Who doesn’t like to take toys on vacation? Its fun to think about packing specific toys that reflect a particular holiday destination. Taking toys on holiday is a recurring theme in all of our toy writings here on the blog. Recently Brett talked about the difficulty of choosing toys for his upcoming trip to join the Toy Photographers meet-up. We always talk about the joy of taking toys on vacation. But what happens when your trip is a photographic failure?


I love Moab. It is one of my favorite places to visit. In fact it is where my husband and I chose to honeymoon so many years ago. We have travelled there in every season and shared this special place with our kids multiple times. I love taking toy photographs there because it is such a different landscape from my usual haunts. Red rocks and scrub is a far cry from my typical puddle and moss photos. I enjoy the challenge and I always look forward to our visits.

So it was with much anticipation that I looked forward to having another chance to photograph and explore in this unique environment. Like most photographers I had a hard time choosing my toys. Driving only compounded the problem because I wasn’t limited by space. I packed my usual three bins of figures and an additional four larger bins of vehicles and large animals. To say I had over packed would be an understatement. My expectations where high and I wanted to be ready for anything!

Reality Hits Hard

I think there is a fantasy that comes along with taking toys on vacation. The weather is always perfect and the locations inspiring. There is always plenty of time to set up complicated photos. And of course sunrise and sunset are always perfect and nearly cloudless. You know, a photographers paradise.

But of course this is never how it turns out. Reality hits hard. For example, this trip to Moab, Utah, was a total wash. The weather was difficult and my attention was often divided between enjoying the moment and setting up a toy photograph. And while my family was supportive of my toy photography, there was competing photographic agendas. My husband had brought his 8 x 10 camera along on this trip with the goal of capturing a couple of photos of his own. I wanted to assist and support him as he has always done for me. It was time for some payback.

But honestly, even with all the hiking, jeeping and other photo agendas, the biggest hinderance to taking good toy photos was the weather. While we where there a large front moved into the area and was proceeded by a large wind storm that lasted more than 24 hours. To give you some idea about how windy it was, I will be replacing more than 50% of my tent poles because they where seriously bent by the wind.

Wind Sucks

Of all the weather conditions to take toy photos in, I think wind is the worst. Wind sucks; give me rain any day. It nearly impossible to set up a toy photo. And trust me, I tried. My T-Rex was knocked over even though I was in a rather protect location on Dead Horse State park. My stage coach was knocked off a rock and I had to scramble to find the missing lego pieces. And even when the light was good, the wind was moving the clouds so quickly, it changed to quickly, it was hard to capture.

LEGO stage coach and two lego horses in the fading light of Arches NP, Utah

This was taken just after this was blown to the ground. Soon after, I gave up for the evening. The light was great, but the wind was unworkable.

With the wind whipping the sand against my legs and my toys to the ground, it was easy to get discouraged. I would look for a ravine out of the wind or huddle behind a rock cropping looking for a location out of the wind. With the sky grey and overcast much of the time, I would use my portable light to simulate the sun. It was a poor cheat at best. But damn it, I had travelled 1,100 miles and I was going to get a few toy photos!

Even with this poor photographic conditions I persevered. I packed my toys for our daily hikes. I was hopeful I would steal time at lunch or during our frequent explorations to capture a few photos. When we stopped in the evenings to explore the desert I was given an hour or two to take my time capturing photos while my husband and son explored. But even with enough time, unique locations and the desire to take toy photos, the reality is I didn’t really capture anything. In fact in all the chaos caused by the wind I believe one of my raptors was left behind. So yeah, wind sucks.

three lego raptors on a rocky outcrop with red rocks in the background.

Last seen near the Court House in Arches NP, Utah. If found, please send him back home, his friends miss him.


Unlike my raptor, all is not lost. I had a great trip! I love Moab and the surrounding parks and I know we will be back. Of course there will be other opportunities to take my toys on vacation, like the upcoming toy meet-up. I haven’t unpacked my toys yet and many of these ideas will be attempted again in two weeks. I will have friends who can help me mange the complicated shots and hopefully nearly unlimited time to concentrate on the photos. But even with these advantages, I know the weather could torpedo this trip as well.

LEGO hot air ballon floats in the air with dark clouds looming in the distance.

Where is the glorious glowing sunset I was expecting? I will be trying this set up again at Cannon Beach. Hopefully with better light!

Taking toys on vacation is always a risk.Β  You are often entering unfamiliar terrain and locations, different light and your time is not always your own. There is a certain amount of luck and serendipity that has to happen to come home with a truly amazing photo. But then again, maybe thats not the point.

Whatever the outcome ends up being from taking toys on vacation, I know I will keep trying.

~ Shelly

What are your Traveling with Toys horror stories? Please share the worst moments you had traveling with your toys? Does this discourage you, or do you get right back out there and try again?Β 

Large toy tyrannosaurus Rex rampages across the red rocks with a deep canyon in the distance.

The wind was so strong, even this heavy guy was knocked over! Notice the lack of visibility across the canyon?