I enjoy taking toys on vacation. But no matter how much I enjoy the process, it rarely works out as I’ve imagined. This past week has been no different.

Before I left on my current two week adventure, I spent 3-4 hours gathering mini figures together. I thought a lot about my locations; San Francisco  (city, water and woods) and Colorado (mountains and sand dunes). I wanted to bring figures that were both meaningful to me as well as reflected the environments. I kept my choices varied, yet limited. I’ve learned from past experience that taking too many toys on vacation does not lead to better results.

We all know how San Francisco turned out. It was a mixed bag photographically. I will admit I’ve only looked at the images briefly, and there maybe a few hidden gems. (Vesa has taught me that it pays to look back at your images with fresh, and usually more experienced, eyes.) With the Colorado leg of my journey ahead of me, I wasn’t concered; I knew I’d have plenty more opportunities to take lego photos.

Or would I?

One of our planned stops on our tour of Southern Colorado was a visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. It’s been about 12 years since my last visit to this remote part of the United States and I was excited to return. I packed a few Star Wars figures (yes, really!), Indiana Jones, a couple of LEGO camels plus the usual suspects. I was ready for anything! When we arrived at the dunes the clouds were threatening and stunning with the light shining through. We explored the visitor center and the surrounding area before landing at the parking lot to begin our trek across sand and water to get to the dunes. By this time the weather was really beginning to turn ugly. Thunderstorms and lighting were forcast, but we would not be denied our adventure.


Great Sand Dunes National Park

Needless to say no mini figure photography happened. Between the wind and the mosquitoes the situation was pretty near hopeless. After our trek across the dunes we decided to wait out the weather in the car. But no amount of hope was going to make the wind die down or the mosquitoes go away. I know I could have pushed on and gone out to the shallow river, knelt in the mud and taken some spectacular shots if the sun had come out; but at what cost? How much fun would that have been.

As we were leaving the park, my husband and I agreed on two things: that the best light was there when we arrived and that we would soon be back. He with his 8 x 10 camera and I with my mini figures.  Even though my high expectations weren’t met, I feel great about the experience and I can’t wait to try again.

Of course sometimes life throws you an unexpected gift rather than a dissapointment. After I touched down in Denver on Tuesday we headed straight into the mountains to pick up our rental car (some places cant be explored in a Chevy C4500). Since we were ahead of schedule we drove to the top of Loveland Pass to enjoy the view and catch the sunset. I grabbed a few mini figures and we headed up the mountain. I found a lovely patch of wild flowers, sat down and happily worked for an hour. The light was amazing, the location beautiful, and the results were excellent.


Sunset at Loveland Pass

This brief hour may be as good as its going to get on this trip. I still have three more days to explore in the mountains around Breckenridge. I won’t have a car, and thunderstorms and near constant rain are forecast so I’ll have to get creative. Maybe it will work out, maybe it won’t. Either way I know I will  have fun trying.

The bitter truth about taking toys on vacation is that it doesn’t always work out – you win some, you lose some. The weather sucks, the mosquitos are huge and hungry, the wind never stops, the light never moves beyond middle grey – but its still fun. Certainly the images that do work out are all the more precious for the effort. Either way, success or disspointment, its all a part of the process, its part of the adventure. Even the worst days out exploring this beautiful world we live in with a camera and toys, in search of the perfect photo opportunity, is more fun than staying home.

So don’t give up, know I’ve had my share of bad days and bad vacations. But in the end, I hope you will find it as worthwhile as I do.

~ Shelly

Whats your worst experience and / or disappointment when you took your toys on vacation with you? 

I forgot how perfectly scaled high altitude wild flowers can be for lego mini figures!

I forgot how perfectly scaled high altitude wild flowers can be for lego mini figures!


Who knew you could find Chima at 12,000 feet above sea level?