Dave: An Origin Story

It seems like every once and awhile someone creates a post about how they got into toy photography, and what they get out of it.  I figure its time that I go ahead and take a swing at that particular pitch and answer the how and why of my own particular journey into the realm of toy photography.

Ready?  Here we go…

The Shocking Truth Revealed!

I got into toy photography because I didn’t want to put on pants.

I’m not kidding.

Come along on a journey with me and I’ll tell you the tale.  It was a dark, cold, wintery evening back in December of 2012 (I’m assuming it was cold and wintry; I don’t actually remember the weather. It was definitely evening in December, so it seems plausible.  It makes for a better story so I’m going with it.)  

I had signed up for the Chrysta Rae Scavenger Hunt over on the Plus.  The hunt involves shooting an image for 10 separate words, one of which was “candy cane”.  If you recall the evening was (possibly) cold and wintry. The kids were in bed, so it may not surprise you that  I didn’t feel like going out of the house to find a shot.  So I decided to stage my own.  I looked around and discovered my old LEGO set from my long lost childhood. The kitchen contained a box of candy canes, and I scrounged an old Christmas tree skirt.  The solution was obvious (to me at least), and soon I had created this shot:

Candy Cane Forest

I ended up taking two other LEGO shots for that round of the hunt.  However it was a comment I got on this photo that caused me to take another LEGO shot for the next round of the hunt.  What was the comment? “This is so [expletive]ing creative!”  That’s an ego stroker for sure.  Highly motivated to impress again, the next word I LEGO’d up was “strawberry.”

Life at the fruit rollup factory
Inspiration comes in the strangest form, including an homage to strawberry fruit rollups.

Soon I was only doing LEGO shots for the hunt, mostly for the laughs. For the longest time humor was my only motivation for my toy photography. I didn’t take it very seriously beyond a quick smile or laugh.

A couple years ago I started studying photography thru a mentorship program in The Arcanum, focusing primarily on landscapes and street photography.  Late in my studies I was given a challenge to create an image with a cinematic feel.  My imagination is often larger than my resources, so I started to wonder if I could use my newfound skills gained pursuing other aspects of photography to actually create a compelling image with LEGO.  This is when I came up with the idea for a cinematic image created out of of a real life landscape shot, and a Gandalf minifig:

Gandalf At Stonehenge

I don’t want to brag, but the answer appears to be ‘yes’. Yes, I can create compelling images with toys!  I’ve been focused on toy photography ever since.

 Why?  Because I Can!

As I mentioned previously my vision often out strips my resources.  To create a lot of my ideas for images in real life, it would take a lot more time and energy than I have available. Not to mention it would require working with other humans, which is a rather unpleasant thought for someone as introverted as myself.

I have a full time job, which requires me to be on call for a week at a time multiple times a year.  I’m also a father of smallish children.  As a result I don’t often have the luxury to chase down the perfect location at the right time of day to get the shot that satisfies my vision.  I also don’t have space in my house for a studio large enough to shoot full sized human models. Real life can be so problematic, eh?

In contrast, my studio for my toy photography fits, literally, on a single spare desk in my home office.  If I need to work with something messy like paint or flour, I can quickly set up my gear on a folding table in my back yard. If I really need to get expansive, I can create entire worlds on my dining room table and still have room left over for my family of 4 to eat dinner between shots.

My equipment is also very portable.  I can carry in my camera bag several LEGO models and a flashlight or two for mood lighting. This tends to be so compact that I don’t notice the weight, or the space my set-up takes up.  Not too many photographers can carry all they need for a full-on location shoot (including the models!) in their carry-on luggage.

So the anwer to “why” boils down to this:  Toy photography allows me to create worlds I could never create in real life, and allows me to express my creative vision with reckless abandon, any time I wish, in the time and space available to me…. and I don’t even have to put on pants!

I mean, what’s not to love?

The Inspiration Challenge

It is probably not a shock to anyone reading this that I believe toy photography to be a very creative art form that is full of creative artistic people. One of the most blissful times in a creative person’s life is when inspiration hits and creativity flows thru them like a torrential rainstorm. However when inspiration dries up and ideas are as scarce as water in the desert, well, those times are tough.

I believe it is important for a creative type to push thru these dry times, and strive to create new things even when inspiration is lacking. For working professional photographers these dry times can often be survived by pouring oneself into projects for their clients. However as Joe McNally is fond of saying, one needs food for the table, and food for the soul. If you are a pro your clients provide the food for the table, however you still need to find food for your soul in terms of personal projects. If you are an amateur like most toy photographers are, it’s all food for the soul. Continue reading The Inspiration Challenge

Feasting on Feedback

Sometimes you wanna go…

It’s been over a month since I pulled back on Instagram posting. And while I’ve been away, I’ve been feasting on feedback and gorging myself on inspiration in a new town.

Apart from pushing my posts here, the G+ monthly challenge, joining in the Raptor Pack day and #brickstameet, I haven’t posted any photos that weren’t either in support of an event or to promote another platform. Instead I’ve focussed on the blog and the G+ Toy Photographers community.

Quality or quantity
Quality or quantity
Quality or quantity a choice you have to make
Bad Religion – Quality or Quantity

And whilst on this self-imposed sabbatical, it’s dawned on me what I’d been craving. I‘ve been missing a sense of belonging, meaningful rapport, a sense of community. This is what I find in the G+ community; the clue’s in the title! Continue reading Feasting on Feedback

So many contests, so little time!

Do you feel like I do and that there are currently so many contests and so little time! Normally I wouldn’t write a round-up blog post, but there seems to be a lot going on that even I can’t keep track of it all. I thought I would summarize all the opportunities so no one misses out. Continue reading So many contests, so little time!

Why? by Tony Tulloch

”Never have I found the limits of the photographic potential. Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold.”

W. Eugene Smith

I know it’s a bit passé to use clever quotes to start writing. But then, I tend to follow inspiration, not fashion. This quote, from the incredible man and photographer that was W. Eugene Smith, really sums up my creative photography. In fact I wish it wasn’t so sometimes, as I tend to throw myself into that thing that pops up on my creative horizon. That thing at this point in time is toy photography, especially Lego toy photography.

Continue reading Why? by Tony Tulloch

I don’t think Google+ is dead and neither does Mashable!

I’ve been telling you that G+ is a great platform and now I have more proof! Today Mashable posted an article that featured our beloved Toy Community rather prominently. Rather than the usual ‘G+ is dead’ line that we’ve all grown so tired of, they mentioned all the great communities that use G+ to share information and photography. Including us!

Check out this awesome screen shot they used for the article. Continue reading I don’t think Google+ is dead and neither does Mashable!

Its Official! Meet us in San Francisco May 11-14th

Its official! The next big toy photographers safari will be held in San Francisco, California, May 11 -14th. This will be four days of fun, friends and toys. We’re proud to announce that this years event will be sponsored by Google! You don’t want to miss what’s shaping up to be an epic event!

I’ve been working with my co-hosts Dennis and Melissa Taylor all year exploring photographic locations and working out logistics. We’re now ready to announce our plans so you can start making your plans to join us.

Continue reading Its Official! Meet us in San Francisco May 11-14th

Big Doings On Google+

With the help of a couple of awesome folks I’m trying something new in 2017 in our Google+ Community. Beginning this month we’re sponsoring and promoting a monthly photo challenge.

Through these challenges, and other information we’re planning on sharing, we’re creating an informal version of this blog. The goal is to create a community where we can take the discussions started here and expand on them through photo challenges as well as sharing our toy photography experiences. Continue reading Big Doings On Google+

Looking at photography through a different lens

Earlier this month I signed up for a G+ Mentorship Program for Photographers. The one I applied for was not your traditional mentorship where you explore a particular technique like “How do you See” or “Blur and Unsharp”, but one more focused on an interior exploration. I’ve embarked on a six week journey called “Breathing in Beauty, Creativity & Gratitude”. Continue reading Looking at photography through a different lens