrete that was used to construct the New York Giant’s football stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. He was also said to have been  encased in the foundation of a public works garage in Cadillac, Michigan and buried under the helipad at the Sheraton Savannah Resort Hotel, which at the time of his disappearance was owned by the Teamsters. 

Hoffa was said to have been buried in a gravel pit in Highland, Michigan, which was owned by his brother William; crushed in an automobile compactor at Central Sanitation Services in Hamtramck, Michigan or buried in a field in  Waterford Township, Michigan. 

He was also alleged to have been ground up at a meat processing plant and then dumped in a Florida swamp or disintegrated at a fat-rendering plant. 

The restaurant in which he was last seen has reported some ghostly goings on. Is it Hoffa? Well, the workers in the restaurant might say so.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Speakeasy Ghosts

Prohibition:  From 1920 to 1933, America banned alcohol production and sales, but that didn't stop inventive folks from stilling liquor and serving it in hidden lesser known locations. They were named speakeasies because in public, people whispered of them and once inside, they remained quiet to not draw attention to the illegal gathering. Bootlegging liquor obviously brought in a gangster interest and mob activity associated with killings, greed, and intimidation.

Speakeasies, brothels and gambling went hand in hand and developed the gangster/mobster issues that ensued. When there is a hot industry to be made and no regulation, lawlessness occurs, as do killings.

It would appear that Decatur, Illinois has cornered the market on speakeasy ghosts. In the downtown area where buildings that once housed speakeasies are located, tenants are still troubled by the past shenanigans.

This wonderful posting tells in great detail about Decatur speakeasies and its ghosts -

The first reported activity seems to have occurred in 1994 when an employee from the local utility company was making his monthly rounds reading the power meters. He was working in the upstairs of the building adjacent to where the gambling rooms were and noticed that odd sounds could be heard coming through the wall. He later reported to me that the sounds were of a number of people talking and laughing, the sound of music being played and something that sounded like a marble spinning on a roulette wheel. At that time, he had no idea that the rooms next to where he had been that day had once contained a gambling parlor nor that the rooms were abandoned at the time he claimed to hear the sounds. 

In early summer 1996, the employees at Bell’s Jewelry store started to notice that all was not right on the upper floors of the building. Three employees of the store individually reported hearing sounds like heavy objects falling and footsteps on the third floor. When they went upstairs to investigate, they found nothing. At one point, they even called in an exterminator, thinking that a rodent problem might account for the odd noises. The pest control company was unable to find any openings where animals could get access to the rooms. 

All along, store employees had reported feeling uncomfortable in the old gambling rooms when they had any occasion to go inside of them. In fact, they had largely avoided them before the noises had started. One of the employees recalled the weird feelings that she would get inside of the rooms. "The first time that I went up there, I felt afraid," she told me during one of many interviews I conducted with the staff. "I knew instantly that I didn’t like it up there.... a year later, curiosity got the best of me because I wanted to see the old magazine pictures that were supposed to be on the walls. I had my niece go up there with me and it seemed like the room was very cold... I got the feeling something was in that room. There were cold spots in there and it gave me a bone cold feeling. My hair actually raised on my neck." 

The inexplicable noises continued over a span of several months and then other things started to happen, like items in the store downstairs going missing. Tools, cases and small pieces started to vanish without a trace. Some of these items would turn up again in other places, while most things, like a mostly full bottle of Jim Beam whiskey, were never seen again. They also reported that on one occasion, all of the jewelry cases in the store were somehow unlocked and opened during the night even though the elaborate alarm system was never triggered.

Review of Finding Bigfoot

Last night, the team went to West Virginia (the home of most of my family). I have been going there since I was a baby and the towns I go to, have not changed one single iota in several decades. Much of the land is untouched and filled with caves, lakes, streams and tons of wild turkeys and deer. West Virginia is a state one doesn't drive through, it's a bit of a dead end for road trips, so people go there intentionally and not to go through it to go somewhere else. If there was ever a great state for BF, it's this one! In fact, I had an encounter I believe at the Pipestem State Park which is a sanctuary for wildlife. I hope to go back there this summer and check it out more closely.

Best Lines From the Show:
Cliff:  Surely, crappy photos are fully forgivable.
Bobo: He's a real squatcher, I'll tell you that. Welcome to the club.
Cliff:  Like the gates of hell opened up!
Ranae:  If there's one thing I know Bobo loves, it's a party.
Ranae:  Maybe I'll get a special visitor tonight in my tent.
Cliff:  Just shows what a squatchy place West Virginia is.
Cliff: It was like walking into Bobo's hotel room or something, it was just off the hook!

The team took the young man into the woods who had sent them the blobsquatch pic from his backyard. The deer grazing along the back of his property line was exactly like everywhere else I've  been in WV, including lots of wild turkeys rushing around in groups. The state is the Garden of Eden for Bigfoot with crops, oak trees attracting wildlife, caves, waterways, and tons of privacy.  They had a branch fall in front of them and they didn't find a place where it came from. The team got a howl in response to a howl.  Ranae wanted to stay when it rained and the rest left. The branch made her want to know more, as the aera seemed to be ideal for squatch. Ranae found a cave that looked like a good hideout.  They had some Bigfoot hairs that a couple found where he went over a fence. They sent it in to be checked out and showed physical characteristics of BF hair.

They talked to an ex sheriff and marine who saw BF.  This ex-lawman is trained to observe and take note of things and don't want to have their names associated with something absurd.  Ranae pulled out balloons and glow sticks and noisemakers. She did some wood knocking on her camp out too. The others went to check out another witness from a daytime sighting. They found out it was a very legitimate hunter's account and he might have been inadvertently feeding them entrails and organs every time he gutted a deer and left the innards there. They went to a ho-down and listened to local music.  Ranae had no squatch luck even though the location seemed ideal.

The team decided to go to the location the witness gutted deer at and gathered up some slaughterhouse guts to use as bait. Bobo made some calls and got an owl response. They all heard calls that were terrifying. Something took the guts and the camera was on it. Bobo thought the trip was epic and the best trip with the group yet.

Interestingly, the camera malfunctioned and didn't get shots and the hair didn't yield DNA for evaluation. Hmm.... I sincerely hope they go back. Julie and I will report daily when we are there, sharing our own experience when we go there.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Finding Bigfoot Tonight on Animal Planet

Tonight's episode I'm very excited about. I have family in West Virginia and had an experience there on a preserve that has me determined to go back this summer and check it out again. I even found some highly unusual stick structures.

The preserve was so filled with deer and wild turkey that the roadway up was plugged with them. The entire mountain had tons of caves and lakes and streams. It was a wonderland with extremely few visitors. Relatives have told stories of Bigfoot encounters there and a relative when I was a kid, left out food on a tree stump near the woods for the "white bear man" described as looking like a bear, walking like a man.  In several decades of visiting the area, not a thing has changed. West Virginia has to be a destination to go through it. People don't use it as a thru-way, so it remains very unchanged and very untouched and positively ideal for BF.

Expect my review of the show tomorrow morning on the blog and all the best lines of the show. Perhaps I will have a new meme to share. :-)

Aliens On the Moon?

Rumor has been strong that Apollo 20 captured a cigar-shaped craft on the moon -

If all this isn't wild enough, consider this theory; "Spaceship Moon Theory" also known as "Vasin-Shcherbakov Theory." This one states that the Earth's moon is actually an alien ship. The concept includes that the moon is a hollowed out "faux" moon. They believed that, looking at the crater shapes proved there was no depth to the moon.

How about a site devoted to aliens on the moon?

An interesting article that talks more about a potential alien base on the moon can be found here. 

If one believes in alien visitors, the moon is an obvious base for operations to visit the Earth, go back and rest without being found. The other option is one that I think has a lot of merit (if aliens really visit us) which is to take the air-tight, pressure-controlled ship and dive it into the ocean and hide there handily until it's time to come back out and hover over a backyard in Dayton, Ohio or a park in Birmingham, Alabama.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

More Paranormal Memes

Abandoned Places That Are Gone Now

When Julie and I do our urban exploration trips for our own curiosity and interest and for the abandoned places: abandoned memories book series, we feel compelled to go back to locations we had previously chronicled. Most of them are gone by the time we get back within a year's time.

This location below was a large warehouse type building that was featured in our Abandoned Places: Abandoned Memories (Desert Edition) book. The place was not a danger or rickety, but it was at a fairly busy intersection area and obviously teens had partied extensively inside.

This location was a total surprise. Julie and I stopped along I-10 on the way to Tucson, a place called Picacho. There was a little post office, a bunch of abandoned 1950s looking roadside motels, trailers, little houses, this motel and the tabernacle (below). We came back a year later and couldn't find the town and then we learned they had plowed the whole town under!

This house (below) was a few homes over from my sister's in West Virginia. I found it beautiful and glorious, all the plant life taking over. She said that the stray dogs (many there, no services to take care of them) had made their place inside of it. Ultimately, it was taken down as a safety risk, but spooked neighbors never saw the lot sold or rebuilt upon.

This building (below) was a burned out place. It had been gutted out and had tons of rusted metal and dangerously sharp items jutting out, a real safety hazard in a downtown area. They did remove the remains of the building, but for a time it was quite beautiful.

This interesting place (below) was an ancient building and so tragically alone in the desert and yet fascinating with its one remaining wall. Other than a burned out home, this was one of the most destroyed buildings I've photographed.

This charming ranch home (below) was in Chandler, Arizona and right near a very busy area. It was dangerous inside with much of the floor missing, but it was so very charmingly affected by the weather. I was heartbroken when it was gone, although from the amount of folks stopping and photographing it, I realize it was a dangerous site. I'm just glad I not only got to photograph it, but Julie and I used it in our Zombie Housewives of the Apocalypse book.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ghost Adventures Drinking Game

"Highway to Hell" AC/DC

Tonight's episode is "Passport To Hell" about the most sinister locations in the world. Zak and the Boyz are gonna kick up some screams, no doubt.

Drinking Game Rules
1. Stay home.
2. One sip for every "dude," "bro," "man," every time Zak thinks he was touched by a ghost and every time Aaron's mouth drops open in horror.

Drink tonight?
Hell's kitchen drink - 1 oz whiskey, 1 oz irish cream
on the rocks

Haunted Objects

Although it's a romantic notion that the dead are attached to their belongings and remain with them as they go from family member to family member's home, as a psychometrist, I can tell you that souls do not attach to objects, but memories and energies do.

It is entirely possible to use an object as a touchstone to contact the dead and these can be utilized in seances and EVP sessions to create a focus for the loved one.

Many people attribute strange happenings, bad mojo and ghostly activity with the acquisition of antiques, family mementos and other aged items, but I can assure you that a ghost did not attach itself to the object and walk into your home with it. Objects hold energies, good and bad, unsettling and spastic. When these are placed into a home where there are other objects or conditions that also present a haunted situation, more disruption can occur.

If activity starts up, I always say to go backwards. Remove the newest acquisition and place it away from the other objects. If all activity stops, then it was the combination of that object with those items.

What happens is this. Positive energy can be zen-like and meditative or it can be high energy and puppy dog happy. Both are positive, but very different kinds of positive. When you combine them a battle "emotional frequencies" can occur. You end up creating something brand new by having them together when apart they were vastly different. Very much like personalities in a group working on a project where two members keep going at each other because one is a leader and one is arrogant and self absorbed.

It doesn't mean you have a negative energy when these things happen, it simply means you have a clashing of the wills. You will often notice a bad mix of items when no one wants to sit in that area or spend time there or family arguments to occur in that spot. It is time to think about performing a little isolation of one of the objects until you find out who doesn't play nicely with the others. This does not mean the object must go. It could be a very positive energy, but just doesn't jive with the other energy in the other objects. Move it on to its own place. Chances are you have a perky item and this is ideal in a home office or study area.

As odd as this sounds, you can homogenize an energy by parking it next to conflicting energy objects for long periods of time and then it will quiet down and adapt to the consensus. I have done this before with family heirlooms from people who either wore them when they were in chronic pain or personalities that weren't so pleasant. I would store the item with happy memory items that I had worn as a child growing up and within anywhere from 3 months to a year, it can take on the energy of the other objects.

I hope this clarifies mysteries surrounding the concept of haunted objects. When it comes to the paranormal, we can't just accept popularly passed on beliefs like "souls can attach to objects" and not question it.  What we can do is find those who might shed insight and clarify the assumption and shed new light on it. I hope that's what I've done here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Making Profile Pics with Nightvision/IR Light

**earlier today, I did a post on regular profile pics. This one is about doing an unusual one**

If you're a paranormal geek, getting a good nightvision/IR shot of yourself is key. You can take still shots from video, but you can also fake them or get real ones cheaply.

Fake: Take a shot of yourself with a flash camera at night. Put the shot up on Photoshop and desaturate it so it's black and white. If you want to give it a TV-style nightvision look, adjust colors to lots of green and a little bit of yellow.

Real:  Here's an IR light you can use when photographing. It's only 13.98 on Amazon.

This shot (above) was done by moving slightly while taking the shot. Gives a ghostly effect.

In the right setting, a hint of where you are, an abandoned building, a corn maze, or a cemetery can give you a real "in the field look."

This one (above) was a Blair Witch attempt to create a creepy image that says a bit about what's going on and a lot left to the imagination.

This shot (above) was done to make you wonder -- where is she at night? Why must we hush up?

Your classic head shot can be done in nightvision and it can give it a very cool feel. The light tends to make dark things look like so the effect is disorienting and soulless.

Taking a black and white nightvision shot and tinting it with green and a touch of yellow makes it look like the field IR lights used by the popular ghost shows.

Anyone into anything paranormal should get at least one IR or FLIR shot of himself/herself to use for profile pics and a little memory of field work.

Making the Best Profile Pics

I have been asked from time to time, how to make a good profile pic that portrays one's personality and also takes best advantage of appearance.

(This was an accidental shot taken at sunset. Didn't realize the light was so dwindling, but it landed on parts of me and that made it even more mysterious--accidents sometimes work, so don't toss anything out until you see it on the computer)

Let's go through the steps -

ASSETS:  What do people tend to compliment you on? Do you have dimples? Pretty eyes? Full lips? Nice even skin tones? Awesome hair? And what expressions are you most known for? Look in the mirror and try out a lot of different faces from serious to sexy, funny to happy.  I realized the things about me that are most likely to draw the eye are my full lips and my big bright hair.
WEAKNESSES:  I hate my nose and my neck.

Personality: Are you perky and adorable? Introspective and deep? Goth or confident? The background, costuming, lighting, all should take advantage of those sides of you, indoor or out. 

(Rather than just a "here's my lips" picture, putting on a mysterious costume and then drawing focus to my mouth, I gave a mood and played up my asset.)

(Hair! a fan blowing, a bright light to pick up the color and it's all about this asset.)

Posing:  Let's first talk about how you should never be photographed--from beneath! No one looks good with the photographer being lower than the poser. You are forced to look down, create a soft jawline and double chin, and generally look bigger than you are. Hand the camera to the tallest person in your group, have them stand on a retaining wall or sit down while they shoot you from a standing position. You know what I'm talking to -- those group shot line-ups where a friend took the shot and everyone looked bloated and awful because everyone was standing - photographer and posers.

Best pose:  Set the camera on timer, put it on a dining table or equal height. Sit in a chair about 8-10 feet away. Lean forward in the chair, arms on your knees and look up at the camera and smile. You will get a sharp jawline, no double chin, and a more youthful look.

Expressions: Don't be afraid to let your hair hang in your face, tilt your head, look off into the distance. Straight on isn't always the best shot. I like to imagine someone just either said something cute or asked me a question. Just before the camera goes off, remember something private and naughty.  It's not always easy but really important - if you smile, at the moment you smile, open your eyes wide too. They tend to become squinty when we smile and that makes you look cheeky and older.

Makeup:  Women know that you need a lot of makeup or you wash out in a pic. The key here is to know how to do it. Give your lips color without using pure red--harsh. Define your eyebrows so you don't look tired and scraggly. Don't line your eyes or they look beady and you look old, but do consider putting a thin black line on the upper eyelashes. You need to powder up a lot to keep away greasiness. Cheek color--do not forget this! Take a test shot and look at it and you'll see where you're getting washed out.

Aids:  Fans--I like the fact that they make things come to life by taking the hard edge off of hair, feeling outdoorsy and also keeping you from getting too shiny in the face. Some folks will use lights and if you use CFL bulbs inside, you will turn out very yellow. Try ideally to do a shot indoors in daytime with window blinds open. You get plenty of light, but not directly so you aren't squinting. As hard as it can be to do, consider opening your eyes wide when you smile as the camera is about to click so you don't end up squinty eyed. I advise to not use the flash if you can help it and lighten and contrast when you go to after effects. Flashes can wash you out and make you squint more.

Cropping:  You will want to crop a shot down and get whatever portion of you makes a good head shot. Remove the bust or keep the bust depending on what kind of shot you will use it for, personal or professional. Remember too that it might take 50 shots to get one that looks good to work with. Don't be discouraged, models take just as many to get that "sweet" shot.

Don't be afraid to try cropping to make yourself a mystery. You get 4 different attitudes about me in these profile pics cropped from the same photo -

(A little shy)

(a good listener)

(a little naughty)

(me, but not everything)

Photo retouch: You can get Paint free online.  I use Photoshop and although I only know very crude basics, I can take a photo like this one (below) taken on an overcast day indoors and soup up the light and adjust it so my outdoor hair color shows. I can even crank up the contrast to turn it into a piece of art. What you are most likely to use are contrast and brightness, color adjustments (usually more red and yellow look good), and perhaps clone stamp if you want to stamp out a blemish, scar, or undereye circles.

(raw shot)

(more contrast, more brightness, more red, a little bit more yellow so my hair is my outside color without being in the sunlight and squinting)

(Very high contrast)

Get comfortable, "talk" to the camera as if a dear friend is in the room, or someone you'd like to flirt with. 

I very nearly threw out this shot that has become one of my favorites. I was sitting down and leaning forward to test the camera's distance and a fan I had left running on the floor caught me. I got a test shot with the camera, saw it on the screen and thought it was a dud until I brought it up on the computer. A dear friend said "I know that expression. It's the `we're going to go on another adventure' look." I realized that if it struck a note of familiarity, it was portraying me well.

**At noon EST, I am putting up a post on how to do a profile pic using nightvision/IR**


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...