What’s Next?

As the new year winds down and projects come to a close my thoughts naturally turn to what’s next? Just like Kristina, I tend to review the year before making plans for the new year and new beginnings.

I am a big believer in New Years Resolutions and I make them every year; some times they are successful and sometimes, well…not so much. I love setting goals, they are the ultimate to do list, and they help give my year a frame work to play within.

This year two important things have already happened that have unwittingly determined my goals for the new year. The first is my best of 12 book for 2015. (Although I am not as organized as Mike and my books are not in the post, they are ready for packaging.) While I was editing my book it became very evident to me that I need to brush up on my photography skills. Seeing Mike’s images up close and personal for the last few weeks at the Bryan Ohno Gallery has led me to appreciate all the more what an excellent photographer he is. Mike is my inspiration to improve my skills at this hobby which I love.

I’m lucky that I live in a town large enough to have good resources for continuing my photography education (plus awesome friends who I can lean on for help). I plan on taking at least one class from the local photography school; I am hoping to experience at least one solid critique of my work from an impartial group. I also plan to take a deep dive into Lynda.com. If you are not familiar with Lynda.com, I can assure you it’s an amazing resource for anyone motivated enough to take on the task of learning through video instruction. They have produced videos on  variety of photographic topics including photo editing and lighting; two skill sets that I need to get better at. I like their videos because they break down large complex topics into bite sized chunks (2-5 minute) that I can watch as time permits.

There are two large reasons driving this need to get back to basics. One I will talk about sometime next year as the project develops but the other one I am happy to share with you now.

We all have our bucket list of experiences we want to have before we die and I am no different. One of those bucket list items is photographing the aurora borealis. (For those of you who live in cold northern clients you  probably can’t image the magical pull of this atmospheric phenomena to those of us who live south.) Recently I signed up for a photography adventure in Iceland which doesn’t leave until February of 2017 and I want to make sure I am ready to take full advantage of this experience. I will be joining five other intrepid photographers traveling to Iceland with Justin Reznick to photograph the aurora almost every eveing in below freezing temperatures. During the day we will be venturing to Gul Foss as well as to a glacier filled bay and other locations in the southern end of the island. I know I am going to be sleep deprived and experience cold like I have never felt before, but I don’t care, this is going to be amazing experience and I want to be ready!

Last year my photography resolutions were centered on making personal connections with other toy photographers, but this year has a slightly different focus. While I know I will still see my friends (two trips to Portland are already in the works) it seems the technical side of photography is calling to me this year. While I appreciate Kristina’s indecision as she approaches the new year, that doesn’t seem to be my fate; I am going to simply let the imagery take care of itself as I focus on taking the best photos I can. I know from past experience that this simple goal is more than enough to tackle in one year.

~ xxSJC

What are your photographic goals for the new year? 

I wonder if Mike, Boris, Vesa and Mike have any photographic aspirations for the new year? 

Photo Bomb


  1. I look forward to hearing about your classes! I look up to you as a photographer, but I also know that even published authors take classes as well and are always learning and improving their craft. Last year I signed up for a post-graduate program to work with a mentor on translation and on a new novel project that I was having difficulty getting started on my own. It was a great decision, because my translation work has grown exponentially and I’m nearly done with the first draft of my novel. I hope to take a basic photography class (yep, I’m still back on the basics and don’t even have a real camera).

    • Lyn, Like you I am a big believer in continuing education; the quest to learn is a life long adventure. I have been watching your success as a translator and I am so happy for you. Im thrilled to hear you are almost done with your first draft! What an accomplishment! I will be sure to share with you (and the community) whatever class i take and what I learn. One of the reasons I publish this in the blog, is so I will follow through with my plans. It is so easy to let it go and keep doing what is easy and comfortable. Here is to an amazing new year for us both! Shelly

  2. Improve, have fun, improve, have fun and improve 🙂

    When I started photography, a few years back, I started with a small Lego cowboy and its horse. It allowed my to understand how my camera mode worked and I realized I had a blast with it.

    Today, I still shoot Lego bricks on a regular basis, but with much less skills than you guys. I’m always astonished by the quality of your work.

    My goal for next year is to work on my backgrounds. I realized that my best photos are the one with the best background. It’s all about the overall look of the image, the way the Lego “melts” into their surroundings.

    You guys are excellent at this and the different works I can find on this website show incredible skills in that matter.

    Next year I hope to improve my lighting, my backgrounds (and get more Lego sets :)) I would also like to improve my postprocessing skills (I’m using Lightroom only with very basic editing)…

    I’ve just discovered this website and will stick around for a while 🙂

    Also, thank you for the Linda.com discovery, it looks amazing.

    Keep up the amazing work !

    All the best,


    • Thank Andy! I like your goals. They could as easily be my goals, especially the have fun part. I hate to take any of this too seriously, we are shooting toys for goodness sake! I look forward to following your journey of discovery. Please make sure you let us know how it’s going! Shelly

        • Andy,

          I meant do your own thing, follow your muse, don’t copy someone else’s work, attribute your influences as appropriate. Is that clear enough? I’m not here to give critiques of other people’s work. Frankly I’m the last person to be qualified for that sort of task. If you need a critique you might want to take a photo class somewhere locally . We don’t have a forum to gather at this time. That might change in the future but all the photographers who write for the blog are all busy people. I hate to have us commit to some kind of forum and not be able to follow through; that would not be fair to you or any of our readers. As for Vesa, I am not sure what you mean that you are very far away from him? Where you needing something? We here on the blog are dedicated to helping people inside the toy photography community to be better at what they do through example, we want to share what the artistic process looks like and we want to educate the public on toy photography as an art form.

          I am not on 500px. You can find me on G+ and IG all the time and Flickr occasionally.

          I hope this helps,

  3. Such kind words, thank you Shelly! I rarely make new year’s resolutions, and the reasons are probably suitable for a blog post at some point, but I do often find myself with a lot of free time at the end of the year that I could put to use on a project of some sort. I like your suggestion of Lynda.com, that looks right up my street. I’m in a constant state of wanting to learn stuff, and there’s tons of stuff that looks interesting. 🙂

    • @Balakov : Your comment made me realized “Mike” is the Balakov I’ve been following for quite some time on your Flickr page. You’ve been a great inspiration to me, for the past two years.

      Amazing work that you did ! Congratulations !

      I’ll try and improve my photography to be able to create such beautiful pictures one day !

      Keep up the good work !

    • Mike, You’re work is so beautiful in person. It has been a real treat to see your work in person, its flawless! I think you will love Lynda.com. I know a lot of people like YouTube instructional video because they are free, but as a former video person, the often amateurish production value makes me cringe. Im lucky I can ride the coat tales of my husbands subscription. He has used Lynda.com to teach himself C++ this year plus a mess of other stuff. Come to think of it, you two would probably get along famously. 🙂

      • Shelly, we probably would! I’ve been working with C++ for getting on 20 years now. I’m interested in a whole bunch of tracks on Lynda: Design, Developer, Web, Photography, Animation, and maybe even Business. Going to jump into it today and start watching.

        I know what you mean about Youtube, the quality (technical and content) is very hit-and-miss. I’ve been teaching myself Inkscape recently and the Youtube tutorials are mostly just awful. I’d pay for consistency.

  4. I’m not the kind of persons maling new year resolutions but this year I have such a strong desire to improve my photography that I could probably make a few ones and be able to hold to them. But because I started learning photography focusing a lot on its technical aspect, I will probably focus less on it for the year to come. What I want to improve is mainly my storytelling and, like Andy, the background of my pictures. I’d also like to do more outdoor photography with my toys because at the beginning it was the kind of pictures I wanted to do and have neglected a lot recently.

    I wonder is Lynda.com really worth it? I learned photography relying mostly on Youtube. It seems to me like an infinite source of free knowledge and wonder whether or not paying online courses really offer something more. I’ll probably have a look at the free trial when I’ll get some time (during the holidays?).

    Apart from that, going in Iceland with other photographers must be something incredibly exciting. I hope you’ll get plenty of fun there!

      • Haha when you posted your first comment I also realized that. However it’s been a while I haven’t posted anything there. I must thank you because seeing someone with a profile on 500px gave me back the motivation to try to be active on this social network that clearly lack toy photographers 😉

    • In my humble opinion I think you would probably learn more this year by taking more photos. If you feel your technical skills are solid then regular practice might be the best goal for 2016. You would be surprised how fast you can improve by shooting nearly every day or a lot on weekends. You can practice your outdoor photography and work out story lines.

      I’m sure that Iceland will be amazing. I really like who is leading the tour and two photography friends signed up with me. I hope at least one of them makes it, but if not, I am always up for making new friends. An entire week of geeking out talking photo shop, yeah, that will be fun!

      Here’s to a fabulous new year for us all!

  5. Margaret

    Great and timely post Shelley. I’m looking forward to taking MORE photos going forward, seems I’ve slacking off and it shows. While I’m not big on resolutions, goals never hurt 🙂

    As I went through my photos for 2015 I wasn’t happy with what I’d produced and was quite dismayed when digging through my archives I found work from a few years ago that I felt better about. That is a true testimony to the fact that I need to get around to shooting more!

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