I’ve been photographing big lately. Voltron. Ninjago dragons. I’ve missed photographing small. And what’s smaller than a hand trowel of moss dug up from our backyard? 

Over winter, our gravelled backyard gets very little sun and lots of rain. Perfect for moss to take over, drowning out the gravel. But, as much as it makes a perfect setting for toy photos where it grows, the background stinks (unless I use a mirror).

small things: Look at that rubbish background!

Look at that rubbish background!

And who wants to lie on gravel to take photos? Not me, we’ve got dogs! Plus, I’m at the age where I not only have to make an audible announcement of my exertion when I get back up from taking toy photos, but I also proclaim the effort it takes to get down in the first place!

Rip n Dig

So, out comes the hand trowel!

Rip and dig
Sit right down
Rip and dig
Taking orders from the old man
Cosmic Psychos – Rip n Dig

As I dug up the green booty, planning to plant it into a tray, a moment of corner cutting, lazy, inspiration struck me. Why bother going to all that effort of finding a tray, filling it with soil, and planting the moss sitting in the trowel? In the time that would take, I could already be taking photographs!

small things: Bugger planting, let's photograph!

Bugger planting, let’s photograph!

So, with the freshly farmed moss still sitting in the trowel, out came the camera and the toys.

small things: Everyone knows the moon is made of cheese!

Everyone knows the moon is made of cheese!

With the trowelled moss resting on our deck’s hand rail, there are two distinctly different backdrops depending on which side of the steps to the background I set up on. One looks onto a grey painted fence that catches the morning sun. The other, onto the garden with a magnolia tree that bounces the afternoon sunlight off its shiny leaves. One great for tones, and the other a wonderful bokeh source.

From little things, big things grow

As I rattled off small photos on my small setting, my small brain thought of adding to the minuscule.

small things: Search your feelings...

Search your feelings…

Manual Exposure mode. A fast shutter speed of 1/1600sec. And a spray bottle filled with water.

If it’s water and it’s not wet
It could be ice so heat it and
You can soak me again
The Evens – If It’s Water

Each press of the spray bottle’s trigger resulted in small differences.

As right as rain

small things: The force is strong in this one.

The force is strong in this one.

Sometimes the background was greyed out with the mist of water forming the haze of a heavy rain.

small things: Rain scouting

Rain scouting

Small droplets glistened in the sun as they attached themselves to the moss and the figures

small things: “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” ~ Dolly Parton

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” ~ Dolly Parton

Small droplets hung and danced in the breeze as the trigger reengaged.

small things: Raining cats and ...

Raining cats and …

Vigorous bursts from the spray bottle appeared as teeming downpours.

small things: “And it's full of leathery objects, like eggs or something.” ~ Kane, Alien

“And it’s full of leathery objects, like eggs or something.” ~ Kane, Alien

And then I started playing around with back lighting… but that’s probably worth saving for another post!

So, with just a small piece of moss, some sticks, a spray bottle, the sun, and some camera setting tweaks, my morning of digging lead to some toy photos that I dig.

  • Brett

Have you ever photographed toys in a small scene? What challenges or successes did you experience? Ever squirted water at your toys? Tell me about that too!

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