I try to approach life with an open heart and an open mind. It’s not easy and I often fail, especially when I’m tired, hungry or stressed. Even though I repeatedly fail, that doesn’t mean I don’t keep trying.

I approached the weekend of the Seattle Toy Safari with no expectations and open to anything. Sure I had my assigned role – official cat herder – but other than that I was free to take advantage of the opportunities presented as was any participant. I had personal goals, but none of them were directly related to photography. Going into the weekend with no expectations of creating any photography left me open to learning three amazing lessons which I thought I would share with you.

First – you never know who is a toy photographer. When we stopped into the KEXP gathering space for a much needed coffee break and a quiet place to swap photos, we caught the attention of the barista at la Marzzoca. It seems he and his brother had recently jumped into the world of toy photography and were surprised to find this amazing world he only knew online suddenly appeared in his everyday world. We ended up having a lovely and unexpected chat. Keep your eyes open, toy photographers are every where!

Second, you never know where an amazing photo will come from. This came up two different times on the safari, the first time was at Fort Casey.  My heart sank when we first arrived at Fort Casey; the weather conditions seemed dire. Although it was a bleak and rainy morning, the photographic opportunities turned out to be spectacular. Being able to stay dry under the overhang of the fort and shoot across black concrete while a steady rain fell left me with more than one jaw dropping photograph. So much fun and so unexpected!


What happens when you go on a toy shoot and forget your zombies? You ask around and your bound to find someone who has them. Thank you Chris Policheri for helping me to get this shot!

My second experience with this was late on Sunday afternoon when we were hanging out at the beach below the Olympic Sculpture Park. I have a few friends whose kids have been inspired to take up toy photography after hanging  out with me (Go figure!). I find myself in the role of cheer leader and mentor to these three amazing and talented kids. Riley, the youngest, brought her own modified toys (a la Krash Override) to the meet-up and showed them to me. I was so taken with her amazing creations I asked to borrow one to photograph. I love this photo and figure! What a gift Riley gave me with her creativity! Another reminder that you never know where inspiration will be found.

Riley's Cat

Riley’s Cat

The biggest lesson I learned from the safari is that @kalexanderson is always right. In fact I want to pack her into my photo bag and take her with me on all my photo shoots. But first let me back up and tell you how we got there.

When I first met Kristina last year at the Baltic Toy Safari, I was so intimidated by the fact that she was shooting her toys with a tilt shift lens, I didn’t talk to her the entire day. When I wrote my post following that event, it was our lack of interaction that I was thinking about. I wasn’t going to let that happen this time so I asked her about her photography techniques and how to shoot in a high-key style. I’ve always shot for the blacks and under exposed my images, soon I was doing just the opposite. I was shooting 1-3 stops over exposed just to see how far I could take it.

More than once I found Kristina and I shooting a scene I had  set up and then we would compare notes. She would always make a few comments which invariably made all the difference in the world. Soon it became a joke that she was always right. So if you see us joking online about how she’s always right, first know she usually is, and second she’s completely earned my respect and admiration.


Hi Key Chima

If you find yourself on a photo safari with a bunch of amazing toy photographers and you want to know how someone is creating their photography, simply ask. I’ve never meet a photographer yet who hasn’t been willing to share toys, tips, and their knowledge with just about anyone who asks. And it’s not always the “experts” who have the information you need to help you on your personal photographic journey, it can be anyone. It’s not always easy to approach photography with an openness to the possibilities, but if you can occasionally manage it, the results may surprise you.

One of our earlier photo challenges was more of a writing challenge. The goal was to discover a word that described you and that would help you to frame your photography. The word I came up with was Seeker. I am always seeking a better way, a new way, a more effective way to practice my craft. Certainly approaching the artistic process with an open heart and an open mind helps me to achieve that goal. Of course having amazing friends helps too!

Thank you everyone who came on the safari and helped me to grow in amazing and unexpected ways!

~ Shelly

PS – Hey Kristina! How did I do?