The Salty Road to a New Point & Shoot

There I was, on a gorgeous beach in St. Augustine, Florida. The sun was setting, it was the golden hour. I had assumed the crouched over, yoga-like toy photographer position. I placed my LEGO mermaid minifigure right at the line where the wet sand meets the dry, where the waves stop and retreat back to the sea. Here my little mermaid may catch a little sea spray, actually, I hope a wave crashes right behind her as I snap the perfect shot.

Fast forward to a few months later and I could barely stand the thought of reviewing the photos I took that day. A wave crashed behind the mermaid alright, but not how I’d hoped. It turned out I’d misjudged the situation and splash! My beloved Canon G15 point & shoot camera got severely salted and sanded. The automatic pop out lens refused to open or close. I brought it back to the hotel, took it apart, and cleaned everything I could. After many unsuccessful attempts I finally gave up. My camera was toast. It was time to move on. Continue reading The Salty Road to a New Point & Shoot

Ninja Vanish!

Well, it seems President Business is at it again. Last week, 36 of my Brick Sailboat LEGO ninja pictures were removed from Redbubble by Redbubble at the request of LEGO A/S. They claimed ownership of these 36 pictures (but not my many other pics for sale on the site) and poof, they’ve been taken down.
Ninja vanish! Continue reading Ninja Vanish!

Real World Friendships

What does a toy photo safari look like? What does it feel like? I think it’s safe to say that most toy photographers start out taking pictures alone. It’s not every day you see an adult with a backpack full of children’s toys squatting in the wilderness, camera in hand, cursing when their action figure blows over or crying when their white ninja washes out to sea (full disclosure here: my white ninja washed out to sea…so sad). Continue reading Real World Friendships

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

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

BrickSailboat

As we await +Me2 and his/our grand adventure to begin I thought I would introduce you to another great storyteller: Bricksailboat.

BrickSailboat has always been one of my favorite feeds on Instagram. What is there not to like about free wheeling ninjas, a crew of regular mini figs and classic pirates all struggling for control of a full size sailboat?

The mastermind of this silly and beautifully photographed feed is Paul S. Mr S loves a good story. The characters who populate his feed are often engaged in an elaborate story lines involving adventure, epic quests and mysterious strangers. Even when the ninjas are simply training on the boat I have the feeling they are bidding their time until the next adventure begins.

Now that Mr S. is on his own epic cross country trek, relocating to another coast line, the entire crew of the sailboat has gone on equally large quests. As we are treated to photos of ninjas’ trekking across sand dunes I realize that Mr S planned his entire road trip around finding these stunning locations just to feed the story line. That is some dedication!

If you find yourself treading water with your photography, creating a specific story line is a great way to move forward. If you are handy with words write an original adventure, if not try recreating a favorite literary passage. You might just find yourself creating some beautiful photographs along the way.

Who are your favorite storytellers on Instagram?
Have you tried your hand at creating a unified story and telling it using Lego?