N-Pop girl is not in Kansas anymore

It’s a bit spooky… I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore Toto bear.? – N-Pop Girl

#notinkansasanymore #legoninjagomovie #lego #toyphotographers #utahtoycrew

After work I stopped near my mailbox and decided to quickly shoot this figure.  There is a field near my home where the landscapers have been dumping grass clippings all summer.  I smells and there is quite a bit of garbage throughout the clippings…  I’m not too happy about that, but it makes for a great setting for toy photography.  I find with toy photography it does not really matter where I take a photo.  Coming in so close to such a small subject as a Lego minifigure for instance blurs that background to beyond recognition.  I find I focus more on color this way and try to minimize distraction.

This figure is probably not the best for this setting but I figrued that would work well as sort of a contrasting idea of sorts.  Sort of like Dorothy in the Land of OZ.  This N-Pop girl figure is so out of place in a dingy grassy field that has low key tones to contrast against the bright coloring of its outfit.  I thought it proper to name the bear Toto.

I like the variety in the new Lego Ninjago Movie CMF line and am brainstorming new ways to capture them.

Cho-Li Leiko Sushi Chef

Where is Anton!? He kept saying he was going to build that fishing store near here… sushi chef, Cho-Li Leiko, will just have to improvise until then… Cho-Li needs to invest in some proper fishing gear:
-fishing rod
-life jacket

I was waiting for quite awhile to acquire this figure.  I liked the design of this Sushi Chef from the new Lego Ninjago Movie CMF line.  Finally they became available at my local walmart and I was able to feel out the cleaver and a few sushi pieces.

Once I had it, then what?  I tried to think of something for an image but nothing really came to mind.  I dropped my boy off at scouts and had an hour to go shoot.  I went around the corner and off onto a side dirt road.  We have been having quite a bit of rain lately which is perfect for our dry high desert climate.  We need all the water we can get!  Anyways, this dirt road was mostly dry except for some ruts filled with leftover rainwater.

The lighting was perfect as it was golden hour and the sun had just crested behind some junipers and shaded these waterfilled tracks.  There was a strip of golden light that shone through and lit up an area of the road.  It was the perfect spot and lighting but I had to hurry as there were only a few minutes of that glow left.

I swooped out the minifigure container and looked at my options.  The Sushi Chef was my goal to capture but in what way?  The puddle would make a great fishing spot on minifigure scale but I had no fishing accessories.  I had a wheelbarrow and the Shark Army dudes from the Lego Ninjago Movie CMF.  So off came their fishy helmets and their fish swords and into the wheelbarrow they went.

I have been awaiting an Anton figure (from the new Old Fishing Store Set 21310) from the Stuck in Plastic community (I highly recommend their blog).  It is currently in the mail and is coming from clear across the sea.  Anton has not arrived as of yet, and therefore I decided to incorporate it into this post.

The poor Sushi Chef Cho-li has no fishing accessories and he is hoping Anton will build a fishing store in his area.  It’s much easier to fish from a boat than a wheelbarrow.  I positioned him right in the last bit of glow creeping in from behind the juniper.  The light splashed through and really made the colors pop.

While I was shooting this I accidentally changed the settings on my camera so the rear screen would not display the image preview through the lens.  basically just a black screen with text.  This was rather frustrating because the shot had a small window of opportunity.  I ended up in the dirt and a bit of mud leaning way down trying to peer through the viewfinder.  I mostly utilize manual focus lenses and it was very tricky to do without my screen working.  Luckily it is just a setting and I did not break anything.

I was able to snag several great shots and was still on time to pick up my boy from scouts.  Success!


Rocket Boy discovers Limitless Cheetos and cheeses

Limitless Cheetos and cheeses galore; Rocketboy has claimed the moon - what a score! ? ? ? .
Limitless Cheetos and cheeses galore; Rocket Boy has claimed the moon – what a score! ? ? ? .

Rocket Boy discovers limitless cheetos and cheeses

I have been waiting to get my hands on a Rocket Boy from the new Lego Collectible Minifigures Series 17.  When contemplating what to do with the endless possibilities of a kid dreaming about space – I thought of cheese.

I love cheese and I love cheetos and I love space.  My obvious choice on moon landscape from a kid perspective equaled cheese.  In the past I have done real looking moon shots with the Lego astronauts; but I felt the rocket boy needed somethig more on the imaginitive side.  The scribble-colored space flag would have looked way out of place in a hyper-realistic shot.

I went to the store specifically for rare cheeses, but found out quickly that rare cheeses are quite expensive.  I wasn’t ready to drop $60 bucks on edible props.  Maybe it would’ve turned out better with goat cheese, Munster cheese, Gouda cheese, or some fancy aged cheeses from some obscure Italian countryside village; but I just couldn’t do it.  I wanted to taste all of them.  I realized I was shopping hungry and was getting a bit carried away. ?

Taking it all in
Taking it all in

I settled on a large family sized bag of crunchy cheetos that my kiddos could dig into after the shot.  Taking into account future meals, I selected cheeses including some sharp cheddar (block) cut into wedges. Feta cheese for some contrast. Shredded Mexican blend (we go through lots of quesadillas), and a crumbly cheese that didn’t make the cut.

Setting the flag
Rocket Boy setting the flag

Making the background

I made the background with just a white sheet of cardstock colored with various shades of orange crayon.  I wasn’t about to create the background with real cheese… too much waste of this golden amazingness.  Wallace and Gromits – “A Grand Day Out” was an inspiration for this shot and I thought of their rolling hills of cheese that the alien robot was able to ski down.  That’s the background I wanted.

At first the background was too close and didn’t lend to the depth I wanted – it looked flat and colored, which it was, but I wanted some depth.  I ended up moving the background further away and using a long lens (Jupiter 37a 135mm), to make the DoF shallow and blur the background totally.

Look at all the cheesiness!
Look at all the cheesiness!

I even tried taking a picture through an orange filter – but that idea canceled out all my wonderful crayon shading and it felt a bit too orange on everything.

Through orange colored glasses
Through orange colored glasses

Feta cheese “boulders” made for a perfect contrast in the endless orange landscape of the moon.  After I was done my kiddos made a quick job of cleaning up the cheetos – and I cleaned up the feta cheese!????

How many shots does it take you to get that perfect shot?

Just this morning I was going through all my shots and I took nearly 60 pictures just to get this one finished Rocket Boy moon shot that satisfied me.  I was thinking about this artistic process of coming up with an idea and the work that goes into that idea to make it a reality.

It really is quite fascinating – the image I had in my mind.  How come the first shot didn’t fit?  I had all the props, the tripod, the outdoor lighting… but still didn’t achieve what I wanted for another 60 shots in different poses and background depths.  Different exposures and lenses… maybe it was the vast amount of options that were at my disposal that made me take so many iterations?

Do you all have similar usage of space on your memory cards?  How many shots does it generally take to satisfy your creative ideas?

~ Joecow


Using Old Glass in Toy Photography

Old Glass
Old Glass

Old Glass

Swirls of light bend and transpose
Stretched and tangled, bokeh galore
Changing perception
Warps the view
Deciding the factors of focus anew
Gathered inception
Sketched and revised, blur adore
Whirls of bright mend and expose

~ Joseph Cowlishaw

Using old glass in toy photography

I love the look of old glass.  It has  unique imperfections that really make the feeling of a photo.  The newer glass is almost too perfect.  They have successfully eliminated the character of uniqueness through perfected manufacturing processes.

I recently purchased a mint copy of the Jupiter 37a lens from a Russian auction.  It shipped from Moscow and arrived to my home only a little over a week later.  I purchased this lens for its uniqueness in creating creamy smooth bokeh.  My brother Nathan Arizona recommended it and after seeing many example of excellent bokeh swirls I decided to get one.

I have also added an old macro lens to my collection – the Minolta Rokkor 50mm.  It has added more dimension to my toy photography with its imperfections and it’s perfect focus at close range.

I recently found an old video lens at a local thrift store – it was only a video telephoto 2x lens and was made during the age of videotape.  It was $10 so I decided to pick it up.  Obviously, the poor quality of this cheap lens hampered my photos by destroying to look of some of my higher end old lenses.  I tried attaching it to the end of my Russian Jupiter 37a lens and the results were horrible.  So I decided to disassemble this video lens and use the inner elements.  I liked how big the glass was and it looked relatively unscathed.  The front element had a bit of coating on it which allowed for some interesting colors and reflections while photographing it.

Coated front lens
I disassembled this lens to use the glass elements!

Charlie saves an old friend

About the same time that I acquired this cheaply built old lens I also received a Charlie Chaplin figure in the mail from Minifigures.com.

I was trying to figure out how to use him in a shot, and these elements lent me some ideas!

Interdimensional portal
Charlie Chaplin finds and reaches for a blur in time and space…

I thought how cool it would be for Charlie to stumble into unknown territory.  Unknown even to us in all our futuristic grandeur.  The lens worked perfectly for this setting.

Panda Sucked into interdimensional vortex
Charlie’s old friend Panda was inadvertently sucked into the interdimensional vortex
Old Glass lens
It looks as if Charlie is trapped in the old Glass…

I love using my old glass to create new feeling mixed with a retro feel and look.  Plus it has the added benefit of being super affordable. Old glass on a newer camera body means it has to be manually focused and controlled.  Using manual focus has taught me so much about the technical side of photography.  I love being able to change every little detail and setting to get that perfect feel that I am looking for.

Old glass does not mean poor quality.  I have found that some of my old lenses rival my newer autofocus lenses.  And they have the added benefit of character that is hard to reproduce.

I also find it interesting that there are now so many new applications that allow the user to “add” character to their shots.  I guess we miss that feel that comes from character and glass.  It is fun to add these details to the image while composing.  Even more fun than in post processing!

Lego Horror Wednesday – VW Bug

Strange sounds clanking in the engine… ?actually, that ain’t the engine!??

Phantom VW5Phantom VW6

Phantom VW8Phantom VW9

Phantom VW10
And just like that the Phantom has a new set of wheels!

My wife found some old mini Volkswagen Beetle cars from her childhood.  I rescued them from the kiddos and took some shots before they got destroyed completely!

I wasn’t sure what to use this black VW in, so I decided to make a series of shots for instagrams new feature of multiple shots in a post.

I used our trampoline as the road because I liked the texture it provided.  This didn’t make it easy to balance figures though. The slightest touch on the trampoline toppled my setup…

But after much perseverance I really like the high contrast, old movie horror feel result of my efforts.  It was fun!

Don’t step on the crack or you’ll break your teddy’s back

via Instagram http://ift.tt/2mpWjX6

Don’t step on the crack or you’ll break your Teddy’s back! ?

Good morning folks!  Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the day with my brother Nathan Arizona at the Heard Native American Art Show in downtown Phoenix, AZ.

We got to meet several new native artists and visit with old friends.  We have our mining company Earthtone Trading to thank for this opportunity.  We hauled down from Utah two tons of our Mohave Brown Alabaster to sell to the talented sculptors.

We arrived to the show late and ended up taking a long time finding a parking spot.  We finally found an open spot large enough for our truck in the basement of a parking garage.  We walked the show and talked with folks and then I headed back to the truck to get some flyers and take a break.

I was trying to think of a good spot for Lego photography and I am always amazed at the simply mundane areas that make my shots come to life.  The shot of Mr. Bean above with Teddy was not the shot I intended to take.  It was a gradual process from the start of looking for the right spot with some rails in the parking garage basement.  The rails made for some great bokeh and contrast. 

Mr. Bean through the bars
I really liked where these shots were taking me so I continued to enjoy the creative process and setup different angles.  It was a bit tricky to get the depth I wanted on the right and still show enough of Mr. Bean on the left.  I also decided the shot looked much better in black and white.

A glimpse of Mr. Bean
After composing a few shots I decided to try it from the other side by sticking my camera through the bars.  Luckily I have a tilt screen on my Olympus OMD EM5, so I was still able to compose the shot without having to hike around to the outside.

Mr. Bean strolling on the outside.
This is when I noticed the striking crack on the concrete and an idea popped into my head.

Careful Mr. Bean
I was so excited to have stumbled upon this idea!  I had to balance Mr. Bean just right – the umbrella and the teddy were the counterweights.  It took some patience to get it just right and luckily there was no wind at all.  Even a slight breeze would have toppled Bean and mad enough this shot impossible.  So the heavens aligned and I was able to capture these images!

Mr. Bean has a somewhat childish outlook in certain ways and that why I find him so humorous.  He takes the moment like a child would.  I felt this image conveyed what I used to feel about cracks on the ground.  The old adage “don’t step on the crack or you’ll break your mothers back” seemed like the perfect title with a bit of a change to put what Mr. Bean cares about most.  Thanks to Minifigures.com for making a great custom figure Mr. Bean.

~ Joecow