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.
On a few occasions I’ve taken my subjects into an indoor makeshift studio – for me not a light box really but a dark one. Once was for a Halloween party hosted by pirates, another for an adventure into a tomb to find a magic lamp, and one more – a pirate play retelling the events of that very same magic lamp adventure (long story). The studio shots took some time to get used to. Having control over the light, the imitation landscape, the lack of wind/wave/strangers is nice if not a bit sterile compared to the great outdoors.
Then I moved. I moved from living on a sailboat next to a beach (in the middle of a big city) to a farmhouse in the country. Not just any farmhouse, the uncle’s farmhouse on 55 untamed acres of field, forest, and in-between. Uncle encouraged me to help tame the in-between – to fire up the John Deere to cut, mow, and help hold the jungle back. Plants and trees grow fast here. The forest was quietly and quickly reclaiming much of the property.
So I helped. I also naturally started taking toy photos on the property. Then it hit me. See that pesky tree branch in the background messing up my cool shot? Poof. I just cut it down (The uncle would rather me cut the whole tree down but shhhh). Want to carve out a semi-circle in that 7 foot tall grass over there – go for it. Add rocks, sure. Add water – dig a ditch and make it happen. Love that specific grass over there? Wait till Fall, it gets even better. Leave it. Don’t leave it. You decide. The control of the studio was suddenly being applied to the outdoors – on a 55 acre scale.
I will always love taking pictures in public places. A city park, a hike into the mountains, State and National Parks, the beach, downtown Seattle. I’m also going to keep messing around in the studio. I’m all about details. Light and dark boxes allow control of them. But now I’ve got another place to go. A wild place where natural controls can be added or subtracted at will. An outdoor light box.
Which do you prefer? Inside or outside? Is it wrong to manipulate the natural world for the sake of a picture?
~Mr. S (a.k.a. Brick Sailboat)