The end of another year is upon us. At such times it is common to look back on the year and reflect on what was, and look forward to what may be. Along the way are some witty anecdotes, insightful insights, and a renewed sense of…. blah blah blah. You know the drill. In that vein, let’s review 2021: A Dave’s Odyssey.

Over all my year was not overly productive from the perspective of the number of toy images produced. My instagram was rather lonely and dusty at times. This was due to my artistic endeavors expanding beyond just the camera. Let’s break it down.

Year in review of reviews

I managed to get in several reviews this year. I love doing reviews of toys – it gives me a change to objectively experience and analyze a specific toy, and play with something that I wouldn’t always be able to get my hands on. If I can enrich someone elses toy box by recommending something someone didn’t know about, or prevent someone from purchasing a bad product, then so much the better Typically my reviews are LEGO kits, and this year was no exception. I started the year by reviewing the Creator Expert Porsche 911, and the Imperial Probe Droid models. I also got the chance to review the amazing Gold Series Gandalf 12″ figure from Asmus, and the quirky but super fun Fantastic Tanks.

A year with Gandalf

Even tho I only had the figure for about 6 months, I spent a great deal of time traveling and shooting with the aforementioned Asmus Gold Series Gandalf figure. As I mentioned in the review of this figure, I’ve always felt a kinship with the grey bearded wizard. We have a lot in common: a love of travel, and walking in the woods, a cranky exterior with a warm welcoming center, and a full grey beard. He wields his magic with his staff, and I wield mine in Photoshop. In some ways it is like we are brothers from another mother.

It is therefore no surprise he has ended up my companion on several of my excursions.

Not that I spent a lot of time traveling, mind you. The pandemic, despite being in the second year, has still taken its toll on those of us with adventuresome spirits. As a result I spent a lot of time in my studio, where Gandalf also hung out with me.

However I did manage to do some traveling this year. The most important trip was getting back up to my homeland of Canada to visit friends and family I had not seen since New Years 2020. The Canadian border finally opened up enough for it to become worth while visiting for a short time, and we took advantage of it. I packed light, but I brought Gandalf along, since he arrived after a 18 month delay (which is appropriate if you think if it as I was delayed returning to Canada for 18 months). I was anxious to get him in front of my lens.

Dave shooting gandalf

I spent a lot of time of the 3 weeks I was in Canada hanging out at my in-laws place. Since they are grandparents they have a bunch of toys for the grandkids to play with. One day I borrowed one of the toy cars and took Gandalf out for a spin. Ya know, as one does.

Just a few weeks ago, over American Thanksgiving, I spent some time up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina with… you guessed it… Gandalf! I went for a hike, saw a scene that reminded me of Middle Earth. So I rushed home to grab Gandalf and went back shooting. This time, tho, I also attracted some local wildlife.

gandalf and the deer

A year of expanding horizons

This year I ventured into the world of making videos. Sometime in 2019 I was approached about recording an online course for KelbyOne on toy photography. Before we could get things going the Pandemic hit and everything shut down (note: pandemics suck). However in April of this year I arranged to record the class myself, instead of the KelbyOne studios. In June my class was published on the KelbyOne platform. If all goes to plan, on the day this post goes live I should be recording my second class.

The biggest lessons I took from recording the class were two fold. The first is that years of photography, including some in-camera modeling, in no way prepared me to record video. It is a totally different skill set. The second thing was that I really enjoyed the experience. It reminded me that I like teaching (which is why I write so many tutorials for this blog). One day I was looking around at my studio and I realized I had all the gear I needed to pull off my own videos. I also clearly needed some on-camera experience, so I decided to kick off my own YouTube channel about life in my studio. It covers tips, techniques, and adventures that I experience (including the story of Gandalf and the deer).

So far I’ve gone from “are you seriously putting out this video?!?” to “hey, look, it is non-horrible video!”, so I’m making some progress there. I’m also becoming pretty decent at Davinci Resolve.

A year of making my own toys

One of the biggest changes to my technique this year is that I have really stepped up my diorama game. Not only making new scenery, but I have started making my own action figure accessories, and even painting my own 3D printed figures.

I purchased a resin 3D printer, and have gotten a lot of use out of it by printing figures, then painting them up. Once I had the figures I would either put them in real world situations, or create my own dioramas for them.

blade diorama bts

This has led to some of my favourite photos I’ve taken this year.

The review of the review

So that is the end of my 2021 retrospective review. It was an interesting year. A different year than the ones I’ve had before, which tended to be all toy photography all the time. My new endeavors are toy photography adjacent tho, so it’s not a departure, but an expansion, of a beloved hobby and art form.

I suspect 2022 is going to offer more of the same. Except, hopefully, more travel and outdoor adventures. Cause the Pandemic sucks. I really thing having a global outbreak was a bad idea, and I don’t recommend it. However it has led to some personal growth, and a widening of the methodology I use to tell the stories I love to tell. So maybe it’s not all bad?

Who am I kidding. This is for you, COVID-19!

deadpool engaging in foriegn relationd

For everyone else, I hope you have an interesting, safe, creative new year! Onward to 2022!