My 365-project depends on the light and suddenly it is gone

I’ve done a 365-project before and something seems to happen in mid-October. It’s that  part of the year when the days get shorter and the rain gets more intense. Because I am a photographer who prefer to work with daylight, this time of the year always is unexpected. Until mid-October hits me the light has been my friend.

During work days

During work days, I photograph the kitchen with flash as a light source. During the project mid-October meant mer than the fact that I had to find the flash. I also realized that my ideas and my lack of attributes make the images feel predictable. And a bit boring to do. Many days this project feels like one other thing I have to do.

My doubts are high and I wonder what this 365-project will give me…

My 365-projects

My first 365-project gave me invaluable knowledge about technics.  Doing an image a day made me find my language or at least the beginning of what would become my language as a photographer.

My second taught me to develop my style, my expression and to work with the flash, a controlled light as a tool.

Some insights

This is my third, what have I learned more than October means that the light disappears and with that also the desire and the will to creat. I do not yet see what I have learned, but I have some insights:

The first one is that ”a lego-figure” is a tough toy to vary a story around. I would say that as a toy for a story it requires attributes. Many legophotographers like to use attributes like faces to enhance their story. I use a bit of attribute but my toy box is limited, by choise. I prefer to let the viewer read emotions / mood in the image via the light and the choice of location, time, angle and composition.

In my first 365-project the lego-figure was an attribute, and looking back at that I think the next toy-project will be with another sort of toy – no more – lego for me… When I do a new toy-porject I’ll probably choose use lego-figures be just attributes. I am currently doubting that I am a pure lego photographer.

I also doubt what the value of a 365-project. To take a picture a day is not really a challenge, it’s mostly a matter of planning.

A 365-project makes me attached to my motive

But there is one thing that I have realized. My feeling for the toy that is my motive has changed with all the dirt and the scratches that the project has given it. I didn’t feel anything for my choice of toy when I started, now I look for it and talk about the toy as one of mine. I value it – as my motive. I have grown in to liking the toy, the scratches and the dirt on the toy because they make it mine, and only mine.

Kristina

Teensy Travel

“Like a pair of binoculars with no right or wrong end, the camera makes exotic things near, intimate; and familiar things small, abstract, strange, much farther away.”

-On Photography by Susan Sontag

Toy photography spans genres. This, I’ve already said. Petite products, abridged architecture, pint-sized portraits, small surrealism…but what about those of us who create on the go?

Avid travelers, occasional tourists, whoever you are, if you’re a toy photographer, when you leave town you probably bring a toy figure or two (or ten).

Historic Artistic Travel

From the very early days of photography, travel photography has been a part of the medium. From the time photography came to be, those who had the capability to travel were, and they were creating momentos of their travels – from Francis Bedford’s pyramids, George Wilson’s Temple of Jupiter, Francis Frith’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to the works of Maxime Du Camp, Solomon Nunes Carvalho, James Ricalton all created in the 1840s & 50s. And the history of artistic travel doesn’t stop there painters make images of their world travels as well.

Perhaps the most iconic toy photography example would be Brian McCarty’s War Toys, a project he began in 2011. In this, he travels to war zones and creates images while there using locally sourced toys to illustrate stories shared with him by local children. I’m simplifying his work overly so, so please learn more here.

Why We Do It

All in all, humans like saving their memories, they like souvenirs, not to mention, we’d have very limited world views if there were no images of other places and cultures.

As toy photographers, the items we photograph are often an extension of ourselves and how we feel about the world. Because of this they become perfect representations of our feelings toward the places we visit.

We can savor our memories, while creating new narratives around them. Explore a new place an inch from ground level.  Tell tales and weave experiences that no other person who has visited that place can.

We give toys memory and a sense of adventure by allowing them to travel the world. 

~Tourmaline .

Do you ever take travel photos of your toys? Tell us about it and leave a link to a photo in a comment below.

Also, if you enjoy this post idea let me know what photo genres you’d most like to see next.


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Numbers Slumber

I love numbers

Did you know 2 and 5 are the only prime numbers that end with a 2 or a 5?

And did you know, 40 when written “forty” is the only number with letters in alphabetical order, while “one” is the only one with letters in reverse order when written in English? And “four” is the only number in the English language that is spelt with the same number of letters as the number itself?

I love maths

111,111,111 × 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321. In fact, multiplying ones will always give you a palindromic result. 11 x 11 = 121

Maths and palindromes? So many dynamos! *read that backwards

I even love math rock bands like Nomeansno and Shellac, and mathcore bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Locust.

Yep, I’m a delight be have a beer with! I’ll bore you with numbers facts whilst The Locust blast their complex, aggressive weirdness from the stereo.

A week of number fun

This past week has been an intriguing one regrading numbers.

On Monday LEGO shared an image of mine on their social media channels, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

The featured posts collected 34k Instagram likes, 1.6k Facebook likes and 512 Twitter likes in the first 24 hours.

And what did all these numbers mean for my numbers?

In the 24 hours following I amassed a total of 78 more Instagram followers. Sure, this number doesn’t take into account the average daily follower losses I’ve experienced since the algorithm screwed things up and I renounced my Instagram allegiance.

This is a picture
Of things going a little out of hand.
This is a sculpture
Of a couple of things we gotta get straight
Shellac – This Is A Picture

I’m not disparaging my appreciation that LEGO chose to share one of my photos. Not at all! I’m incredibly grateful that LEGO wanted to share my junk. I’m not questioning the gesture; it’s the platform on which it occurred I’m questioning.

As someone who loves numbers I was curious to explore these numbers a little more.

I remember when LEGO followed me on Instagram in 2014. I woke that morning and thought something was broken; overnight my follower count had exploded. Yet, now LEGO share a photo of mine and the impact on my account is barely noticeable.

Coincidentally, on the same day last week Google+ promoted my account in their G+ Create community. This feature resulted in 30 new followers.

Let’s look at some numbers. Yay!

An Instagram account with 2.3million followers shares my photo and I end up with a percentage gain of 0.26%.

(30030 – 29952) / 29952 x 100 = 0.26

Google+ feature me in a community of 730 members and the result is a 14.6% gain in followers.

(227 – 198) / 198 x 100 = 14.6

And what percentage of those community’s members or followers chose to pursue the features? Well, 4.11% of the G+ community, compared with 0.003% from Instagram.

(30 / 730) x 100 = 4.11%

(78 / 2300000) x 100 = 0.003%

Yeah, I get that the number changes on these days may have been shaped from outside these two events. And yes, I get that there may have been fluctuations in these numbers that weren’t direct result of the features. I understand that the mathematical outcomes aren’t purely the result of the features I’ve mentioned. And yeah, I get that lower base numbers require lower number additions or subtractions to impact on the results proportionately.

Out with the old.
This is the new.
The minor details have been overlooked.
Plastic people making plastic trees grow out of concrete,
This landscape lacks intellectual quality.
Emergency.
The Locust – Stucco Obelisiks Labelled as Trees

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

However, I still say that these numbers illustrate how broken Instagram is now. I’d argue that the gap between the numbers from these two platforms wouldn’t have been so great a few years ago. In fact, the Instagram numbers would’ve overshadowed those from G+. But they don’t now!

Numbers: Broken Clown
Broken Clown

When a new following, that’s only discovered by a user checking through a following list or checking through the activity of those they follow, results in a bigger gain than a feature in a feed, something doesn’t compute. Perhaps it’s because that post is now buried below advertising, stories and the algorithm, requiring greater digging to unearth than mining through the activities of a feed you follow?

When a community of 730 is alerted to someone, and it results in 30 new followers, whereas an account with 2.3 million followers results in 78, those maths don’t add up. No matter what type of trickery I try to apply!

I’ve never made a fuss about follower numbers. I truly appreciate those that do follow, but it’s not why I do what I do, or why I started.

This post is neither a gloat nor a grumble; it’s just some curious maths!

– Brett

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Happy #Googleween!

To celebrate the impending Halloween holiday, the fine folks at Google+ announced a fun opportunity yesterday that I encourage everyone in our community to take part in: #Googleween!

Here’s what they said about the special hashtag:

Do you have Halloween plans this year? People around the world celebrate this spirited day in their own ways, and we are excited to see what you are going to do.

For those of you making costumes or decorating your houses, share your tips and progress on Google+. If you prefer to spend this day watching horror movies with friends, tell us about your favorites!

Whether your Halloween plans include haunted houses, trick-or-treating, or your children’s school costume parade, share your day on Google+!

Spread the spookiness all through Google+ using the #Googleween hashtag on your posts!

Brewing up some fun Halloween photo ideas!

Normally I wouldn’t devote a blog post to a hashtag event, but as pointed out by our very own Tony Tulloch, creative posts are often re-shared and highlighted on Google+. So, this could be a great opportunity to not only share your Halloween-themed shots, but get the chance to receive a bit of extra exposure while you’re at it.

But wait, there’s more!

Speaking of Google+, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you about this month’s photo challenge on our Google+ community! There are three days left to take photos of $1 toys. The winning entry will not only be featured on our community banner, but receive a cool prize as well.

For the price of one Halloween candy bar, you can snap a great holiday-themed pic and kill two birds with one stone!

Happy shooting, and happy Halloween!

-James

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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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Photo or Faux Tow

When is a photo a faux tow? Is photo editing a false pull; drawing people to an artificial interpretation of reality? Or, is reality already blurred when we’re taking photos of toys?

I used to try to capture all I could in camera. Sure, I’d tweak and enhance what was captured, but I steered clear of opening Photoshop to add anything. If I did open Photoshop, it was to take away dust, dirt and imperfections. My reasoning for avoiding Photoshop was I didn’t want to unleash the perfectionist in me. Continue reading Photo or Faux Tow

Living with DiverCITY

The following article was originally published by The Rambling Brick on September 29, 2016. It has been reprinted by permission of Richard Jones and The Rambling Brick. 

Living with DiverCITY: changing depictions of gender roles with LEGO minifigures in the post-Friends era.

When I was a boy, and we rode dinosaurs to school, life was a little more simple than it is today. When the first LEGO mini figures were introduced, they were people.  Not really men or women, just people.  Their faces all looked the same: depicting the now classic smiley face.  The only attempts to define gender, in terms of appearance, came in the form of the hair piece they had on if they were not wearing a hat!  In that first year there were four ‘female’ mini figures released: they had hair with pigtails. If they were wearing a hat, you could quite happily identify that knight, policeman or astronaut as male or female as you should choose.

series1minifig
The designers have only attempted to define the gender of one of these minifigures.

Two of these ‘people with hair, defining their gender as female’ came  as the only figure in their sets, along with vehicles: one an ambulance (606) and one a ‘Red Cross’ car(623). Another worked at the service station (376) and the final one came with a home (377). There was also a female passenger with a railway carriage. in 1979, the first classic ‘male’ minifigure hair appeared. In this first year, printed torsos were still a year or two away, and defining your minifigure’s identity came down to the sticker that you placed on the torso piece. Continue reading Living with DiverCITY

I prefer not to talk about my work.

I was out last Saturday and photographed in a parking lot. I was down on my knees with my toys in the pool of water in front of me when a car drove in and parked. I saw it happening in the corner of the eye and realized that it was probably best to leave.

Yes, I confess… I’m not like Shelly that I say it out loud

I work by myself

I prefer to photograph for myself, not hiding, but with my own company. I had already picked up my things, when I realize that it was too late. The man in the car has decided that it was time to ask me what I do. But when he reached me, I realized that he already knew or had guessed. Because he wanted to see the images.

With a deep exhale I showed him the back of my camera and one of the images I had just done. But doing this it made me think: why am I like this? Why do I think it’s so hard to talk about my pictures? Continue reading I prefer not to talk about my work.

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