Home is where the art is

Ah, Easter on the Surfcoast of Australia! The Rip Curl Pro (third event on the World Surf League World Tour) at Bells Beach, the last week of the school holidays with holidaymakers enjoying the lingering summer warmth, crowds, gridlocked roads, jammed supermarket aisles, logjams at normally quiet cafes spilling onto footpaths, and the queues at the local bottleshops evoking panic that they might be sold out of beer! In our case, Easter denotes the tradition of stocking the cupboards and fridge, hunkering down and never leaving home; just like an Easter zombie apocalypse!

As it was the last week of the school holidays, I’d planned to take my boys out on a mini toy safari. They’d been out with our toys taking photos whilst I was at work during the first week of their holidays. My wife had messaged me to let me know what they were up to with the opening line, “like father like sons”. I came home to two excited kids wanting to show me the outcomes of their morning’s adventures.

So, my initial excitement, and pride, had me planning a trip down the coast to find rocks and sand, and into the bush to find moss and waterfalls.

Then I remembered, Easter!

There was no way I was leaving the property to battle the crowds on the Great Ocean Road just to take some toy photographs. No way!

So, with the ominous hordes beyond our fences, and the promise of a toy safari, there was only one solution I could think of; have a toy safari at home!

Sure, we’re lucky enough to live on a 80 acre property, but having more area doesn’t mean there’s more amazing places to photograph. The majority of the property is made up of paddocks for horses and cows. There are really only a handful of spots that I like to shoot toys. Well, I like to shoot toys everywhere, but there are only a couple of spots that I end up with photos that I’m happy with.

Once the summer heat subsides, we are blesses with some wonderful moss that grows in the shade of trees. I love shooting on moss; it matched the scale of toys better than grass, but it’s a challenge to shoot in the shade that it needs to thrive. I do have a little trick to combat that predicament, but I’ll save that for another post.

It was refreshing to get out and shoot without having to step foot into the chaos of a busy coastal location during one of its busiest times of the year. It was an added bonus that I got to explore and hunt for new mossy harvests.

At home: The Hobbit: A Standard Journey
The Hobbit: A Standard Journey

It’s not the same, but being at home has its advantages.

Don’t get me wrong; the upcoming San Francisco Toy Photographers meet up sounds amazing. I’m incredibly jealous of those who’ll be attending. And yeah, I love attending the Brickstameet meet ups. It’s always a hoot to get out and shoot plastic in new places with other toy photographers. But within the confines of your own backyard, be it 80 acres or a backyard courtyard, magic can be found and adventures can also be had.

At home: School holidays have finished!
School holidays have finished!


Do you have a favourite spot in your backyard to photograph toys?

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  1. Tom

    I also love shooting on moss. Unfortunately I live in the city, but luckily I found moss on “ancient” (probably from ’70s) wall surrunding playground near our flat. This moss is ginger and “rusty”. But beggars can’t be choosers, so I like it. Better moss requires little trip.

    • brett_wilson

      Moss is super cool to photograph with toys. Maybe my little secret that I’ll write about soon might help you shoot with moss in the city without having to leave your backyard?! Stay tuned…

    • brett_wilson

      It really was a great way to avoid the coastal chaos! Although our stockpiling was misjudged and I did have to brave the crowds to get bread…a usual 10 minute trip took me nearly an hour!

  2. I remember the traffic driving home on Thursday afternoon before Good Friday, when I didn’t work at home… a usual 1-hour trip turned into a 3-hour adventure with all of the folks headed to the surf coast for the Easter break! So glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore.

    I have been looking for a source of moss to cultivate at home specifically to use as ‘grass’ for my photos. Already have the dish set up for it, found some in Trentham the other day and by the time we’d finished with our model shoot I forgot to grab some. 😛

    On the subject of staying home, setting yourself with a limitation it really does bring the imagination to life, I guess it a matter of it forcing folks to look at their environment with a different set of eyes. It’s like when you go on a photowalk with a bunch of people and you you find some folks come away with radically different images because they set out to see the location from another mindset.

    I need to break away from my more controlled environment of my homemade light box more I think.

    • brett_wilson

      The Easter traffic…what a nightmare!
      When you’re down our way next, let me know and bring a bucket! You can add to the random rectangular hollows of harvested moss under the trees.
      And yes, it’s surprising what you see when you’re forced to look. So often a toy photography trip for me involves getting in the car, but I really should put the car keys away and explore what I have more often. Looking through the amazing photos the kids took, I found myself asking “where is this?” only to to informed “it’s just over there!”.

  3. I live in an apartment, so shooting in my ‘yard’ can be interesting. Nosy neighbors, and the like. I like shooting by the lake though where the sprigs of plant life are more lush. Last time I went out I had 2 stray cat shooting assistants that were actually making the whole ordeal more complicated 😛
    I think there’s something to be said about shooting close to home. You become familiar with the good places. I’ve never been on an official toy safari, but I imagine they’re great albeit, much different.
    Thanks for this lovely post.

  4. thereeljames

    Great post, Brett! I too would much rather stay home than battle crowds or sit through traffic. Part of that is my social anxiety, while the other part is probably sheer laziness or a symptom of being an extreme introvert.

    There is a cool little gazebo right down the street from my apartment, with a nice big patch of grass, and a ditch that’s constantly full of rainwater, that I’ve found to be my new favorite go-to spot for outdoor shots.

  5. Ann

    I’ve just moved back to our house on a mountain in amongst rainforest. So far I haven’t had to venture out past my garden although I do plan to do so. I have some wonderful rocks in the garden that make great backdrops for my dino and caveman shots and the flowers are pretty for some nice backlighting shots in the late afternoon. Under our house is a whole moonscape of bare dirt. Plus after our recent wet season I have heaps of moss. Just not in the right places. I definitely will be taking your advice about starting up a mini garden. I already have a long list of requirements for our next visit to Bunnings. (Oh how I do love Bunnings!! )

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