Absolute Yes

Absolute Yes is not a new concept, I’ve touched on it before. In fact it was my New Year’s resolution this year. My goal was to let five words – wonder, growth, friendship, contentment and giving – define my year. Now I’m paying the price.

Not unlike Brett, I find that life has become far too busy. Too busy in fact to comfortably fit everything I want to do in. I seem to be always working at least several days or even weeks behind schedule. Every day I make a detailed to-do list just to stay on track. I blame my five words of Absolute Yes for this situation. Specifically three of them: growth, friendship and giving.

Growth

This year I wanted to grow my little arts business as well as focus on personal growth. Participating in gallery shows, group shows in art centers or open air arts festivals have been a part of my artistic life as long as I can remember. Not only are they fun, but they also create deadlines that are helpful when trying to complete something…anything! With this new body of work I decided to start with the humble coffee shop. I find local coffee shops to be warm, inviting and the hub of their neighborhoods. I’ve focused on creating contacts at various cafes as well as working to find alternative places to show my work around Seattle. I’m building my show schedule one cafe at a time.

In addition to these public exhibitions I also created a line of greeting cards for my local toy store. This came about in the most random fashion. While I was in the store purchasing a birthday gift I wasn’t happy with their card selection. I asked the owner if I could create a few cards for them. Because they are so awesome, they said sure! The initial test was a success, as was their first order. Now I simply need to find the time to create more cards with diverse images so I can restock their display.

Can you see where this is going? While I’m thrilled to be growing my little business, and I’m excited to be getting my work out into my community, what little free time I had before is rapidly disappearing.

Growth is one of my absolute yes words and I’m grateful I made this commitment to my art. But I also made a commitment to grow myself as a person. I write down three things I’m grateful for every night before I go to bed. I meditate in the evenings and also in the morning when I have time. I’ve been learning to breath and be present in the moment. Walking everyday is part of my process too. I get out and walk three to four miles (5 to 7k), rain or shine, because my life feels like its a marathon and I need to train for it.

Friendship

Life is short and I want to spend more time with friends, family…the people most important to me. As I get older, my friends become even more precious to me. Do I have time to get together with a friend for coffee, engage in a Google hangout, meet up for lunch or even a walk? No. Do I do it anyway? Absolutely yes!

I don’t care how busy my life gets (I know, I ‘m doing this to myself) I will always make time for my family and friends. Maybe not everyday, but there is always time in my life for the people who make my life a happy place. With each passing social encounter I get a little more behind. But I don’t care, I adjust my obligations and I know there is always tomorrow.

“. . . as one goes through life one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe kayak, you don’t move.”Katharine Hepburn
Giving

Have you heard the saying “what goes around comes around”? I think when most people say it they are thinking about negative consequences. I like to think about it terms of giving. The more you give back, the more you get. If you give of yourself, your time, your talents, you will be rewarded in ways you cant begin to image. This has been my experience since I adopted an attitude of giving about ten years ago. I haven’t always been the person many of you know today. Bitter, angry, resentful and selfish are a few of the words I might use to describe an earlier version of myself. Its taken a lot of work to turn into a person that I can both like and respect.

Part of the giving process has been sharing with this community. I also share what I can in our G+ community and with the people who attend our annual meet-ups. I want to nurture and support this community as best as I can.  The toy photography community has given me so much joy and opportunities over the years, I want to give back.

Absolute Yes

Why am I telling you all of this now? I’m telling you now, because change is inevitable. Growth happens, we get busy, we adjust. I’m making these adjustments myself, everyday. I find myself posting less to social media. This is a really hard choice for me. I’ve made many friends through my time online and I feel I’m turning my back on this amazing community. If you don’t see me around on Instagram, Facebook, Flickr or Twitter, its not because I’ve given up on toy photography, its because I’m taking toy photgraphy into the physical world.

This blog and the G+ Community is a part of my Absolute Yes. I’m not going anywhere. In fact I will be doubling down on the G+ Community as I spend less time on other social media platforms. And as Brett alluded to earlier this week, we have several big projects we’re working on and I want to do my part. In fact I couldn’t be more excited about the projects we are working on behind the scenes. But more on that later. 🙂

I’m glad I’m not the only one who has been making decisions that feel like absolute yes choices. There will be a few changes on our writing staff starting this week. Jennifer has taken a leave of absence to concentrate on her own work. I applaud her for knowing when its time to focus her energies on her own work. She has given so much to this blog and community this year, I encourage you take a tour through her past posts. I’m grateful she was willing to share her process and inspiring the community with her creativity. I will miss Jennifer. But I’m thrilled she’s kept open the possibility of returning when the time is right. Thank you Jennifer for all everything you’ve done to help this community grow!!

What are your absolute yes words?

I believe in the power of words. By choosing five words that represent what is most important to you, decisions can be easier to make. Opportunities arise all the time. When you have your absolute yes words to guide you, you can feel confident you’re making the right decisions.

I invite you to check out this list of value words and choose five words that have meaning to you. Create your own absolute yes words, words that represent your core values, and see how they can guide you. As my mentor Shari Miller cautioned me:

Watch your tendency to choose words that you feel you should choose versus the ones that you really want to choose. Choose five that speak to the essence of who you are (not what others want you to be).

If you would like to share your absolute yes words and why you choose them, feel free in the comments. I’m always interested in hearing the view point of my fellow creatives. And if you see Jennifer posting her images on social media, be sure and leave a comment and let her know how fabulous her work is. She will be missed here on the Toy Photographers Blog.

In the mean time I will be busy behind the scenes and in the G+ Community. Come say ‘Hi!’ and see what all the fuss is about.

Shelly

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Happiness is a butterfly

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

 

 

 

 

By Shelly Corbett

Do you have a six image narrative you would like to share? Please contact us via the contact page and we will help get you started. 

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$1 Photo Challenge – The Results

The results of Octobers $1 (or equivalent) Photo Challenge are in!! The premise of this contest was to see if an expensive toy was the secret to great toy photography. We wanted to find out if everyone was limited to taking photos of toys that cost less than $1 or the equivalent, would we see the same quality and ingenuity that we have become used to. The results are in and we can say without a doubt, that cheap toys can also for creative photography.

The winner of this months contest is John Van Regemortel for his “Landing of the Jedi on Dagobah”. He purchased this micro machine for 99 cents Euro.

Second place was awarded to Joseph Cowlishaw for capture of the rare Gray Woolfeep (Ovis Canis) that he spotted in the dry desert regions of North America.

Third place was awarded to Krzysztof Łuszpiński who may not have taken a photo of a toy, his photo captures the spirit of toy photography. I love his creative spirit! Plus he wins the honor of spending the least amount of money: 1/100 Pound (100 clips in a pack for 1 GBP). Awesome job! 

I speak for all the moderators when I say how much fun this contest was. Because our subjects were cheap toys, there was no pressure to make them look good. Since we knew we couldn’t make our toys look realistic, as a group we decided to have some fun instead.

Bellow you will see some other fabulous examples from the $1 Photo Challenge taken by our moderators and our contestants. I hope you enjoy them as much as we had fun taking them.

by Tourmaline
“I am…” by Jason Nvmore
“Good morning Mr. Anderson. While you were out Mr. Bennett called. You’ve got a 10 o’clock meeting with Mrs.Chapman. And you’ve got a 12 o’clock appointment with a bucket of fish.” by Brett Wilson
Lonely me, alone on my own journey… by 莫亞克力
The Lone Wolf: A Study of Three (1 of 3) By Julie Blair
Italian Cuisine by Tomasz Lasek
Shopping at Costco, in the nude? 😳  by Ryan DeRamos
“Redheat” by Jeffrey van Zeijst
Skully sets out his cookies and milk for The Great Pumpkin. He is so excited this year! …… the skeleton and table were bought at the dollar store. The pumpkin, cookies, plate and glass of milk were made by me with polymer clay. by Victoria Eschen
Spider by Wendy Verboom
Landing by Reiterlied
“Somebody There?” by Tobias Schiel
“Operation Tonga” by Tony Tulloch
“Hailing from New York and living in the sewers, these young adolescent reptile abominations hide in the shadows by day. And fight crime by night! ” by Lego Runner
“Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old. – Bill Bryson” – by Shelly Corbett
New Challenge

We have posted a new challenge in our G+ Community: Detail. Here are the details:

Some say the Devil is in the detail but, here at Toy Photographers, we believe the essence of an image is in detail. Often details are overlooked by a viewer’s conscious observation, but they still add to (or detract from) an image.

Many toys out there have beautiful detail that we take for granted. Even some of the smallest toys have the odd piece that is worthwhile bringing into the image. In the photo below I have concentrated on the small logo on Cruz Ramirez’s fender. This supports both the smile and eye placements on the car and is true to character.

Why not pick up a favorite toy and look for a pattern, logo/symbol, or some other detail that is true to that character and highlight it in an image. Feel free to do this up to three times during the month. The winning photo will grace the Toy Photographers banner for December, and the winner will receive a cool Ant-Man prize. – Tony Tulloch

I hope you will join in this fun challenge and show us the details on your favorite toys. Tony has posted in our Tips and Tricks section three techniques to help you master this months challenge. So why not head over the community and check out all the details.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our $1 Photo Challenge and I look forward to seeing what you create for this months challenge on Details.

Shelly

Toy Photography Yoga

Toy photography yoga is a little know branch of the more common discipline of yoga. Toy photography yoga, like the other varieties of yoga, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, helps to promote physical and emotional well being.

 yoga

noun | yo·ga |\ ˈyō-gə \

1

capitalized :a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation

2

:a system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and sometimes meditation derived from Yoga but often practiced independently especially in Western cultures to promote physical and emotional well-being

We’ve talked about putting the fun back into toy photography, but did you know there’s also a health component to the practice of toy photography yoga? By practicing toy photography yoga on a regular basis you will exercise your body, practice breath control and achieve a sense of well being not found in traditional forms of yoga or photography.

To help you get your own toy photography yoga practice started, I’ve assembled a selection of basic positions. Please don’t feel intimidated by the following images; these are toy photography professionals and well versed in the art of toy photography yoga. With a little practice I’m sure you too will be able to achieve these feats of contortion.

First rule of toy photography yoga: it’s more fun when practiced with friends!

Cindy Doktor with Chris Policheri at the Seattle Toy Photographers meet-up, 2016.
Seated Forward Bend

The Seated Forward Bend is a great position for the toy photographer who uses a mobile device for capturing images. With the legs in an outward position the photographer maintains a stable position while keeping the hands free. With the torso in an near upright position you’re able to maintain steady and controlled breathing. Th Seated Forward Bend is a great starting position for the beginning outdoor toy photographer. Even in a crowded situations, like this beach scene, you will be able to set up your photo without drawing attention to yourself. Thus avoiding unwanted conversations with strangers.

Leila Chieko practicing her craft in Hawaii.
Way to go Leila! You really captured a nice image using the Seated Forward Bend!
 Cobra Pose

The Cobra Pose is a popular yoga pose amongst toy photographers. This requires the toy photographer to lay flat on the ground. This is a great position when you’re practicing on asphalt or concrete, but less comfortable in damp or uneven terrain. Notice the arms tight against the body for support and legs flared out for added stability. This is great position when you’re worried about precise focus and camera shake. With the upward bend of the back you’re able to stretch your abdomen and maintain maximum breath control. Maintaining a steady breathing pattern helps to reach a relaxed, zen like state; perfect when you want your photo to find you. While the Cobra Pose is a relatively comfortable position to maintain, its not an ideal position in crowed areas. The beginning outdoor toy photographer may feel self conscious in such a conspicuous position.

Cindy Doktor at work near her home in Portland.
Reverse Corpse Pose

The Reverse Corpse Pose is perfect for the advanced toy photographer. As you can see this is a relatively easy pose to achieve once you decide you’re going to sacrifice all dignity and your clothes for the perfect photo. Simply lie on the ground, with your camera and face as near as possible, and start taking photos. The biggest drawback to this position is its lack of mobility. Make sure you’ve made all the necessary tweaks to your set up, because once you achieve the perfect pose, getting up can be difficult and awkward.

Papajov demonstrates the ideal reverse corpse position while being completely ignored by Dinoczars and Bricksailboat. The only thing missing from this photo is the crime scene tape!
Another excellent capture by Papjov! There is simply no substitute for getting down low for the dedicated outdoor toy photographer.
Extended Sphinx

Much like the Reverse Corpse the Extended Sphinx is best practiced flat on the ground. The main difference between these two poses is the extended arms. By extending the camera full out in front of your body you can maximize the view on your camera’s screen. This is also a great position for the mobile phone photographer. By placing the camera directly on the ground, you can maintain maximum stability without using a tri-pod.

Dennis Taylor shows off his perfect Extended Sphinx pose while on a toy photo safari in Las Vegas, 2015.
And look at the fabulous photo he was able to capture!
Extended Sphinx – winter version – demonstrated by Maëlick Claes.

The full prone poses are great for getting the perfect photo. There is no substitute to getting low to the ground and capturing the world from your toys point of view. You can maintain stability by using your body as a tripod, exercise little used muscles and maintain a zen like calm with by breathing slowly and steadily. If you are going to practice any of these full contact positions, I would suggest you wear the appropriate clothing.

Who wears a suit coat to a toy photography meet-up? Captured in Hamburg, Germany 2016 by Maëlick Claes.
Chair Pose

The Chair Pose is a classic position for the toy photographer. This position is easy to get into, relatively comfortable and most importantly, easy to get out of quickly. The Chair Pose, while a popular choice, requires you to place your toys on an elevated platform. Again, notice the legs are set apart to maintain stability. This is a great pose to exercise your gluteal muscles and practice that controlled breathing that is crucial to excellent toy photography results!

Julien Ballister demonstrates a perfect Chair Pose.
Holding that delicate pose helped Julien maximize the pretty bokeh in the background.
Partial Lunge PosE

The Partial Lunge Pose is a great pose to use when you need to get in and out quickly. With one knee on the ground and elbows stabilized on the raised knee, you maximize stability. These lightning fast situations need the extra stability to maintain focus. There is nothing more frustrating than having a quick photo and later looking at the results and finding you missed your focus!

Julien demonstrates perfect Partial Lunge while capturing this photo while his friend was double parked. Way to utilize toy photography yoga Julien!
The final awesome capture!
Partial Lunge with a side Twist

The Partial Lunge with a Side Twist is a toy photography yoga position that can be useful in most outdoor situations. With only one knee on the ground you minimize your exposure to dirt, mud and water while maintaining a stable pose. By adding in a side twist you can contorted your body into the perfect position to capture either a horizontal or vertical image. The Partial Lunge with a Side Twist is considered an advanced pose. Please do not try this position until you’re comfortable with the basics of toy photography yoga.

Leila Chieko demonstrates the useful nature of the Partial Lunge with a Side Twist at the edge of this river.
What a great image she was able to capture! Check out that sparkly bokeh! This image was well worth that extra effort.
Cat Pose

The Cat Pose is another classic toy photography yoga pose. Unlike the Partial Lunge, the Cat Pose requires you to have both knees and elbows firmly planted on the ground. While this might seem like an easy and stable position, most toy photography practitioners can only stand a limited amount of time kneeling on hard and rough surfaces. If you enjoy the Cat Pose, you may want to invest in a set of knee pads or a gardening pad to save your knees and clothes. The Cat Pose is suitable for both DSLR and mobile photographers.

Cindy Doktor demonstrates the Cat Pose, which is ideal for both mobile or DSLR cameras with a tilt screen. Do not attempt this position on a lava field without knee protection like Cindy here. Ouch!!
Child’s Pose

The Child’s Pose is a versatile position that can be practiced with one elbow or shoulder on the ground. Like the previously mentioned Cat Pose, you will want to have knee protection handy for this toy photography yoga pose. The Child’s Pose is relatively easy to get into and out of quickly. One advantage of this pose is that you free up one hand to hold a bounce card, tweak your figures or create practical effects.

The Child’s Pose is my favorite toy photography yoga position. I was caught in the act by Luigi Priori while visiting Denmark this fall.
Getting down low is the secret to beautiful reflections on water.
Child’s Pose – twist Variation

The Child’s Pose is a classic toy photography yoga pose. It can be used in its most basic form, or you can add a simple twist for those hard to capture images. By adding the twist you can get your entire arm on the ground for greater stability. The more stable you can make your body, the more reliable your focus will be. I consider the Childs Pose with a Twist Variation to be an advanced move. Not only is this position hard on your body, it can be difficult to maintain slow, steady breathing.

Cindy Doktor demonstrates a classic Child’s Pose with one arm down. Perfect for situations when you don’t want to go home muddy!
Child’s Pose Rear View

Child’s Pose is great all around pose. Of course it does have its draw backs, the rear view is less than flattering. But what is a little public humiliation when you have a photograph to capture!

Maëlick Claes demonstrates the biggest drawback of the child’s pose. Look at that view though!!

Child’s Pose is the most versatile toy photography yoga pose. It will work great when your toys are on the ground or on an elevated surface.

Side Angle Pose

The Side Angle Pose is an advanced position suitable for the toy photographer comfortable in any situation . Nothing says “I could care less what you think of me” than lying down in a public space, arms outstretched, taking a photo of toys. Not only is this a power  position, you will achieve a much needed stretch after the contortions  of the child’s pose.

David Towery’s position says it all in this behind the scenes capture at the Seattle Toy Photo Safari, 2016.

Remember toy photography yoga is more fun with friends! You don’t have to practice similar poses; different situations will call for different solutions.

Here you can see Wiiman practicing the Forward Leaning Easy Pose and I’m in the classic Fetal Position.
Extended Puppy Pose

Like the Side Angle Pose, the Extended Puppy Pose is not for the faint of heart. This advanced position is not particularly difficult but you will risk ridicule from both friends and strangers alike. While you might look ridiculous, the tripod nature of the position allows for great stability when attempting to capture a difficult photo.

I believe Maëlick Claes is the only know practitioner of this unique pose. Here he demonstrates his masterful technique at the San Francisco toy safari, 2017.
The All In Pose

Like the Extended Puppy Pose, the All In Pose is a unusual position suitable for unique situations. You never know when you will need to climb into a cave, under a stump or down a hole. Going the extra mile can lead to extraordinary imagery or it will give your friends a good chuckle. Either way, a win in my book!

Ana Solis demonstrates the All In Pose. This is the pose you use when all else fails! I love the dedication shown in this pose!
CONCLUSION

Toy photography yoga is great way to stay in shape, increase flexibility and help you capture the best toy photography you can. You will meld mind and spirit in your quest for the next great image. I hope you enjoyed this introduction to this fun and growing movement.

What’s your favorite position?

Shelly

A special thank you to Dennis, Maëlick, Julien, Josh, Luigi and Leila for providing this wonderful images showcasing the variety of positions toy photography yoga experts can get themselves into. 

I don’t think Ant Man knows what to think of all this toy photography yoga. I hope you will join us for #JantManuary; its never too early to start thinking about your photos featuring AntMan doing ordinary activities. (Photo credit Dennis Taylor)

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Ode to the LEGO Ladder

I really like the LEGO ladder. So much so, I thought I would write an Ode to the LEGO ladder. I think the LEGO ladder is a frequently over looked accessory. Sure we see plenty of cats, dogs, teddy bears, coffee mugs and the like well represented in toy photography. But when did you last see a LEGO ladder used?

James made a great case recently about how accessories can bring depth to your story or add an unusual twist. I even wrote a piece a while back about how the venerable teddy bear seems to be everyone’s favorite prop. Now it’s time to take a closer look at the possibilities of the humble LEGO ladder. Continue reading Ode to the LEGO Ladder

Why aren’t there more Female Collectible Minifigures?

Have you ever wondered why there aren’t more female minifigures represented in the LEGO Collectible minifigures line? Series after series we mention in our reviews the absence of female minifigures. It seems there is an explanation for this disparity: Boys complain when they open up a blind bag and see a female character.

Really? The reason why there are so many male figures is that girls are happy with any mini figure that looks good and boys complain when it isn’t a boy?

At least this is the reason related to me by my friend Alice Finch who attended a work shop at the Skærbæk Fan Weekend given by Austin William Carlson, a minifigures designer for The LEGO Group. I know that this is very second hand information, but I heard this same quote from two different people who attended the talk: the boys complain and the girls don’t. Continue reading Why aren’t there more Female Collectible Minifigures?

September Photo Challenge: Music

Todays post features the winners of the September photo challenge: Music from our G+ Community. We want to recognize our grand prize winner, some of our favorite entries as well as thank everyone who participated.

Photography challenges are a great way to get the creative juices flowing. That’s why every month we sponsor a contest in the G+ Toy Photographers Community. Last month Jason Nvrmore challenged the community to: “Take the power of music and create images with your toys based on music!”

So we did! Continue reading September Photo Challenge: Music

The LEGO House

The LEGO House is amazing. Really, there is no other word fit to describe both the building and the experience.

I was honored to receive an invitation from the Lego Group this past spring to attend the fan weekend opening celebration. This was a chance for LEGO Ambassadors (individuals who represent various recognized lego user groups) as well as attendees of the Skærbæk Fan Weekend. Needless to say I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity and I started planning my trip immediately. With six months to anticipate the event, my expectations were running high. Continue reading The LEGO House

I’m not a product photographer either

Through my own creative journey, I’ve learned the hard way that I’m not a product photographer either, I thought it would be fun to throw in my two cents.  There has been Kristina’s aborted attempts at creating a set review, James’s recent set review and Brett’s most recent attempt at working with a marketing firm.

I’m not suited to be a product photographer because I approach photography not as a way to make money, but as a vehicle for self expression.

The important thing is, you have to have something important to say about the world.

Paul Strand

But that doesn’t mean that some part of me doesn’t want more. I understand the allure of receiving acknowledgment for creativity and hard work. At some point the likes and comments from social media aren’t enough. I see other photographers who are being recognized by toy manufacturers. They receive toys ahead of release dates and some even are creating books! A part of me wants this same recognition. Then I come to my senses. Continue reading I’m not a product photographer either