The Great Indoors

It’s now officially summer (at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), and like Brett and Shelly before me, I’ve been inspired by the change of the season. However, the sunshine has taken me somewhere I wasn’t expecting it to…

Back into my studio.

That’s right. While the rain clouds that cover most of the Pacific Northwest have subsided and the world is in full bloom, I’ve actually opted to stay indoors to take my first summer photos, thanks to a new find on Amazon: fake grass!

Grass is a tricky thing to work with for toy photographers (especially LEGO photographers) due to the fact that it doesn’t quite look to scale when placed next to our four-centimeter plastic subjects. Inspired by Brett’s moss garden, I turned to the internet for ideas and found SUN-E Life-like Fairy Artificial Grass. They come in handy 6-inch by 6-inch squares and look remarkably like the real thing!

I’m amazed at how real the grass looks next to my minifigures and LEGO pieces. The tiny artificial blades even shed a little bit, making the aftermath of my shoot feel very much like I actually left the comfort of my studio.

batman-robin-lego
Robin is excited for summer in Gotham. Batman prefers clouds that are black, or sometimes very very dark grey

Of course, I’m well aware that as realistic as it is, an indoor studio mimicking the great outdoors can’t actually replace the real thing. Shooting in nature has some wonderful advantages that I don’t want to miss out on, especially now that I’ve caught the summer bug. I look forward to the adventures ahead of me over the next few months!

Plus, it’s nice to know that when summer eventually does end, I’ll be able to hold onto a piece of it. Or at the very least, four 6-inch by 6-inch square pieces of it.

lego-bike
Summer adventures await!

Have you ever tried recreating the great outdoors from the comfort of your studio? What did you use to mimic nature? Let me know in the comments! 

James

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When is my work only mine?

How do you handle your lack of inspiration? I usually look at other peoples work to get inspiration. I do it with hope that I’ll be inspired to create something. But when I do this, sometimes my image becomes a version of someone else work. And that may be a dilemma.

When is an idea only yours?

When do you think your image becomes yours and isn’t a homage or loan of someone else’s idea? If I make homages of others peoples ideas should I tell them? Am I always required to tell those who’s images I borrowed that they’ve inspired me? When, if ever, is my work only the work of me and not of those who inspire me?

Recently I was at a youth competition for fencing with my youngest son and the poster for the competition caught my eye. I walked past this picture/poster serval times; I stopped and examined the pace and perspective. The image had strong lines that draw the viewer into the picture. In short, I really like this image.

Low on ideas

As you know I’m in the midst of a 365 project with the goal of 52 images featuring reflections. I can say that I’m pretty low on ideas right now. So the other night when I went out to do another working image I used this poster image as my inspiration. Maybe I made my own image, maybe I only made a copy? I realize that there are differences, but really it’s the same idea with a couple of minor differences. In my image the subject is a toy and she doesn’t where a mask but carries a sword…  My image is based on another image and someone else’s idea. Does this mean my image is mine? Or is it a copy or even worse simply theft? When is an image original enough to be called mine?

My answer

My own answer to this question is that I don’t think there is anything that is truly original. We all borrow, from others. I don’t think that my ideas are the result of only me…, I borrow, mashup, remix and make them to be mine. But during that process I consciously and unconsciously get inspired by other peoples ideas, images, as well as impressions from my everyday life. I use all this as a source of inspiration. In a best case scenario, these ideas merge into images that I can call my own. But some images will become pure tribute to an existing image, while others are copies of images I want to learn from. I feel that to truly understand an image we need to look at it over and over again and sometimes I have to copy it. Thinking of it and looking through my images I think there is only a few images that stand out as images that are just me. But I may be wrong, what do you say?

Kristina

After I had written this text, I went out to do a sunday version of my photo-project and I ended up with a new version of the idea that I got inspired by. Is this image mine, or just a copy of a copy?

Is Toy Photography Going Mainstream?

Call me crazy, but I think our little corner of the internet – the fun corner where all the cool kids hang out with their cameras and their toys – is starting to draw some attention from, dare I say it… the “mainstream.”

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed a lot of toy photography come from sources I wasn’t quite expecting. At the risk of tooting our own horn, I suspect that this awesome community, and most importantly the work of the people in it, have something to do with it!

Continue reading Is Toy Photography Going Mainstream?

5 Amazing Things About the San Francisco Toy Photography Safari

The Lead Up

Ok, so I was super nervoucited. (Thanks to a seven year old at my son’s school for teaching me that awesome word!). I’ve been collecting LEGO minifigures and taking pictures of them for almost two years now, and I was vaguely aware of Toy Safaris from mentions in my Instagram and Google+ feeds as well as a few blogs I follow. I had little idea of what to expect, so my mind was spinning with “who’s gonna be there?,” “what will it be like?,” “which toys will I bring?,” “will I be the only dullard using an iPhone 7 and relatively ignorant about photography?,” and “will this event hit my list of the top ten most awkward things I’ve ever done?” (Please don’t ask about that list… trust me.) Continue reading 5 Amazing Things About the San Francisco Toy Photography Safari

Think big, shoot small?

“To speak out once for all, man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is man, and he is only completely man when he plays.” (Friedrich Schiller, Letters Upon The Aesthetic Education of Man)

Last year my pictures had to be radically abstract. This year they are all about miniature people. What happened? And am I being inconsistent in my photography?

It’s about pictures

I have always tried to be very clear about one thing: My photography is not ‘about’ the things I photograph – in fact, I could not care less in many instances. It is ‘about’ pictures because I like pictures. This notion is also supposed to help me escape a certain kind criticism: It has been said that photography is the death mask of reality and that it is not able to surpass the reality it depicts. I wanted to go beyond that. I aimed at pictures that are independent of the time and place they show. Continue reading Think big, shoot small?

One year, 365 photos: a toy photography project

Every year I try to have some kind of a photography project. That might be 100 themed photos, 52 weeks projects (1 photo a week) or a 365.

A 365 is where you take a photo every day. I did it last year and I woke up on January first and decided to do it all again. This time, a toy photography only project though.

Am I crazy? Probably. Continue reading One year, 365 photos: a toy photography project

What is photography to you?

What is photography? And why am I doing photography?

These are questions I come back to over and over again. When I look it up on wikipedia the definition says that photography is:

as a way of capturing light, to a light sensitive sensor“.

But that answer doesn’t capture what photography is for me.

Continue reading What is photography to you?

New Year’s Revelations

Finding what you didn’t know you were looking for, until you’ve found it.

I’m sure we’ve all been there.

You set out to take a photograph with a clear idea in mind. It’s crystal clear. Just right.

Then, as you start to shoot, you discover something new. Your envisaged photo, albeit still wonderful, is overtaken by this newly discovered purpose. All that you’d hope for when you set out, is still there. A hope. A promise that will one day be honoured. Continue reading New Year’s Revelations

It’s 52 week in a year

I want to share my thoughts about my upcoming photographic projects after reading Shelly’s blog posts about the five words that she is letting define her year 2017 . As always, I’m inspired to do a new project in the beginning of the New Year and this year maybe even more so. I still haven’t decided if I’ll do a 365-project or not.

My first 365-project was completed in 2011 and it was all about toys, I called it CClones. I have done two other 365-projects but they have been all about self-portraits (Ser du mig? (a.k.a. Do you see me?)). Continue reading It’s 52 week in a year

Why? – The Origin story by Ballou34

Have you ever asked yourself why you were doing the things you do, the things that you like, the things that motivate you?

That is the question Shelly asked me. And to be honest, it is not an easy task.

It’s like asking Bruce Wayne why he became Batman or Anakin Skywalker why he became Darth Vader…

Origin stories

What is my origin story?

Maybe let’s start with some information about me. My name is Julien, I am 28 and I work in aeronautics, as an engineer, in France. So nothing directly related to photography or toys, for that matter.

I have been a big fan of Lego since my younger age and I came back to the brick a few years ago, collecting minifigures, mainly from the Star Wars and the Super Heroes universes.

At the same time, I have always enjoyed taking pictures, especially during my trips or during air shows. So I have a lot of pictures of aircraft, architecture and landscapes (some still available on my Flickr account). For me, photography is a way to escape from the daily world and flee all my problems. When I am taking pictures, I am focusing on the moment and nothing else matter.

What about Lego photography?

Well, I had been a follower of several of you for some time before I launched myself and I really enjoyed your pictures. And one day, it clicked. Why not make myself a picture with Lego? I have a camera and I have minifigures.

I started taking pictures at home, in my living room and after posting them online the feedback was so positive, it motivated me to continue. Quickly after my first pictures, I launched my first photo project, the #100_shadows project. With a goal of 100 pictures, it gave me purpose.

#100_Shadows (a small extract)

I also figured out that It could help me improve my technique as a photographer.

One thing you should know about me is that I am a self-taught photographer and I have always learned everything by myself (Photoshop, Lightroom, photography techniques…) and when I find something that motivates me (a project of some sort), I push myself beyond my limits to reach that goal.

So, to improve my Lego pictures, I started taking pictures manually (now I don’t use the Automatic mode of my camera anymore). I bought some gear (tripod, light, reflectors,..) and quickly learned how to use it.

I hate to push to the world pictures that I don’t like. I am very critical over my own work and I have difficulties to upload a picture when I am not a 100% satisfied but seeing the feedback and discussions we can have on social media, I may be too difficult with myself… If I were only listening to myself, you would not see a lot of my pictures. But with those exchanges and reading about other photographer troubles, I am learning a lot. That is something I found really interesting with this community. You can talk about your problems and learn something new everyday.

After learning to create a small studio with lighting, I decided to go further, to harvest the power of the sun and I left the comfort of my house to explore the world and take pictures outside. New challenges, new goals, new experiences.

Why?!

Back to the Why?

Legography, as a project, liberated me. In my daily life, I am someone who is really shy. But, since I started taking pictures of Lego, I don’t mind lying on the ground in the middle of a crowd to get my shot. People are looking at me, people are talking to me, but I don’t mind (a little bit at first…). I have even crossed borders to meet some of you during the last Stuck in Plastic toy Safari. This was such a great moment. I can’t wait to renew the experience.

Legography is also a way to tell story and share emotions. It is often easier for me to transpire my feelings through the medium of photography rather than in person (my shy side, once again). I can create characters and have them evolve in a unique environment. You don’t see the world with the same eyes when you spend so much time on the ground.

Legography, and toy photography in general is a medicine and every one can use it. Its good for you, either as a maker or a follower/watcher. When I make pictures or when I look at your creations, it quickly brings a smile on my face. I have some pictures from our toy safari picture exchange hanging on the wall in my office. When I have a bad day at work, I spend some time looking at them, remembering the good moments and I immediately feel better. And same as HerrSM, I believe that photography helps me not turning insane but he tells it much better than I can, in his own words.

Legography can also be a disease (but a good one – if you can consider a disease can be good) which can change people. I have seen photographers completely opening themselves through toy photography, and I am an example of that. Now, I have also friends and colleagues who carry toys with them and take pictures of them during their trips.

The picture maker

Toy photography being a cure, it is also contagious. “You”, the community, gave me the disease, and since then, I have myself spread it around. Let’s continue the contagion.

~ Julien / Ballou34

PS: Thank you Shelly for this opportunity to write once again for the  blog. It is always a pleasure to write for this wonderful community.