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!

I am Julien aka Ballou34, and I live in Paris, France, so it is not really difficult for me to fly to Germany (Little did I know that I would be in the US for work that same week, so instead of a 1h30 flight, I would have to survive 14 hours in airplanes and 7 hours of jet lag…).

At that time, I was a bit sad not being able to be in Seattle and I got even sadder when reading the nice articles about the Seattle toy safari and seeing the beautiful pictures from all the attendees.

Anyway, Hamburg would be a few months later.

But why would I want to fly a few several hours for a “toy safari”?

I had already participated in several Instagrammer meetup in Paris and each time it was a good experience. You meet some people you know from the Internet, some you don’t know, some who are into toy photography and some who are not into that but start enjoying it when you lend them a few minifigs. So it’s nice but it’s only a few hours of photography together.

For me a Stuck in Plastic toy safari is much more than that.

First of all, it is several days long (I stayed 4 days in Hamburg). So you have much more time to connect with people and you share lots of experience and great moments together.

We all have that passion for toy photography, so it is great to meet people coming from different background and different countries (5 in our case – Germany, England, Sweden, Belgium and France), with different ages sharing that same motivation. You don’t know them but when you start taking pictures together, the same light start to bright among the group and it’s beautiful. People start to help each other, share some toys and advice.

Of course, in a safari, there is also the location: Hamburg, a place I had never visited before but wanted to.

Doing toy photography with a group is a great opportunity to visit a city, especially with a host like Stephan/@herrsm who really likes his city and wants to share it to you.

Side note: If you ever are in Hamburg, go visit the “Miniature Wonderland”. Amazing experience!

You get to discover some interesting spots for pictures and you are pushed by the group to wake up early to enjoy the show that the sun offers. I knew that I would not rest during that week-end (and that was not the point). Hamburg is a great city, very dynamic and with some really interesting districts. I will come back there in the future.


The magic of waking up early

As a group, you take time taking picture in a same spot, so two things are interesting to see:

  • How people are using the space for their pictures
  • How to challenge yourself to use that same space in different manners

You learn a lot from your fellow attendees. Everyone has some tips and tricks to share with the group, and even when looking at people it gives you some ideas and techniques on how to improve your own work. Interestingly enough, camera gear in particular was not really a discussion subject as you can see people with all type of cameras (smartphones, DSLR,…).

It is also really great to see how people are carrying their Lego and what they are packing for a trip like that. Everyone has its own way of doing it depending on what they are used to.


Always pack good stuff

And of course, there are the meals. A nice time to drink some beer, to discuss on different subjects and to continue playing with toy,… It is the moment when everybody talks about everything and you learn a lot more about everybody.

Based on this wonderful exerience, even when the “official” toy safari was finished, the last ones staying in Hamburg stuck together to try to extend this wonderful weekend, which showed how connected you can be after a toy safari.

So did I enjoy my toy safari?

I think it transpired through my text before. It is definitely a YES.

What surprised me was that you don’t really need introduction. You see those people who you know through their social media account and it is like you have known them for a while. Of course there is the surprise of seeing them in real life, but after that, you pull your camera and a Lego from your bag, you start taking pictures and you feel like being among friends. You are among friends.

One nice moment from this meet-up was the print exchange. We brought some pictures to give to the other attendees. For this occasion, everyone selected their best work or some pictures that meant a lot to them. It is a great way to keep souvenirs from you fellow attendees.


Hamburg will now have a special place in my heart

Should I come back to another toy safari?

To be honest, I cannot wait for the next one. I may even try to get to the American one.

It is such an intense experience. A lot of emotions happen in such a short period of time that you don’t want it to stop. Great friendships are formed.

I really hope to see this “fellowship of the Brick” (to coin a phrase by our host) really soon because we have spent some great time together and now, taking pictures by yourself does not really have the same flavor.

~ Julien / @Ballou34