OK, maybe LEGO City didn’t exactly change my life. But by taking a deep dive into this under appreciated LEGO theme, I learned a lot! For two weeks all I did was think about, and photograph, City sets. Through this activity, I was able to get a fresh perspective on my work and on the work of others. While these sets are aimed at boys 6-11, there are still plenty of interesting stories to tell.

This unexpected deep dive into LEGO City came courtesy of Kevin Hinkle and Kim Thomsen of The LEGO Group. Recently I received an email asking Boris Vanrillaer of Stuck in Plastic, Will Heron of TexLUG and myself, if we would be interested in working with the Lego City marketing team. Who was I to say ‘no’ to such an opportunity.

The Challenge

Our assignment was to create three photographic story lines that utilize specific sets. Our photos will be used to support an upcoming YouTube marketing campaign. We were given three ‘perils’ and were asked to come up with a ‘solution’ for each. These ‘perils’ were:

1) Help! Sticky green slime is oozing everywhere.
2) Help! Hairy creatures have invaded!
3) Help! A giant asteroid is headed straight for us!

Our own creativity was our only limitation.

Unlike Jennifer, I’m not one to write down my ideas. But for this task I got out a notebook and created lists. I made lists of ideas, potential scenes, story lines and possible characters to include. Since I was pursuing three ideas at once, these lists were invaluable for keeping my thoughts from spinning out of control.

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While I didn’t earn any money for my efforts I did learn a few valuable lessons.

What I learned

The first lesson I learned is that studio photography is much like painting your house: 90% prep and 10% photography. In other words, tedious. I spent almost all of my time gathering props, setting up scenes or arranging my cast of characters. When I had an idea, I would spend 10 – 30 minutes (or more), tracking down the necessary props. Omg! So tedious! Give me straightforward outdoor photography any day! I prefer going for a hike, finding a pretty bit of moss or some glorious diffused light.

In the end, I was only able to complete a few of my ideas. There are only so many mini figures that will comfortably fit into a photo frame. I learned that some ideas look better on paper than they do in the camera.

Another bonus of this project was that I could brush up on my photo skills. Even though I bought a new camera body last fall (based on a blog post I wrote), I never bonded with it. This project was my chance! I learned how to program all the special buttons, I set up Wi-fi and I even learned how to tether my camera to my iPad. Go me! Now when I’m out in the field, my camera works for me, not against me.

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What I really learned

What I really learned is that studio photography is really HARD! I came away from this experience with a new found respect for all studio photographers. Even in my ignorance I could tell how incredible Avanaut’s work is. What I hadn’t grasped, was how impressive the quieter studio photos are too. Ingenious lighting, small tricks of composition can be difficult to pull off in a confined or limited space. Now when I see a well lit, well composed studio shot, I appreciate what has gone into the photo. This was a humbling experience.

The other big take away from this project was my new found sense of energy and excitement about photography. By taking this two week deep dive, I was able to break the stranglehold American politics has had on my life. I’m finally able to concentrate on all things photographic again and it feels good! While I can’t stop the madness, I can look forward to the upcoming San Francisco Meet-up, get ready for summer, enjoy the occasional sunny day and of course plan excellent content for this blog.

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LEGO IS Pretty cool

Ok, maybe LEGO City didn’t exactly change my life; I may have overstated that just a little. My life didn’t change, but it did shift. I now see studio photography, and my own photographic journey, in a new light. I’m grateful for this opportunity that Kevin and Kim offered me and I look forward to exploring these LEGO City sets further and creating new stories.

Stay tuned…


I will leave you with one last image that didn’t fit into my slide shows…

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