A few months ago I wrote a post about traveling a very long way to get a toy photograph. I ended up taking my figure of Link from The Legend of Zelda up a mountain, putting him in some dramatic mountain landscapes and a spectacular location.
This post seemed like an ideal accompaniment as well as a total contradiction to that last one. And I didn’t travel a few thousand miles or climb a couple of mountains. No, this time my chosen location was a bit of dead ground and a septic tank behind a sports centre over the road from my girlfriend’s house.
Not every location can be glamorous or exciting, but maybe it doesn’t need to be. Lemons, lemonade, etc. You know the various clichés. Sometimes it’s just about making the most of a location, exploring your angles and compostions and finding the opportunities. Even if those opportunities involve some disused farming equipment.
When I head out for any photoshoot or a day of photography, I tend to take one or two LEGO minifigures and one or two action figures, just to keep my options open and respond to the location where I end up shooting. With this location in particular, I used my new(ish) Bo Katan Star Wars the Black Series figure. She’s been on the shelf for a little while now, but was more than due a trip out for a photoshoot of her own.
Not all Mandalorians are bounty hunters
I’ll be honest and up front, this is far from a complete photograph. And far from my best work. But the bits that do work certainly make it worth sharing. The biggest success of this photo in my eyes is the light in the background grasses and how that colour has a connection to the browns of Bo-Katan’s suit. It was something of a race against time to catch the light before the sun went down behind the surrounding trees.
The composition is very similar to a photo I took a while ago of Zorii Bliss where the light cut across the image in a diagonal fashion (that one was much more successful), taking a very basic setup to a very different place. If only I’d been there a little earlier, I might have got some of that light to shine on her helmet or upper body to give a better connection to the background. But that is always the challenge of shooting during golden hour. Windows are small, and there’s always an element of luck with getting it right. This time I’d say it’s a 75%er.
I wish I was good at something other than war
Just to the left of the previous setup, the grasses and plants on the ground were a bit thicker and coarser. This offered a great spot to create an aftermath-style photo. I’d lost the light by this point, or so I’d thought. Keep reading to see where Mr. Sunshine made a welcome return.
But in this case, with a flat light, it was a situation where I chose to use a bit of atmosphere to isolate the figure within a desolate setting. I really liked the mist combined with the browning, or dead nature of the plants. I felt it gave the photo a feeling of her surveying a battlefield after the battle was over. I really like how the blues and greys of her armour also blend happily into this more desaturated image.
The photo was composed of two shots in the end. Firstly with the mist on the right in the foreground. Then a second with a torch backlighting the scene to catch the mist on the left. The two were stitched together with a bit of masking in Photoshop.
I don’t care what happens to him as long as he surrenders to me
I’ve used this water tank as scenery for photos I’ve taken in the past, including Mando and Cad Bane. But it’s a great location, ideal to give that distressed and lived-in Star Wars feeling. The top of the electrical/pump box has a great patina across the surface where it has aged with rust and weathering.
I’m so happy with the composition of this photo, with the angle of the green metalwork at the top matching the floor at the bottom and leading into the figure on the right. I consciously put the figure to the extreme right of the image to extend these leading lines, but also to create a space and tension of whatever or whoever it is she’s currently standing down.
Most of these photos are set up with a little wire behind the figure. It acts as a third leg and is pretty easy to paint out with Photoshop. In this case, it also meant I could get the walking pose and the angle of the figure to create a more dynamic image.
The Way of the Mandalore
Taken in the same spot, I got this photo by tweaking the composition (even if I did recycle the pose). Dropping the camera on the tripod cut off her feet with the edge of the surface. Firstly I’m really happy with the depth it creates in the photo as Bo-Katan now seems to be coming from further back as she approaches the edge of the box. Secondly, it brings the orange tone of the rust into the picture and, as I’m starting to repeat in this post, matches her belt and holsters.
In the BTS below, you can see the electrical box to the left of the tank and my tripod to the left of that again. You can also see the dramatic sunset in the background, unfortunately being blocked by the trees. Or was it…
I am the last of my line
This photo is all about being in panic mode. It was taken on the other side of the water tank from the last photo and was an instant reaction to the light shining through the trees. You can see the light from the BTS photo below, which I only noticed when I stepped back to take the previous BTS shot.
I didn’t even have time to consider the aperture, luckily I got some dreamy anamorphic bokeh out of it. The shape and quality of anamorphic bokeh, especially from trees is something I love. Due to the glass in the lens squashing the image, the bokeh becomes a unique oval shape.
But for me this photo is all about the colours, I loved how most of the background and the figure is made up of cool blues and greens, but the setting sun creeping in under the trees created this beautiful orange glow. I know lots of people have repainted their Bo-Katan in regards to the leathers of her belt and holsters being too light, but I love how the orange tone is pulled across both the figure and the background in this image. As has been the case in a few of these photos.
Your bravery will not be forgotten
As seen back in one of the original location shots, around the corner from the water tank is some old industrial lawnmower parts. I’ll be honest, because I am allergic to grass I can’t claim to be a lawnmower expert, so I have no idea what parts of the machinery do what. All I know is that with the right lighting and a lot of atmosphere it felt like the perfect “corridor” for a Star Wars figure to walk along.
As you can see in the BTS below I setup a torch on the other side of the central row of spikes, creating a backlight for the atmosphere. If in doubt always shoot into the light, is my usual moto. In this cas I really enjoy the shapes these spikes create and how their silhouettes fade into the background. A little bit plantlife also creates an overgrown sense in the space, giving a feeling of Bo-Katan exploring an abandoned or ancient location.
This was a real throw away attempt of a photo at the end of a few hours shooting. But as I mentioned at the beginning of this post sometimes it’s just about hunting down those compositions, even in the most of unusual settings.
In conclusion, I guess I’m saying go and take photos in really rubbish places. You never know what you’ll find.