To Delete, or Not to Delete?

Jennifer’s recent blog post about image recovery shed some new light on a dilemma I’ve been facing since the day I became a photographer. In a bit of a technical snafu, Jennifer nearly lost a bunch of photos she’d taken – which is a pretty big fear of mine. As a result, I find it incredibly difficult to delete photo files – even long after the final shot has been posted! Continue reading To Delete, or Not to Delete?

Come to the Dark Side, we have cookies!

If you’ve ever read the Toy Photographers blog, you know that we’re big fans of Google+.

We leave a little invite to our community at the end of each blog post, and Shelly herself has written several posts about the thriving platform, the big opportunities available there, and how our community was even featured in Mashable earlier this year.

I won’t rehash too much of what Shelly has already said here, but because of the disappointing and frustrating goings on over at Instagram at the moment, I thought I’d take this opportunity to offer my two cents on why Google+ has quickly become my go-to platform for toy photography. Continue reading Come to the Dark Side, we have cookies!

The Art of the Brick

Art nurtures the brain. Whether made from clay, paint, wood, or a modern-day toy.

-Nathan Sawaya

Last week my wife and I got the chance to check out the incredible work of world-famous LEGO sculpture artist Nathan Sawaya. His popular exhibit, The Art of the Brick, is currently on display at OMSI in Portland. I’ve been following Nathan’s work for a while now, and was not going to miss the opportunity to see it in person!

Needless to say, we were absolutely blown away by the exhibit. It’s one thing to see Nathan’s amazing sculptures and recreations on the internet, but seeing them in person, and getting the chance to lean in closely to examine and appreciate the detail and artistry that goes into each one, was a whole other experience. Continue reading The Art of the Brick

My Biggest Fear, Technically

Of all the photo challenges I’ve seen grace the Toy Photographers blog, none have given me as much trouble as the one for March: Fear. Here’s the challenge prompt given by AliceinCleveland over at our Google+ community:

For this month’s challenge, I’m asking if you will photograph your fears about your own toy photography with me. That’s it. Think about your fears about your art, and photograph them…

Continue reading My Biggest Fear, Technically

Cinematic Inspirations

If there’s one thing that means as much to me (if not more to me) than LEGO, it’s movies.

It’s no surprise then that they’re one of my biggest influences as an artist and photographer. One look at my feed is all it takes to realize how much I love Star Wars, Back to the Future, or superhero movies, and as I mentioned in my previous “Why?” post, I have a lot of fun playing around with and creating my own stories within those pre-established universes.

Sometimes, though, I turn to film for en entirely different reason: As a subject for imitation. Continue reading Cinematic Inspirations

Have Toys, Will Travel

Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

By “towel,” Adams meant “toys,” right?

I never travel without at least a few toys. No matter how far I go, I can carry a little piece of home with me, and as a bonus I have something to photograph when I get there!

Continue reading Have Toys, Will Travel

Why? by James Garcia

“Why?”

That’s a question that’s been looming over me since Shelly first asked that I use it for my introductory post to this shiny new blog. At first I thought it would be easy to explain why I do what I do. I take photographs of LEGO, because I love LEGO! Simple. Submit post. Move on.

I was so wrong. The more I thought about it, the harder I had to search for the answer. What once was a simple, one word question became something much bigger.

Continue reading Why? by James Garcia

Into The Wild

The weekend of the recent Seattle Toy Safari presented several opportunities for us toy photographers: The chance to meet friends we only really knew by their Instagram handles, to make new friends (and, in turn, swap Instagram usernames), to borrow toys for unexpected and unplanned shots, and more. For me, the meetup also came with a challenge: I had to actually shoot outdoors!

I consider myself primarily an indoor toy photographer. A viewer of my photos will find more shots of superheroes playing with their cats than they would Chima in the wild. Part of that has to do with the fact that Mike, Vesa, and Chris McVeigh were my biggest inspirations for getting into Lego photography, and as you know, they primarily shoot in-studio. While I’m not quite as control-oriented as they are, I do find that my particular sensibilities and ideas as a photographer gravitate toward indoor scenes.

At first I was anxious when looking at the schedule for the Toy Safari, which took us into the heart of Seattle, and to various parks, forts, and nearby waterfalls. Beyond that surface-level nervousness, however, was the excitement to try new things, and venture outside of my own photographic comfort zone.

“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” – John Maxwell.

As Shelly recently mentioned, approaching photography with “an openness to the possibilities” can lead to some fantastic surprises. Over the weekend, I discovered something about myself I didn’t know: I actually enjoy shooting outside!

Granted, it took me a while to get the hang of things. I’m used to setting up my scenes in a lightbox or near a window, placing my camera on a tripod, and slowing my shutter speed to let in more light. Upon taking my first outdoor photos, I had to immediately mess with the camera settings – taking them away from the numbers I’d found so familiar and “safe” – and do some good ol’ fashioned trial-and-error.

Apart from the technical changes, I also had to examine my own creative process. How could I take my actual ideas and place them in the real world, away from the small living rooms or alien landscapes I’d created on my kitchen table?

This turned out to be a pretty satisfying creative problem to have, as it required me to examine my batch of minifigures differently. Rather than literally creating the scene around the figure, I had to do the opposite, and find a way for the figure to inhabit the natural surroundings I found myself in.

Monkeying Around High Res
I was lucky to find a tree with some branches small enough for Lego hands – letting this monkey enjoy some much-needed time outside!

From there, new ideas had to be forged. What was the minifigure doing? What story was I trying to tell? I didn’t want to simply shoot the figure in the grass or by the ocean – I needed an angle, some kind of hook.

To my surprise, it was extremely fun to dig through my toy box, mix and match accessories, and see what kind of scenarios or stories I could create using a natural environment. I can’t exactly create an ocean at home (not without my wife or landlord getting upset, anyway), so it was fun to gaze upon my minifigs and place them in situations I’d never be able to conjure up while inside the comfort of my own home.

Jawesome High Res
When stuck indoors, this shark minifig was destined to pose for a recreation of Katy Perry’s infamous Left Shark/Right Shark halftime show. Luckily for him, he enjoyed a day at the beach instead!

I’m very happy with the results, and I learned quite a few things over the weekend. Apart from some new technical tricks, I learned more about myself, the nature of my own creative process, and how fun it can be to bring my ideas into a new situation or location. I doubt I’ll soon get used to seeing these outdoor photos on my camera roll, but I’m sure glad they’re there, and I cannot wait to add more of them!

~ James Garcia

Fearless Warrior
When adventuring away from your comfort zone, always make sure to pack some of the things that make you feel safe.