I’m no stranger to photographing toys in puddles. So much so, I even have a favorite puddle. (What a weird thing to say!) My favorite puddle is in a particular spot in my favorite park where I can consistently create photos I enjoy. It’s also a place that continues to surprise me as the seasons change and the years go by.

Where is this puddle?

My favorite puddle is located in a secluded place deep in my favorite park; Magnuson Park (a quick 15 minute drive from my house). This puddle is off the beaten track with no clear paths to get you there. You have to be able to find the barely visible track, tackle the unruly brush and dodge some seriously large mud puddles to get to it. The only people I run into in this forgotten corner of the park are the occasional lost dog walker.

I never venture to this amazing puddle without first getting on my water proof shoes. If learned from past experience that I will encounter a lot of mud standing water and tall brush. I also make sure I have my gardening knee pad. I don’t mind being on the ground but I like to minimize my contact with the mud.

The puddle is fairly large and long. It occupies a low point in the middle of large field. Ive walked around this puddle and discovered a couple of great sight-lines that have take advantage of the angle of the sun AND occupy slightly higher ground. This isn’t the case with another puddle that is only 50ft away. I’ve learned, not all puddles are equal.

Why does it work?

There are several reasons why this puddle is superior to other puddles I’ve photographed in. It has a nice consistent depth. It has depth but not too much. The foliage that grows in it scales well with my LEGO mini figures. It frequently serves up unexpected surprises. There was a time recently where I stopped by for a quick photo session and the puddle was frozen. I had a super fun time playing on the thin sheet of ice, taking advantage of the interesting reflections and the magical bokeh.

Another plus of the puddle is its size; It’s large enough to be able to reflect the (ideally) blue sky. I love the look of the blue reflected in the water through the greenery. Also the puddle is large enough so that the far side is easy to eliminate from the frame. This helps to create the illusion of a large lake.

My favorite puddle is fickle

My favorite puddle is fickle; it doesn’t exist year round. My toy photography wonderland exists only in the winter and spring. I learned this lesson the hard way. Two years ago I wanted to take the participants of the Seattle Toy safari to this magical place. The weather was gorgeous, we had a couple of hours to burn and since this was close to my house it seemed the perfect location.  Unfortunately when we arrived the ground was dry, dull dirt. Not a very auspicious way to start our epic weekend!

I’ve learned from experience that to get the best results from this puddle I need to watch the weather. The first clear day after a long rainy spell will always result in a big, beautiful, muddy puddle; perfect for toy photography.

Maybe one of the reasons I find this puddle to be so special is its fickle nature. When a location is readily available it can loose its appeal. Especially if you’re always looking for inspiration from new surroundings.

I’ve been unfaithful

I will confess I’ve been unfaithful to my first puddle love. Recently I discovered another area of the park with large shallow puddles. These have many of the same attributes of my favorite puddle but with less mud. While on the surface this would seem like a plus, but unfortunately there’s also more walking traffic. I also discovered these puddles change dramatically in size depending on the weather.

Behind the scenes set up of a lego pandas riding bikes across a puddle

This puddle isn’t for everyone

Yes I realize that a big, muddy puddle isn’t perfect for everyone, but for me its fairly ideal. I like the solitude of the location and the diversity of the vegetation. Sure its muddy which is an acquired taste. I like to think of the mud as an obstruction to be overcome. Ive learned from past experience that the effort is worth it. Ive captured some of my favorite photos in this big, beautiful, muddy puddle.

Here are a few of them…

If you’re a dedicated outdoor toy photographer I’m sure you have your own favorite place to photograph. It might the perfect beach, a tree limb or a certain wall with the perfect lighting. In the comments, please tell me your favorite location and why.

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