Nexus Shift

I have recently had the opportunity to purchase and use the LitraTorch by Litra Gear. I love this light for toy photography. It’s such a great portable size and the perfect amount of light for fill even during direct sunlight.

Doctor Phlox sees a strange light near the surface. SOOC photo.

I was rummaging through my closet the other day and I randomly found this Doctor Phlox figure that I purchased as an impulse buy from a thrift store a few years back – not sure why I hadn’t used it in a shot yet. I think it’s because a few years ago I was on a Lego minifigure binge. I still am, but I’m now venturing into bigger toy territory too.

The shot above of Phlox was taken on my car dash in direct sunlight with my Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 wide open. I use a ND filter to make this possible. I used the LitraTorch on high as a fill light in the front. Sunlight is behind Phlox.

I have always loved space and consider myself a Trekkie. I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, almost every Saturday. I’m sorry, but William Shatner as Captain Kirk doesn’t hold a candle to Picard. That being said, I am an even bigger fan of the reboot with J.J. Abrams. I just love the lens flares and the light in his films.

The light in the distance… do you see it!?

After messing around with the LitraTorch as a fill light I have realized what I have been missing. I have never achieved shots like this in direct sunlight. I’ve always had way too much contrast with such a bright background that all the details are in the dark in front. I end up with a silhouette of sorts rather than what I was really going for and I guess I just accepted that as a fact of circumstance. I would just adjust the blacks in Lightroom or something; but that option has drawbacks producing some weird digital artifacts sometimes.

Well, I was wrong. There is a better way – a nice powerful mini light studio!

What is it’s power source…?

There are quite a few toy photographers that I always return to for inspiration and one of them is Janan Lee aka @spideygoeshygge on Instagram. He has these mesmerizing spaceman shoots that have such great lighting. When I found Phlox I threw him in my camera bag for a shot if the opportunity arose and I wanted to emulate the feels of Janans shots.

The op came while we were running some quick errands. I was staying with the kiddos in the car while my wife went into the store to find a Halloween costume. It was a bright sunny day today and surprisingly pleasant at 72 degrees. My dash became my studio. I kept the frame tight and angled up toward the sky so I would avoid all the reflections from cars and buildings and such and the dash was transformed into another world… a world that would eventually parallel the Star Trek: Generations film with entering into a version of the Nexus Ribbon.

A bit of Enlight app magic and I combined two shots into the main shot on this post.

After these shots I busted out some heavy artillery: The beauty of the orange plastic Halloween Pumpkin Pail. $1 @ Walmart. (Not sure why I included this link – I guess it’s a bit funny for me, and it’s late when I’m writing this…)

Turned out to be quite the epic light when paired with my dash sunlight, some fancy balancing acts, and the LitraTorch as a front fill.

Doctor Phlox was transported through the Nexus Ribbon into some sort of fiery orange dimension.

As you can see from these shots – a nice studio setup is really not needed for toy photography. I love the portability of it all. The LitraTorch fits easily in my small camera bag with a few toys and lenses. I love how I can incorporate so many plain ordinary everyday objects and generate a completely new world; that right there my friends is why I do toy photography.

~ Joecow

What kind of random things do you use in your shots? Have you ever considered portable lighting solutions? What has worked for you?

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