An Oasis in the Desert

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Eight months ago, Shelly (@xxsjc) Paul (@bricksailboat) Nick (@wiiman) and I sat at a bar in Seattle, enjoying a cold beer on a warm afternoon, having just finished a group photography outing. We marveled at the engaging experience our photo safaris tended to be and decided to invite others to come meet us… in Las Vegas.

Last weekend, I found myself in the beautiful Nevada desert taking photos of toys with a dozen other people. They had traveled from miles away to hang out (and in my case bunk) with folks they had never met. Each had their own artistic abilities, interests and styles, but the rocky landscapes seemed to bring out everyone’s best. Figures were borrowed and techniques were discussed, all with a peppering of laughter and playful competition. We got to know each other throughout the weekend, but nothing was more impressive to me than the positive attitudes and good-natured sensibilities that I encountered from this amazing group of artists.

While waiting to board my flight home I thought about why I felt so good. Why did I have such a strong sense of pride about a silly little meet-up? Two things come to mind. First, because we actually did it. People talk all the time about things they ‘want to do’ but we just did it. That is tragically rare and utterly awesome. Secondly, because I have been fortunate to photograph toys with my friends and it was wonderful to help others see how great that can be. Photography tends to be an isolating experience in many ways, but if you can go shooting with another person it becomes altogether different, if not improved.

We’ve begun talking about the next #toyphotosafari and I look forward to seeing my friends again, but nothing has me more excited than the thought of adding to our numbers. Finding others who love to take pictures of toys, bringing them together and share the fun of group photo sessions; that’s the new challenge and reward ahead.
That’s why I feel so good.
Jaiken – @dinoczars

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#vegastoyphotosafari

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you have heard me mention the Las Vegas toy photography meet up for several months. I even wrote a series of posts about some of the people who I was excited to meet. This past weekend all that planning and anticipation paid off in four fun filled days in Las Vegas, Nevada, when 12 toy photographers met up to take photos, eat, share and even toy shop together for the amazing #vegastoyphotosafari.

Day one started out slowly as people trickled into town. While a few early birds managed to sneak off for some location scouting and toy photography in the desert the rest of us checked in to the Flamingo Hotel and got settled.  Later that evening we all met up for dinner at In ‘n Out burgers which turned out to be the perfect place for some casual conversation and of course a few toy photos.

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Group photo courtesy of Wikitoybox

No, Las Vegas convention would be complete without lanyards and our good friend Cindy (@coney_dogg) surprised us all with custom lanyards so we would fit right in with all the other visiting conventioneers.

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Photo courtesy of Brickandmordor

On day two we headed out to the desert together to photograph at Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area. It was a beautiful sunny day and the red rocks and desert scenery where a wonderful back drop for our toys. {A big thank you to Dennis (@krash_overide), Josh (@papajov) and Dean (@dean80s)} for providing transportation!) The time flew by as we moved to different locations in the park taking advantage of the scenery and changing light.

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Image courtesy of Bricksailboat

After dinner we met up in one of the hotel rooms for a more intimate evening of sharing toys, prints and laughter. Josh surprised us that evening with a toy raffle. Names were pulled from a “hat” and toys were chosen by the winners. It was interesting to see what toys people picked, there were even a few unexpected choices made. We also enacted our photo print exchange. Everyone was instructed to bring 20 copies of one image and we would exchange prints. I think we all agreed this was a great way to remember everyone and the work that they do.

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Image courtesy of xxSJC

On day three our local contact Sean (@amptoys_2), took us to an abandoned lot in downtown Vegas were several houses where covered in graffiti.  This was an interesting location choice because it encouraged most of us to stretch beyond our comfort zones. Watching each photographer approach this unique environment was interesting and several of us commented how much of a challenge it was.

After that we hit the toy stores, three of them. It was fun to watch the veteran toy collectors approach the toys and make their purchases. Those of us new to toy collecting or strictly Lego, learned a lot about collecting and the sheer variety of toys on the market. Between the raffle and the shopping I think everyone went home with more toys than they arrived with.

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Josh and Cindy go shopping! Image courtesy of brickandmordor 

By day four we had lost a few of our attendees due to differing travel schedules, so the last of the die hards decided to go back out to the dessert for one last photo adventure. Since this was our third day of shooting together there was no awkwardness. Everyone settled into the environment with their toys and got to work. Occasionally we would compare notes, show a recent photo we where proud of or join our toys up in some group photos. It was a very productive and enjoyable morning.

Now it was time for our final goodbyes. Already there had been lots of hugs and big smiles as we looked back on our action packed weekend. Luckily this bittersweet parting was made palatable as plans were already being made for future get togethers.

This event was incredibly successfull for all involved! We all left Las Vegas richer in friends and photographs; the two things that make the Instagram toy community so special.

~ xxSJC

Below is an Instagram feed of the photos we took over these four days. Since most of us took hundreds of photos this tag will continue to grow over the next few weeks and months as we post our edited photos. I hope you will continue to check back and see all the photos as the #vegastoyphotosafari tag grows. 

[instagram-feed type=hashtag hashtag=”#vegastoyphotosafari” imageres=full]

Wikitoybox

Its hard to believe that the great Las Vegas Toy Photograper meet up is less than two weeks away! A small idea conceived amongst friends so many months ago is about to take place. Besides seeing old friends,  I am looking forward to meeting three long time Instagram friends. I have already talked about Captain Kaos and Krash_Override and today I want to introduce you to Ki Chen otherwise known as Wikitoybox. Ki is a breath of fresh air on Instagram. Not only does she take wonderful photos with her iPhone, she designs her own toys and is a positive voice within the toy community.

Ki has created her own line of resin toys around colorful poop. In a community dominated by guys I am sure you can image that these have been very popular. (I hear she will be bringing them with her to Vegas and I will have to pick up a few more.)

I Poop When I Steal by Ki Chen
I Poop When I Steal by Ki Chen

I am always impressed with what Ki can accomplish with her phone; she is a master of the photo edit. She knows when to use those specialty photography applications to benefit the overall image rather than overwhelm it.

I Swear it Wasn't Me! by Ki Chen
I Swear it Wasn’t Me! by Ki Chen

I find I am drawn to toy photographers that mix up their feeds with more than just Lego toys. There is so much happening in the collectable toy universe that it is fun to see what is new and has people excited.

Optimus Needs Help With the Level on Zelda by Ki Chen
Optimus Needs Help With the Level on Zelda by Ki Chen

Sometime you see a shot that is just plain beautiful on every level,  like this image of a dunny being painted by HO model railroad people. The lightening, sense of scale and short depth of field make this a really fantastic image; one of my favorites by Ki.

There’s Always Room for Improvement by Ki Chen

Of course it is not lost on me that Ki is one of the most respected members of the toy photography community. She is a wonderful photographer, dedicated toy designer and she commands the respect of her peers within the community through her gentle and kind nature.

Ki Chen is one of those amazing people who make the toy community a better place and I look forward to taking our online friendship to a new level.

~ xxsjc

Krash_Override

The epic toy photography meet-up in Las Vegas, NV is less than five weeks away. I have already written about Captain Kaos who I am excited to meet; but Matt is not the only one I am looking forward to meeting. I am also excited that Dennis Taylor, otherwise know as Krash_Override on Instagram, will be joining us!

Dennis is one of the nicest people on IG and certainly one of the most talented people I have encountered. Not only does he take incredible photos, he makes his own unique toys. Just imagine toys made by a nicer version of Sid from Toy Story, but just as beautifully twisted.

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Dennis’s feed is a mixture of toy photography, custom builds in progress and new toy purchases. Basically an eclectic mix of toy fun. There is a constancy to all this madness though. Every monday morning I wake up and I am greeted by a photo of Shipwreck hung over from another weekend of debauchery. This has been going on so long I don’t think it would be Monday without seeing a new photo.

Mixed into his wonderfully gallery are photos of custom toys in various states of deconstruction. I enjoy watching the creative process take place, all the way from a new batch of less than stellar toys sent to him by friends, crazy half finished mash-ups, all the way to the often breathtaking finished creations. The transformation is absolutely fascinating and many times I can’t help but laugh at the wacky mashups that somehow always work.

It is easy to get side tracked by Dennis’s creative custom toys and forget he is an incredibly talented toy photographer. He really has an emotional connection to his toys and it shows through in his photography.

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It will be my absolute pleasure to spend the weekend shooting beside him, talking shop and swapping photo tips.

As Smeagol says: Vegas or Bust!

~ xxsjc

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If you are interested in joining us in Vegas, there is still time!

Have you ever tried to make your own custom toy?

#stuckinplastic: The Exhibition

One of our goals here at Stuck In Plastic (#stuckinplastic) is to create opportunities to show toy photography away from a computer or hand held device and place it squarely on the walls of fellow fans, board rooms, coffee shops and galleries alike.

To that end I am pleased to announce the very first Stuck In Plastic exhibition which we just branded for now #stuckinplastic: The Exhibition.

My friends +Me2Avanaut and I will be showing our collective works – large, and we mean large- at the Bryan Ohno Gallery in Seattle, USA, Planet Earth for five weeks starting March 5th, 2015.

And yes we want YOU to come and celebrate our very first art exhibition in my hometown with us.

In fact if you are able to make the opening we will all three be in attendance (yes, these two Nordic dudes are coming over to this side of the pond).

Showing my work with these two gentleman is a sincere honor, and the additional opportunity to meet them…well lets just say 2015 is looking very bright indeed.

We will be talking about this exhibition periodically between now and March 5th as our plans take shape and offcourse we are interested in your views, so stay tuned !

I hope you will take time out of your busy schedule and meet up with us for the opening reception on the 5th (or at least help us spread the word). It would be wonderful to turn this into a mini meet up and show the world and beyond (or at least Seattle for now) that we are a force to be reckoned with.

My sincere hope is that this is a grand success so that we can travel #stuckinplastic: The Exhibition to a town near you, add a few more members, and continue to grow this movement.

~ xxsjc

Our very first picture we posted here on Stuck In Plastic.

If you would like more information about this, or future exhibitions, please let us know. 
Have you signed up for the Best of 2014 Photographic Challenge? If not, sign up here!

Captain Kaos

In less than two months I will have the pleasure of heading to Las Vegas, NV, for a toy photographers meet up. When I started planning this event with my friends Dinoczars, Bricksailboat and +LEGO Wiiman I had no idea anyone would be interested in joining us.

So imagine my elation when one of my favorite toy photographers, Matt Rhode (otherwise known as  x_capatain_kaos_x) was one of the first to commit! Matt is one of the more interesting and best known characters active in the Instagram toy community. 
I’ve been following the good Captain for much of my nearly three years on Instagram. I’ve watched both his photography and storytelling skills grow. His mastery of the “flying shot” is nothing less than stunning. I think there are very few people who can make an inert bit of plastic look as alive as this guy can. 
His Stormtroppers are not the hapless stooges of Vader, but fun loving daredevils that live life to the fullest. Whether they are cliff diving or Para-Leafing they make the most of what they have (and I never doubt for a minute that they are actually doing all these things). His flying shots are a constant source of inspiration to me.

Successful Drop by Matt Rohde
Even though Matt has a wonderful cast of recurring characters, Stan the Stormtrooper, Frank from Donnie Darko and Gojira to name a few, my favorite is the Skeleton from Jason and the Argonauts. His quest to find Winter and slay him is priceless on every level: the staging, the story line, his never ending alcohol stupor all combine for pure poetry. I look forward to more crazy antics from this lovable character.

Why Me? by Matt Rohde

Of course it’s not all fun and games in Matt’s world, especially when the going gets rough. I can’t help but think his military background leads an authenticity to his battle scenes that few other photographers can match. I will admit his story lines can get too violent for my tastes (and the exuberance for the violence exhibited in the comments by his admirers I find a little disturbing), but I realize that this only reflects the world we live in. As I find myself retreating into my own form of magical realism it is good to know that there are other photographers willing to keep it far more real.
It will be interesting to see how we all get along when we meet up in Las Vegas. It is risky to take the anonymity out of our friendships, but I am sure that our mutual respect will carry us through. 
If you’re interested in seeing how this all plays out in person, feel free to join us in Las Vegas in January, we can always find room for one more. In the mean time head over the @x_captain _kaos_x on Instagram and check out his toy photography and all those beautiful stories in detail. 
~ xxsjc

Have you ever meet someone you have followed on Instagram and how did it go?
Who do you follow on Instagram that you would love to meet in person? 

Toy Photo Safari

I am looking forward to my upcoming journey with +Me2 and our other Stuckinplastic friends. I hear we leave on Saturday for 16 days of travel through some amazing countryside. I am not sure what to expect but I am sure some beautiful photographs will be forthcoming.

A little closer to home my friend Jon (who you may know by the IG handle of Dinoczars) and I are planning to host a toy photographers meet up in Las Vegas Nevada the weekend of January 16-19, 2015. This event will include an initial meet and greet, two photo outings, time to swap tips and a photo exchange. We have a few more surprises in store depending on the response we get.

If you would like more information about the event just click here.

We already have a few brave souls signed up for this epic journey and I am very much looking forward to meeting them in person:  Krash Override, Captain Kaos, Papajov, Wikitoybox and of course reconnecting with Bricksailboat. If you have any desire to join us and make this far flung world of Instagram a little smaller and more personable let me know in the comments, G+ or on Instagram.

Because in this crazy world that we live in, we need to take every opportunity to make connections and enjoy the time we are given. Which of course means playing more with our toys.

~ peace, xxsjc

photo by Jon Aiken (Dinoczars)