So long San Francisco, you were great!

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article about my motivations to cross an ocean to get to San Francisco for a toy safari. Now that the safari is over, did it fulfill my expectations?

Well…

The weekend was a lot of fun. We laughed, we took pictures in nice places with a lot of talented artists. Shelly summed it up in another article, so I will not write about what we did during those days. Instead, I prefer to talk about what I really liked during this safari.

 

The toy photographers

Almost twenty people attended this toy safari. All of them really talented. There were the ones that I knew from Instagram and the new ones that I discovered a couple of days before the safari (because I looked for them on Instagram when we receive the attendance list).

Except for Maelick that I knew from my past European safaris, it was the first time for me meeting all those people in real life. They were really welcoming and fun. Some were really curious about the French culture and how we called “French fries”, “French bread”, “French kiss”,… in France.

Compared to Europe where most people that have been participating to toy safaris were mainly Lego photographers, here, in the US, I discovered some artists who were playing which bigger action figures. One even brought ninja turtles which were the size of infants (They were soooo big). It was really interesting to see them work with that scale of figures. It’s not always easy for me to work with bigger toy, or at least it requires some time to get used to it. I also watched them do some practical effects for their shots which was great. I may try in the future to throw gravel or sand at my Lego minifigs to see their reaction 😉

 

The collaborations

During this safari, I had the pleasure of participating in several collabs with some great artists.

As Shelly described me in her post, I am always there to help and I have a lot of stuff with me. So if you need anything I may must have it. That way, I was able to help Shelly with a couple of pictures (such as her x-wing picture) and I provided Fathersfigure with some bees for a really funny collaboration .

But it did not stop here.

Maelick that I have known for almost a year now (since Hamburg toy safari) loves to participate in other’s pictures. While you are focusing on taking your own picture, you will see appear a T-rex head on a raptor body inside your viewfinder. That’s sneaky Maelick. It will surprise you, but it’s really fun. Go back to the hashtag  and try to find the appearances of this crazy dinosaur.

Am I being watched?

I also worked with Doughleyg on making a fun scene. Doug is someone that I had been following for some time and I was really looking forward to meeting him. I had such a great moment. At some point during the weekend, I offered to make a collab with him and each of us selected minifigures and we created a very funny scene. Guess which character are Doug’s and which are mine?

Earth Attacks?!

On the second day, I had some trouble finding creative inspiration. Then, I saw Lego_laws crouched on the ground near a hole setting up a scene. Naturally, I went to him to see what he was doing and help if necessary. A couple minutes later, I found myself creating a larger bunny story with him. I added a rabbit character. Then, Krash_Override came by and he suggested the addition of a new one. The love story became much darker and the story went down the rabbit hole.

Down the rabbit hole

Collaborations are really fun. They make for some really great moments shared with other artists.

Next time, I will do even more collaborations.

 

The after-party

During toy safaris, you have the opportunity to make some great connections with people. As I said before, you meet people that you were following (like Shelly, Doug, Leila and Cindy) in my case and you meet new people.

What is great with toy safaris is that the connections do not stop only at the safaris. They continue well after the weekend is other. I have a lot of pleasure meeting again my old pals from the other toy safaris.

And here, even as the weekend was other, Maelick and I stayed a bit longer in San Francisco (we could not travel to the US for just a weekend). We continued the toy safari on our own, together (in downtown San Francisco and even on Alcatraz Island) but we were also welcomed by Wikitoybox (who lives around SF). She took care of us during the next days. She brought us to some of her favorite locations such as the wave organ or fort Baker to take pictures of toys and we spent all diners together. The after-party with Kiwi was really awesome. Thank you very much to Dee and you, Kiwi.

Where the hell is Joker? Did he escape from Alcatraz?
At the wave organ (left) / At Fort Baker (right)

 

The print exchange.

There is one thing from toy safaris, that even my colleagues love (Yes, I said my colleagues). It’s the print exchange. Indeed, all the prints that I receive from my toy photographer friends are hanged in my office next to my desk on what I call my “Wall of friends”. And it pleases me to look at those amazing pictures but also my colleagues who come and see me, sometimes only to discover the new pictures. So if you want to add your art to my wall, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. I have plenty of space. 😉

State of my “Wall of friends” while writing this article

 

So, will I get back next year to the US for the next American toy safari?

Of course, I will. Or at least, I will do my best to come. It is so much fun, I don’t want to miss it. That is the problem with the toy safaris: when you try it, you can’t resist. I don’t want to be like Brett and to have to follow others IG stories. I want to be the story. So, wherever it is in the US, I will try be there.

By the way, I miss you all.

See you next year, if not before (in Paris for example, for a toy safari, why not…)

~Julien/Ballou34

Me, before the toy safari
Me, during the toy safari

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

Connecting more than plastic bricks

Brickstameet

It’s brickstameet time again! And this time, we’re connecting more than just plastic bricks and taking photos of them. We’re connecting with our friend from across the ditch.

This Melbourne #brickstameet will have an international flavour. Well, maybe a “pineapple lumps” flavour from across the Tasman Sea?

We’re excited to have @harleyquin from New Zealand join us in Melbourne as we wander the streets shooting LEGO. Continue reading Connecting more than plastic bricks

While The Cat’s Away

While the cat’s away, the mice will play. That’s what they say. Well, that’s what Bernie Horowitz says anyway!

toy safari: Gary Larson
“You, Bernie Horowitz? …So YOU’RE the ‘they’ in ‘that’s what they say’?” – Gary Larson

Toy Safari Blues

This past week, Shelly’s been off, gallivanting around in San Francisco at the Toy Photo Safari. And while she’s been away having an amazing time, I’ve been stuck here, keeping the home fires burning, slaving over a hot computer, looking after you kids!! Continue reading While The Cat’s Away

San Francisco here I come!

As soon as the location and dates were set for the next US toy photographers meet up, I did not need anymore thinking. I booked my flights.
Why?
Well…
If you’ve ever been to a toy photographers meet-up, I have to tell you that it’s a great experience. It’s a 4 day, intense weekend, that you will spend with strangers. You will meet new people and people that you’ve been following for quite some time on social media.
To be honest, it’s a strange experience. Even though you’ve never met them before you immediately have the feeling that you’ve known them for ages. We’re all dedicated to our work and we put a lot of ourselves in our creations. As a consequence, pictures can really tell a lot about people. What we like, who we are,…

Continue reading San Francisco here I come!

Its Time to Register!

Woo hoo! Its time to register for the San Francisco Toy Photographers Safari! This event is happening in less than three months and I couldn’t be more excited! Your safari hosts, Dennis and Melissa Taylor and I, are finalizing our plans and we hope you are too!

If you’re not familiar with what a toy photographer’s safari is, simply put, it’s four days of camaraderie and friendship that revolves around the activity of taking photos of toys. Our last two meet-ups, Las Vegas in 2015 and Seattle in 2016, where a ton of fun and we expect this one to be just as awesome! Continue reading Its Time to Register!

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

Hamburg – My first toy safari

Last May, when Shelly published an article about the Seattle toy safari, I noticed a little note in italic at the end of the article saying:

If you can’t make this meet-up maybe you can make our fall gathering. We’re currently exploring dates in late September for another European meet-up, this time in Hamburg Germany.

What?! The next European toy safari will take place in Hamburg?! I have to be there! Continue reading Hamburg – My first toy safari

Succession session

New kids off the country block

From rant to gallivant.

From Bellbrae to Erskine Falls.

Well, from Bellbrae to Erskine Falls, via Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Fairhaven, Moggs Creek, Big Hill and Lorne, as we snake our way along the Australian National Heritage listed ‘Great Ocean Road’ that hugs Australia’s south-eastern coastline. Continue reading Succession session

Subjective perspective

Subjective perspective

Get down low and go, go, whoa!

Seeing so many wonderful behind the scenes shots from the recent Seattle Toy Photographers meet-up, got me thinking about lying on the ground just to get a photo of a toy. And why most of my jeans have stained knees.

My legs are achin’
My eyes are sore
I haven’t washed my jeans
In three months or more
Dirt Jeans – Magic Dirt

I remember discovering Instagram 5 years ago and being instantly excited by how it made me look at where I was with different eyes. It challenged me to think about where I was standing and how that certain location could be viewed differently, more creatively. I wasn’t just seeing my surroundings as a “holiday snapshot” anymore. I was being dared to think how I could capture a vista in a more interesting way.

Gargoyles
Gargoyle turmoil

Long before Instagram, I was given “Nightmares in the Sky: Gargoyles and Grotesques”, a book of wonderful and disturbing photographs of gargoyles taken by avant-garde photographer f-stop Fitzgerald, by my then girlfriend, now wife. In the book Stephen King introduces us to the gargoyles as the faces we rarely see but are always watching us. In King’s text, we are told to always look up, as we never know what might be watching us from above. Ever since first reading this I crane my neck skyward whenever I’m in a city, looking for gargoyles and grotesques. And, whilst looking up for those looking down, I’ve learned to see my surroundings in another way.

Taking photos of toys has also changed the way I look at my surroundings.

Before photographing toys, I can’t think of a time I was taking a photo and wondered “what would this shot look like if I lay on the ground?” Before shooting toys, I can’t remember lying on the ground to capture that angle ever. Before toys, I don’t recollect admiring what worlds were down at my feet. Before toys, I don’t recall admiring plants or rocks for their proportionate scale. Before toys, I didn’t appreciate small-grained sand. Before toys, I don’t think I looked down, and appreciated what was down there, as much as I do now.

Taking photos of toys has made me appreciate my environment through little low altitude eyes. This low-slung viewpoint offers a new world. It opens up a completely unique experience.

Think of me.
(It’s a tiny little world)
Watch what you do. Watch what you say.
Tiny Ugly World – Alice Donut

Whilst travelling Europe many years ago, I can’t recall seeing folks in Venice’s Piazza San Marco lying on the pavement to capture a different angle of St Mark’s Basilica. I’m pretty sure I didn’t see a single tourist lying on their stomach to capture Sagrada Família either. Nor did I see anyone lying on the ground attempting to upskirt Michelangelo’s David in Venice. But maybe things would be different today? Maybe with the growth of toy photography and social media to share such photos, there might be more horizontal, ground-slithering photographers?

And, this is why, I somewhat pity people who don’t have some toys tucked away in their camera bags. Without a toy in their pocket, every time someone pulls out their phone to snap a photo, they’re missing out on something. It’s this small world vantage point they’re missing; a whole new way of viewing their surroundings.

It’s a whole new, tiny little world they’ll never know.

And I expect all the knees of their jeans are clean too.