An Outdoor Light Box

Like a lot of toy photographers, I love taking pictures outdoors. It’s wild – a wave washing my little LEGO subjects out to sea, a snake slithering between my legs as I quietly stand (holding my breath) in a swampy drainage ditch, or even the curious human passing by inquiring about what exactly is going on. Continue reading An Outdoor Light Box

do we have to narrow it down to only 5?

i’ve been perusing all of the “what’s in your bag” and “favorite five” posts here on #stuckinplastic and it got me thinking. i’ve been doing a daily photo project since soon after i got my first dslr (a nikon D60) in 2008, but i do it more for the daily memories and out of mindfulness than because i feel like a Photographer or legographer, so it feels odd to imagine sharing my camera bag. Continue reading do we have to narrow it down to only 5?

take me back to the paleolithic era!

i recently had the good fortune to interview one of the LEGO designers behind the new jurassic world line-up (look for that piece in the upcoming issue of Bricks). and it rekindled my childhood love of dinosaurs.

as a kid, i loved hunting for fossils out at the river (the river being the missouri). i found various shells and plant bits in the shale and marveled that they might be as old as 60 million years, even tho’ i couldn’t really even grasp that number.

i always insisted that we stop at every touristy rock shop in the black hills and i scoured the ground on scorching summer days in the badlands of south dakota, hoping to find a tooth from a saber-toothed tiger. i dreamed of being a paleontologist, but abandoned those dreams early, thinking that everything would already be discovered by the time i grew up (back then, growing up seemed so impossibly far away).

i thrilled when i read of the discovery of sue, the most intact t-rex fossil ever found – you guessed it – in south dakota. (so i was kind of right, all the good stuff was already discovered.) i loved that sue ended up at chicago’s field museum, where i could visit her, since i was living there at the time. and although i moved to denmark before she was up and on display, i did go back and visit her a time or two anyway. and she is magnificent.

all of this came flooding back after my interview with nick and i had to get me some dinosaurs. now, on these long, light summer evenings, i can lay on my belly in the grass in our back yard, posing my raptors and my dilophosaurus in the glorious golden light and dreaming of all those fossils out there, yet to be found.

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memories of toy photos past

i came across some old photos recently and was reminded of my old friend fuzz. fuzz was a little scrunchy beanie baby. do you remember those? they were all the craze for awhile back in the late 90s.

nearly 20 years ago, when i was a serious graduate student on a fulbright scholarship to macedonia, i took fuzz everywhere. he’s been to the balkans, istanbul, russia, sweden, denmark, london and germany. and yes, he’s even been to the pyramids. i always had him in my backpack, sometimes riding on the outside, but often stuffed inside. he was imminently stuffable and didn’t mind it a bit. i could always whip him out, fluff him up a bit and pose him wherever i wanted. he saw all the sights.

i ended up talking to a lot of people on my travels, because they thought it was so sweet that i was photographing my teddy bear. and i honestly don’t remember ever being embarrassed that i was photographing a toy. i wonder where i lost that along the way?

i liked photographing him from behind best. he somehow seemed most thoughtful that way. it became a bit of a game to see how much expression i could get out of him without showing his face. even tho’ i was using one of those kodak advantix cameras in those days. you remember the ones? they were a film camera, but they had the gimmicky feature of allowing you to adjust between three sizes of photos along the way, including a panorama. i tried to save the panoramas for special occasions. honestly, i enjoyed that camera.

my favorite photo of him, i took at the hermitage museum in st. petersburg. he was posed looking wistfully at the fog out of a rather dilapidated window.  unfortunately, i didn’t come across that photo in the stack of photos i found, so i can’t share it.

the best part of that photo was that one of those old russian ladies who sits impassively on a stool in the museums, sternly frowning at the guests, lest they do anything like dare to touch one of the paintings, was so charmed by fuzz that she even pointed out several other places i should pose him for his picture and thanks to her he got to sit on some chairs that were otherwise roped off. so much fun for me, but i also think it was fun for her – a little bright spot in an otherwise boring day of frowning at people who got too close to the matisse. i’ll bet she still remembers it, just as i do.

maybe it’s actually a good thing i can’t find that photo. possibly it’s much better in memory than it was in reality.

Art Saves Lives

     Soon after I published my post The “Why?” Statement – guidelines, I received the following e-mail that I want to share with you. It brings up an important issue that directly address the underlying reasons many people create art. Often those reasons are too personal to share, but universal in nature and we need to talk about them.
Hi Shelly,
I apologize that it’s taken me so long to reply (once again). Things are finally starting to slow down a bit, and more terrifyingly, I seem to have some time to myself!
So, I’ve been going through the “Why?” series tonight and trying to get a handle on it. There are two obstacles that I’m not sure I can overcome, to be honest. The first is that I am incredibly uncomfortable writing about myself, though when pressed, I have certainly capitulated. The second (and likely more difficult obstacle) is that my answer to “Why?” isn’t especially happy. It extends far beyond the subject of photography, really, and I find it hard to separate it from the larger question of why I do anything at all. Why I am driven to excel; why am I driven to prove my worth over and over again?
You’re quite correct when you state that the answer may take some introspection, although I have actually been aware of this for some time now. I say this not to illicit sympathy, of course; it’s a statement of fact and I’ll admit that I’m somewhat embarrassed that the answer is so cliché – as the child of two self-involved alcoholics, I developed a habit of seeking their attention (and more importantly, their approval) through achievement.
It’s fair to say that this shaped me into a fiercely independent person. I was a shy but willful child, and thankfully had the presence of mind to make my own decisions. I would not become a doctor or lawyer or whatever high-paying, high-status vocation they’d propose; no, I would do things my way, and earn their respect my way.
30 year later, I’m still doing things my way (for better or for worse), and I do it because it’s what I want.
But on the rare occasion that mom messages me to praise a recent photo, I am that child all over again, and I am so proud.
     When I first read this I will admit it hit pretty close to home. I am also an adult child of an alcoholic and that experience informs my life and my actions over and over again. I have given much thought to how artists channel their pain, frustration, humiliation, anger, hurt …. whatever negative energy they have bottled up inside of them to create amazing art. I think there is real power in harnessing that emotional pain and turning it into something beautiful to share with the world. I have seen it over and over again in my friends who are also artists.
     So if this hits close to home for you I want you to know that you are not alone. We have all been there in one form or another. It is important to acknowledge that the pain and anger we carry around with us can be a gift if we choose to guide that emotional energy into something that we can share with the world. The simple act of creating art is incredibly therapeutic and a very real step on the road to healing oneself.
     So the next time you hear that old chestnut, “Art Saves Lives” remember, the life it saves, may be your own.
~ xxSJC

Style

OMG. I have a style. A Brick Sailboat photographic style. It wasn’t always there, I guess parts of it were, but now I see it clear as day. I see it in most of my shots. Consequently, my style is absent from every shot I decide NOT to share. Hundreds of discarded shots sent to the digital trash can. Poor things. All lacking that special something I want to see in my finished work.

Style doesn’t come easy, or quick. I didn’t really find mine until around shared-pic #400. Once I realized what the pictures of Brick Sailboat were all about, it has become so much easier to get the shots I want. When I’m having a frustrating day shooting, I take a moment and remember my style. It gets me back on track. People often ask what kind of camera I use. What they’re really asking about is the list below – what makes a Brick Sailboat shot!

The Brick Sailboat style (for now anyway):

  1. I’ve got to get the focus right. Since I shoot primarily outdoors, this almost always involves natural light. More recently I’ve started using DIY reflectors to bounce the natural light into the faces of the figures (avoiding the dreaded sunline!).
  1. I like to get in close…really close. Fire up that macro setting and let her rip.
  1. I often shoot from below the subject (this sometimes involves building sets on stilts and/or digging a hole in the ground for my camera).
  1. The background matters…a lot. Take pictures in wild places.
  1. Stay candid. This is the most important. I want my minifigures to look like they would be having an adventure, even if I wasn’t there to photograph them. That means they rarely look directly into the camera.  A lot of times there are figures in the background doing rather boring stuff – walking, checking their phone, doing what they do. I regularly crop parts of figures out of the frame. Turn heads, move arms & hands, make it look natural-ish.
  1. Stick to the story. My pictures are connected by story. Not all pictures further the plot, but when they need to – they need to. Could the picture tell a story without a caption?
  1. I can’t get comfortable in my style. Study others. Try to figure out what makes their shots unique. Experiment.

So, there you have it, the seven ingredients that make up my own personal style. I’m sure my list will grow as I continue to take pictures and study all of the great toy photographers here on SiP and beyond. What’s on your list? What makes your photos tick? What makes up your personal style?

~ Mr. S (a.k.a. Brick Sailboat)

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We dem boyz
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Pirate bikes
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To the motorcycles

Why?

Why?

  1. adverb

    for what reason, purpose, or cause?:
    “Tell me why are you’re here?”

  1. pronoun

    for or because of which:
    “There is no reason why he shouldn’t”.

  1. interjection

    an introductory expression of surprise, disagreement, indignation, etc.:
    “Why, don’t be so silly!”

Let me premise this by saying that I’m not a photographer. Heck, I don’t even own a real camera. I’m just a knucklehead with an iPhone!

Continue reading Why?

here’s where it all began

it was july 7, 2013. i was in a long line at the grocery store. it was a summer day and sunshine-starved danes (yes, we are often starved for sunshine in the middle of the summer in denmark) were piling their baskets with grillables and rosé and rushing towards the register, to get home before the sunshine left again. the line was long and there was no sign of them calling another cashier to open another register, so i was stuck. as i was waiting, i glanced to my left and there was a display of small, shiny, colorful bags of LEGO minifigures. prominently depicted on the package was a minifigure of a guy in a chicken suit. i had a brood of hens at home of which i was inordinately fond and i thought, “i’ve gotta have that chicken suit guy,” so i grabbed a couple (or three) bags and tossed them in my basket. Continue reading here’s where it all began

65 Million Years Ago …

In the beginning I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

I had been working on a dinosaur-themed comic book and purchased a few toy dinosaurs to help with anatomical designs. The Allosaurus was first, but soon followed by a Triceratops and a Velociraptor. All made by the French brand, Papo.

They had almost no articulation, but the detail of the sculpt and paintwork were unparalleled. That’s what really caught my attention, the realism of the figures. Continue reading 65 Million Years Ago …

The Plastic Awakens

"...have you felt it."
“…have you felt it.”

 

Like most folks, I have two days a week off from work. Most times I spend those days taking pictures, getting caught up around the house, running errands and avoiding phone calls from…work. These past couple of days off were much the same with one exception. I sat down and watched Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Continue reading The Plastic Awakens