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)

image1
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?

Mini Figure Customization

Yesterday’s post by ME2 on a new LEGO ideas set featuring everyones favorite young detective Tintin certainly struck a cord. I think we would all love a few mini figs from that beloved series of comics to fly to the moon, traverse the jungle or invade the Death Star. The photographic possibilities are certainly exciting.

But what if the set doesn’t get its required 10,000 votes of support? What if LEGO doesn’t approve the set? What if the HERGE Foundation doesn’t want to play ball with LEGO and approval a deal? There are so many hurdles to overcome before this idea becomes a reality. What to do in the mean time? Continue reading Mini Figure Customization

The Joy of Art

I enjoy receiving ArtNetNews every morning in my mailbox. I enjoy the articles on the comings and goings of the fine art world. I feel like  a voyeur to this rarefied world of museums, galleries and million dollar art sales. It is a world I will never be a part of and I am just fine with that. The following headline reinforced this opinion:

Okwui Enwezor’s 56th Venice Biennale Is Morose, Joyless, and Ugly

Continue reading The Joy of Art

Watermarks – another point of view

Recently Mike wrote a post regarding the use or non use, as the case may be, of watermarking your photography. I want to give you my two cents on why I choose to watermark my photographs.

First I will say I agree with Mike that a watermark shouldn’t be a distraction. If you choose to use a watermark make sure its well designed and not a visual distraction. If you aren’t handy with fonts, consider paying a design professional to create a unique logo for you to help you stand out. With powerful apps like Watermark+ you can determine color, density and size of your watermark to minimize the visual impact on your image.

Second, I believe in branding.  By creating a unique logo that you use consistently over all your social media platforms, you will help fans identify you as the source of your creative photography faster. Images are passed around on the web, that is a fact of life, so why not have a way for people to quickly identify you as the original creator? I’m not  a particularly lazy person and even I wouldn’t do a reverse image search; I certainly don’t expect the average toy photography fan to do one.

I was intrigued by Mike’s comment that he wants his images to look their best on the Internet. For me that is not a concern. With social media apps like Instagram, that limit size and shape, I think that expectation is unrealistic. I want my images to look their best when they are hanging on someone’s wall, not being looked at on a computer, or worse yet, a mobile device.

Finally, the most important reason I watermark my images is pride. Frankly I’m proud of the images I take and I want the world to know I took them. Just like I sign and number all my prints for sale, I watermark all my photographs; my watermark is essentially my digital signature.

I respect anyones decision to watermark or not; there are no easy answers to this question. I personally feel the pros of watermarking outweigh the cons, if the watermark is well designed and applied tastefully.

~xxsjc

My Copyright Lawyer
If you have any further questions you can contact my intellectual property lawyer.

Which camp do you fall into and why?

Emerald City Comicon

It was a very long time ago when I bought my tickets to the upcoming Emerald City Comicon that is schedule to begin March 27th. I can’t believe that three days of geeky goodness in the heart of downtown Seattle with 70,000 of my closest  friends is just around the corner!

Last year I went with my toy buddies Dinoczar, Wiiman and Bricksailboat. Although this year our numbers have diminished (it will just be Wiiman, my son and I), I think we will still manage to have fun.

Amongst all the cosplay, celebrity sitings, gaming, panel discussions and merchandise there is a little area called Brick Nation. Needless to say this is where I go to get my mid year BrickCon fix. (In fact one of the vendors I bought from last year reached out to me recently to see if I was coming again this year. GIBrick I’ll be looking for you!) I will be searching for classic LEGO mini figures as well as unique customs and accessories from all of the vendors. You just never know what you will find at an event like this. Maybe I can finally build that Tauntaun / CHIMA army I have been dreaming of.

I also enjoy seeing the amazing LEGO builds that will be on display. Since this LEGO event is smaller than the larger BrickCon in October, it is more manageable and actually easier to see the builds which are always inspiring.

This year I plan to spend more time in the merchandise area to see what other artists are creating and selling. I think it will be an educational experience for me since this could be one of the many paths I may want to pursue. I will also be on the look out for cool custom figures. I find the idea of custom limited addition toys to be fascinating and love to see what toy artists are up to.

So if you see me hanging around Brick Nation, say: “Hi”. If you are going to be at Comicon and want to meet up, just drop me a note; I love to meet new people. If you want to really be adventurous you can always take a side trip to catch the amazing LEGO photography show in person at the Bryan Ohno gallery. Just hop the number 14 bus to the International District or grab a cab and you will be there in no time.

Either way I hope you have a great time at ECCC, I know Wiiman, Noah and I will.

~ xxSJC

Is this the beginnings of a new Chima army?
Is this the beginnings of a new Chima army?

Do you enjoy going to your local comicon? If so, what do you look forward to the most?

Confessions of an AFOL – A Response

I am sure this is not the response you are expecting from yesterdays post Confessions of an AFOL – Part 1 by Pinar. I think the comments on this post  cover a lot of territory and you should give them a read. It is not for me to criticize LEGO,  I generally vote with my check book, so my thoughts took a different direction.

I enjoy many aspect of this worldwide toy photography community and I am blessed to have so many international friends who willingly share their lives and cultures with me. It has been a wonderful and enriching experience. Occasionally I get a glimpse of my own country through foreign eyes and honestly, it always makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I just have to read The Short News (which originates in Australia) for some cringe worthy story emanating from the US.

Yesterdays post by Pinar (who lives in Turkey), really got me thinking: If LEGO is a Danish company with a world wide global fan base, why are so many of their sets based on pop culture and entertainment products that originate from the USA / Hollywood? Like Pinar, I have been feeling  lackluster about sets like Back to the Future, The Simpsons and now Scooby Doo. I am not a fan of the entertainment / pop culture that the US spews out on a daily basis and it makes me sad that it casts such a long shadow over the LEGO corporation.

Sure licensing is not new to LEGO and many attribute licensing the Star Wars franchise as key to turning the company around financially. No one can deny the success of the Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings sets either.  But what about the Lone Ranger Movie sets? Sure these gave us Tonto, one of the coolest mini figures ever, but is that enough?

Personally I would like to see Lego develop more sets from their Lego Ideas platform along the lines of Peter Reid’s Exo Suit, NASA Mars Rover, the Birds and of course the Research Institute. To me these sets offer a wider range of play not just a trip down memory lane.

But then maybe I am wrong and you guys would like to see LEGO develop a line of products based on The Brady Bunch next?

~ xxsjc

What kind of sets do you think LEGO should produce? Free play, nostalgia or movie franchise based sets?

The Sea Casts its Spell
The Sea Casts its Spell by Shelly Corbett

Ai Weiwei and Lego

As you all know I love my documentaries and especially ones about artists. Last week I watched a documentary called Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and of course it left an impression. If you are not familiar with Ai, he designed Beijing’s National Stadium which is often referred to as the Birds Nest. After his arrest in 2011 his travel has been severely curtailed and he has not been allowed to leave Beijing. This documentary tells the story of Ai’s activism through art which ultimatly led to his virtual imprisonment.

Ai is very active on social media and I soon found myself following him on Twitter and Instagram which then led me to his show in the famous United States prison, Alcatraz. By now you are asking yourself what does this have to do with Lego?  Well, it seems Ai created six large carpets out of 1.2 million LEGO bricks to depict 176 political prisoners. (More information on the Alcatraz show can be found here and here. )

Trace, the show’s most ambitious work, consists of six large carpets of Lego blocks that depict more than 175 prisoners of conscience, past and present Photograph: Mae Ryan
Trace, the show’s most ambitious work, consists of six large carpets of Lego blocks that depict more than 175 prisoners of conscience, past and present Photograph: Mae Ryan

It seems that our beloved LEGO brick is continuing to evolve from a children’s toy to a medium that in the right hands, protests a few of the many injustices of the world. Maybe this children’s toy is growing up?

As I continue to grapple with my own art, I am inspired by a man on the other side of this planet who uses his art to change the world. I follow him on Twitter and Instagram as a reminder that everything is not awesome.

~ xxsjc

Have you seen this show? Would you be interested in seeing this installation?

Do you think LEGO bricks are an appropriate medium for a political statement?

 

Eureka! (or the joy of toy photography)

People enjoy photography for many reasons; documenting their daily lives,  a creative outlet, an opportunity to be a part of a new community or just the cool toys they get to play with . Me, I crave that Eureka! moment. You know the one…when you look through your view finder and see your photograph  just as you envisioned it. Or maybe it’s later when you check your shot on your camera or computer screen and you see something that makes you go “wow!”

I had two of those moments while I was in Las Vegas for the #vegastoyphotosafari. Honestly, they are what I Iive for.

The first came on Saturday while we were shooting as a group in the desert. I knew I’d gotten the shot I had been thinking about long before I arrived in Las Vegas. I turned around and raised my arms and gave a victory shout. Wikitoybox was watching me and started laughing. I didn’t care, it was just one of those great uninhibited, joyous moments.

The second time came late on Sunday evening when we were shooting photos near a colorful fountain. Even though I had my ISO turned up it wasn’t enough to compensate for the changing low light. My shutter speed slowed down and created some seriously freaky effects with the skeletons I had placed behind Deadpool. I showed the results to krash_override and we both were equally fascinated with the crazy in-camera effects.

After 30 years of taking photos it’s nice to still feel those moments of joy and exhilaration at capturing something new and surprising with my camera. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world and I truly hope you have had one (or many) yourself!

~ xxsjc

Have you ever had one of these eureka! moments? If so, would you care to share it with us?

Landing Party

Building Debates, a new Lego blog

I will admit that the needs of the Lego community are pretty specific and for most of the general public, full of minutia. So when a new blog like Building Debates comes along (Thank you Julie for alerting us!) that deals with Lego topics we want to share it with you.

Building debates only has two posts to date, Building a  Case for Lego Art and Authentic/Inauthentic Lego or what’s the right way to build?, but both articles deal with issues very near and dear to any Lego fans heart.

I hope you will take a moment to check out this blog and join the discussion. As our Lego community continues to find its voice beyond BrickCon’s, BrickSet, Lego Ideas and of course Instagram, blog’ s like Building Debates will help us break from our niche status and into the mainstream,

I hope you will give it a read.

~ xxsjc

If you checked out this blog, I would be curious to know your thoughts?