Minecraft – The Village

First I want to thank The LEGO Group for sending Minecraft set 21128, The Village, for me to review. You’re probably thinking: Minecraft? Really? On a photography blog?  But honestly, I have a soft spot for Minecraft. I’ve photographed Steve in Sweden, on the top of Rattlesnake Ridge and in the local park. Who can resist that square head?

If you know any boys between the age of 7-14, I’m sure you’ve stumbled across the world of Minecraft. My own son has spent a good part of his childhood building elaborate worlds in “creative “ mode. When the first Minecraft micro sets were introduced through the Ideas theme, it seemed as if we were first in line. He has since collected all the micro builds as well as almost all the regular sized Minecraft sets. My living room has a rather large area devoted to Minecraft building and play.

As you can see I’m no stranger to world of Minecraft and somewhere along the way I fell in love with Steve and then Alex. I’ve always been fascinated by not only Steve and Alex but the Endermen and now the new Iron Golem. There is something compelling about the unscripted story of survival, creativity and constant building that goes on in this strange world made of blocks. I’ve always felt that playing Minecraft in “creative” mode has a certain similarity to building and playing with LEGO bricks.

This is why when I received an email from our contact at LEGO to see if anyone at the blog wanted to review The Village, I was more than intrigued, I was rather excited.

Last weekend my son and I sat down, opened the rather large box that is The Village and proceeded to build the set together. We spent several enjoyable hours together over two days building this set. We talked about what is a Minecraft Village (a place for Villagers to trade and be safe from nighttime dangers as well as a chest in the Blacksmith shop that can be looted), he explained the villages origins (they occur naturally), and we talked about the differences in the LEGO version and the game (no loot chest in the blacksmith, mushrooms aren’t found in villages and there are no markets in Minecraft villages). I learned a lot about the game and the characters and I had a nice time connecting with my son about his current passion.

Because Stuck in Plastic is a photography site I’m not going to bore you with a technical review. If you would like to read a complete review of this set, please go here or here. I will say that building The Village was a rather dull experience enliven only by our tandem building and our lively conversation. Of course since we were both more interested in the final product we didn’t mind. He was looking forward to the joy of playing with The Village and I was looking forward to those eleven mini figures.

The set comes with both Alex and Steve, a Pig and a Baby Pig, two Villagers, a Zombie and a Zombie villager, a Creeper, an Enderman and the Iron Golem. So far I’ve had a chance to explore with Steve, Alex, the Iron Golem and the Endermen. I look forward to seeing what I can create using the Pigs and the Zombies. Maybe I will introduce a certain T-Rex to this crazy cubed world?

I think I’m attracted to the world of Minecraft for the same story telling possibilities I find in the Chima world. In the world inhabited by Steve and Alex, they have no backstory, they can be anything I want them to be. Since I’m both a seeker and a storyteller in my photographs, it’s natural that I would be attracted to these virtual blank slates. I’m not constrained by a well worn storyline, I can make them be and do anything I want. It’s very liberating and more than makes up for those square heads.

My biggest complaint about the Steve and Alex mini figures, is that after fourteen sets, they only have one facial expression. I find this very frustrating; I think at least one scared expression would compliment the world of Minecraft rather well. But then I’m thinking like a toy photographer / story teller, not a LEGO designer. Maybe in the next round of Minecraft sets, LEGO could offer a new ‘skin’ for the two main characters?

It always takes me some time to get in the swing of a new figure, so these reviews do not come easy or fast. I like to have time to  think about the character and decide how we’re going to tell stories together. I know that these Minecraft characters will populate my stories for months to come. But until those stories start to make their appearance, I hope you will enjoy these images I made over the last two weeks.

~ Shelly

How do you feel about these Minecraft figures? Have you collected any? Have you photographed them? If so, how did you find the experience?

Endermen-minecraft-lego-legography-xxsjc
Endermen at sunset – I do love these guys!
Golem-Alex-Lego-Minecraft-xxsjc
Making friends
Golem-Minecraft-Lego-Legography=stuckinplastic
A face only a mother could love.
Minecraft-lego-skeletons-legography-xxsjc
The undead.
Steve-minecraft-lego-legography-xxsjc
This image was inspired by @Krash_Override who also loves Steve!

Behind The Small Scenes From a Big Galaxy, Part 3

This is another post in the a ”Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy” series, where I take a closer look at a few of the photographs created exclusively for the book. This time it’s actually two photographs.

A few years ago I had my finger on the ”submit order” button on my web browser. Had I hit it I would have purchased the legendary Millennium Falcon UCS set from lego.com for 500€ on a free shipping weekend offer. I didn’t have the money and I didn’t dare to push my credit card any further. I thought I’d wait for better times. The UCS Falcon was discontinued shortly after that and the prices skyrocketed way out of my reach. I never bought one.

Typical.

A few months before I began photographing the extra material for my book I heard something unexpected from a guy I knew from our neighborhood: he said that he had the big Falcon among his collection of LEGO models. It was the most amazing thing! He was happy to show me his collection. Later, as I was well into the shoot, I rang his doorbell and asked whether he’d let me borrow the Falcon for some quick photos.

First, I was amazed by how ridiculously big this model is. Photographs don’t do it justice. At this stage of the project I really didn’t have a very big space to shoot it in, we were in the middle of house repairs (yet again) and there were cardboard boxes everywhere. Unfortunately, there would be no Tatooine or Hoth setups this time around. I decided to do something very simple instead; I put the model on black board and shot it in the dark with smoke blown on it from behind. I had an idea to show just a little bit of the model in an attempt to make it look even more massive than it is. Less is more. I borrowed the TED Treadwell droid from the Sandcrawler set and used the new Chewie mini figure to update the look. The story was as simple as the setup: it’s a photograph of a burnout, a potential malfunction during a quick startup, as mentioned by Han Solo in a scene where the Millennium Falcon escapes from the Echo Base in The Empire Strikes Back.

The Burnout

This image was also made as a sort of sister image to this one with Boba Fett.

After I completed this image I figured I’d have time for another photo, if I was real quick. I had an idea of a simple space dogfight with lasers, but as it turned out, I had a problem with the lasers. Fellow photographer Nilsøn Lewiński has made some really nice images with the same idea a little earlier and I struggled with that. I didn’t want to do the exact same image. In my head, Nilsøn owned the idea. So, I tried to deviate from that look by adding steeper lights and the reflections of the laser beams to the objects near its path

With this in mind, I placed the Falcon on a table, aimed a cool LED lamp on top of it, added a warm Maglite lamp to the quad guns simulating the laser reflections, and took a long exposure photo whilst ‘light painting’ the engine bay with another LED lamp. After I masked the table away and added a star field I had my base plate for the image. The three TIE fighters are separate exposures of the same model that were added in later. The TIE on the right has the laser reflection cast with the same Maglite lamp I used earlier. The next steps were to us Photoshop to add the laser beams, some motion blur and there you go!

The Millennium Falcon

Now, while I wanted to show more of the big Falcon, and this worked out nicely, I’m not entirely happy with this particular photo. The problem is that it’s the only photograph in the book that could be seen as something from the actual movies. This fits right in the sequence where the Millennium Falcon escapes the Death Star and gets a few TIE fighters to attack it on the way to freedom and subsequently Yavin. I don’t like that thought and I think that makes this photograph the least original in the book.

I may have to borrow the big Falcon again someday soon.

Of course LEGO, in its great wisdom, might decide to release another UCS Millennium Falcon (which I know, the collectors wouldn’t like because it would devalue their investment).  Maybe LEGO will release a TFA Falcon with the square antenna, or better yet, an Episode 8 Falcon, then there would be no problem with it overshadowing the original UCS set. Right?

I can only hope that on the day that such a set is released, I can find the money to buy it. With approximately 5000 bricks, I know it’s not going to be cheap.

Brickstameet

Brickstameet

Urban magic

Like an excited kid on Christmas morning, I woke an hour before my alarm was due to go off to get up for the #brickstameet.

As I began the two-hour trek to Melbourne, my excitement waned and was replaced with an unease.

What if no one turned up? What if the only ones there were the four of us? Sure, it would be great to catch up with the guys again. We’ve worked together on Lego events and don’t get to hang out nearly as much as we should. But today wasn’t just about four mates hanging out.

My concerns were echoed by the others as we met up early for a coffee and pre-match rev up.

Our unease was short lived. As we made our way to the designated meeting place (picture some slow-motion action with George Baker Selection’s Little Green Bag playing in the background), there were already a few waiting for us. In the next fifteen minutes, those few multiplied and by the time we were scheduled to begin the tour, our numbers had swelled to around thirty. Thirty!

Brickstameet
Brickstameet

I hear the clang, someone cleaning the street
Morning sun drying out my feet
Gerling – In The City

The day began with a guided tour of familiar stomping ground for us, Federation Square. We’d been here before. We were here for the Xmas at Fed Square event with the largest Lego Christmas Tree in the southern hemisphere. We co-ordinated and produced the Lego photography, stop motion films and Christmas postcards sent by Lego photographers from around the world that were displayed on the big screen last year. We’d even had a guided tour before.

The first official photography stop was the Pop Up Patch after a tour of the catacombs below Federation Square. This urban veggie garden is made up of over 140 do-it-yourself plots housed in individual recycled apple crates, the majority of which are leased to the public. It was here that I realised we’d done good. As AFOLs, KFOLs, parents and Lego photography virgins alike began spreading out amongst the strawberries and Bok Choy, it was the reassurance I needed. The day was off to an exciting start.

Next stop on the tour was a short walk from the Patch; Melbourne’s iconic pedestrian laneway covered in graffiti and art installations Hosier Lane. This hotspot for visitors to the city with its ever-changing graffiti was the perfect location for us Lego photographers to blend in. With tourists snapping the colourful artworks, we went unnoticed as we sat down, selected minifigures, setup and shot. Well, relatively unnoticed.

Brickstameet
Brickstameet : Hosier Lane
Brickstameet
Brickstameet : Hosier Lane

It was amongst the graffiti covered walls that I experienced my first highlight of the day; a KFOL proudly flying the flag for Lego photography when asked by a passer-by what he was doing? Upon seeing the kid being questioned I instinctively felt, as a co-host of the #brickstameet and an adult(?), that I needed to swoop in to help the kid out. But, I needn’t have worried. The kid confidently and proudly explained who we were and what we were doing.

Shortly after this exchange as I made my way up Hosier Lane towards the meeting point to head to the next location, highlight number two happened. Possibly the youngest attendee, and undoubtedly a future Lego photography star, was deftly positioning Lego against brightly coloured walls enveloping a metal grate and chain. I watched him, set up and shoot photos, as his Dad proudly looked on.

Brickstameet
Brickstameet : Future Lego photography star in Hosier Lane

The quintessential Melbourne lane way Presgrave Place was the next location. This somewhat secret oasis within the towering cityscape was taken over by the group, spreading out over the length of it’s cobbled lane, making the most of all the wonderful art installations that adorn the bricked walls and the classic urban backdrops. Cue highlight number three.

Jay from Jay’s Brick Blog interviewed one of the KFOLs in attendance about his thoughts of the day as his Dad captured the interview on his phone. The sheer excitement of the kid and the absolute pride of his Dad were tangible. Some knucklehead might’ve even called him a ‘rock star’ as he walked past him post interview!

Brickstameet
Brickstameet : Presgrave Place
Brickstameet
Brickstameet : Presgrave Place
Brickstameet
Brickstameet : Presgrave Place
Brickstameet
Brickstameet : Presgrave Place

Our day concluded, after a short walk through Melbourne’s café lined lanes, in the main pedestrian thoroughfare and heart of the city, Bourke Street Mall. Here we witnessed Lego photographers sprawled over the tram tracks taking shots, all under the lookout of newly acquired friends and sentries, for shoppers with their heads buried in their phones and trams with their driver’s finger poised on the button to ‘ding’ the bell at their impatience for such shenanigans!

Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Lou Reed – Perfect Day

brickstameet
Brickstameet

It really was a perfect day.

There is already talk of the next #brickstameet. Ideas for potential locations have  been offered. Plans are afoot.

Thanks you to everyone who turned up and made the day a success. Thanks to @cheepjokes for all his hard work scouting the perfect locations for the day. Thanks to Jay’s Brick Blog and I’m Rick James Bricks for kindly donating prizes for attendees and our “photo of the day” winner.

How did Shelly do?

Shelly ask in her blogpost an open heart and an open mind: “How did I do, Kristina?” After some consideration I decided to reply with a blogpost 🙂 Suddenly I don’t know where to start; maybe I should start in Sweden, late last August on the Baltic Toy Safari, or should I start in May with the Seattle Toy Safari? Never mind I’ll start by saying I’m impressed with Shelly’s mission to take the opportunity of the safari to have an open mind and an open heart towards whatever happened. I will have to borrow that mission for the next Safari I attend.

When I’m the newest kid on the block, I want to observe to figure out my role in the group. And knowing that, I tend to stand beside or behind other photographers when they’re working. Why? One reason is to find my role in the group another is to learn and try to imaging what the images that the photographer’s are making will look like. I try to see the frame… But as you may know the funny part of standing beside a photographer who’s making a picture, is that you have no idea what the result will look like. In many cases standing beside is a puzzle, you don’t see the frame, the idea, or the picture and that makes it impossible to say if the setting is something I would go with or not.

So when I read Shelly’s post about her version of the story: I hear/see myself sound much like a bully that knows better. And I know that standing besides means that I know less about the frame, the idea, the photo because I don’t see the scene and the photograph isn’t mine. All I can say is: I would do it in another way. That’s what happened when I stood next to Shelly and saw her working with the Chima-piano- picture in the woods amidst the grass and pine needles.

Chima-piano-legography-toy-photography By Shelly Corbett
Chima-piano-legography-toy-photography By Shelly Corbett

Standing on Mount Erie made me think of Shelly’s picture “Queen Anne’s Lace”  and how I love the wide open background, so I was a bit puzzled about why she had made the choice with the pines in the background. So I asked if the background was supposed to symbolize the music? I don’t remember what I got for reply…

And then I went in (sorry I shouldn’t have done that), and I borrowed the scenery and I tried it in a more minimalistic setting. More like the picture Queen Anne’s lace, that I love from Mount Erie. The result became Shellys picture above, which is great! I see a beautiful scene in a landscape with a soft greenish color behind. I like the perspective of the picture a bit from above, like the camera is looking at the pianist playing in the wild. Amazing.

When I look at Shellys picture I see a story about music and love; how music can change our vision and the way we see the world. I see a great love towards music, nature and these creatures called ‘Chima’. A well told story. Wow.

I used the scene and took a picture of my own… it’s different but almost the same. When I look at my own picture I see almost the same, but it’s not the same, it’s different. The pianist that is in Shelly’s picture is embracing the moment, while the pianist in mine seems to be hiding behind the piano, or from the viewer. In my picture the colors are different, and the perspective is a bit different… my picture is more blue, and more cold. Shelly’s picture is a lot warmer both in colors and in tone, soft and gentle.

Where is the music? by K.Alexanderson
Where is the music? by K.Alexanderson

How did Shelly do?

And to reply on the question that started this blogpost, how did you do? From my point of view Shelly did better than best… and as always I’m so amazed that we as photographer make different images even though we have the same motive.

Kristina

Roots

I have been busy the last two weeks with all things different as being stuck in plastic and so today it was time to return to my roots. Shooting plastic.

Today was the day.
I was going to shoot some plastic.
And I had a shot in mind.
A great shot to say the least.
A challenge.
A challenge to shoot inside the studio, it involved some strobes, some great actors, some beautiful reflections and an even better idea …  yet it just did not happen.

The indoor lightening challenge was too hard, the anticipation turned into a headache. Reflections turned ugly, and  passion turned into hard work and before you know what was supposed to be a great experience turned into labour. Hard labour.

And so at the end of the shoot (no, I did not give up), I felt I just did not nail it.  I did not get that kick or creative rush making my day I had been looking for the last two weeks. I just ended up fixing a technical challenge, but did not get that creative satisfaction I was craving for given (remember, two weeks of no camera …)

So I walked down to my favourite dock (a place I shared with you before, a place with beautiful lightening, a place sometimes considered to easy …) and so I sat down and waited.
Waiting for the golden hour.
And waiting for guests …
And then he showed up …

Wundering Roots
An encounter …

And smiled and made my day …

Smile
A smile …

 

 

I was happy with the shoot.
It made my creative kick.
It got me engaged ready to go.

So remember, whenever you are stuck or are returning from a break don’t just take a deep dive (unless you are ready) but go back to your roots and shoot what makes you feel good to get your own creative self realigned and get prepared for your next challenge.

Challenges are there to take you to the next level, but never forget your roots, they are there to guide you and help you to next level.
Embrace them when you feel insecure, or you just need a a shot of creativity caffeine.

Thanks Stitch, I needed it.

Me2

Stitch
Thanks Stitch

Outdoor toy photography with intention

I like to create photos like some people like to cook – a little of this, a dash of that, stir the pot and then see what comes out of the oven. While outdoor toy photography definitely has a chance effect about it, similar to experimenting in the kitchen, that doesn’t mean that outdoor photographers, like myself, aren’t crafting our photos with the same attention to detail as all  photographers. Continue reading Outdoor toy photography with intention

Behind the Small Scenes From a Big Galaxy Part.2

Like the previous ”Small Scenes From a Big Galaxy” photograph I wrote about, this image isn’t a standalone true original idea either; it has roots in earlier versions. Actually, the earliest example I can pinpoint as predecessor to this idea of an interior filled with smoke to create an atmosphere, was with a South American cave setting using the Indiana Jones mini figure in 2009:

South America, 1938.

Their have been various tests of this approach over the years, trials and errors, but none have really nailed it. The first of these was in 2012. I created a crossover image using the Jabba’s Lair LEGO set 9516 with Indy Jones stealing the Chachapoyan fertility idol (a gold plated custom brick) from Jabba’s collections. There were some meta level gags in this image as the Indy Jones (Harrison Ford) mini figure recognizes the setting as somehow familiar. Continue reading Behind the Small Scenes From a Big Galaxy Part.2

Reborn

Today I woke up feeling very inspired and with a wonderful feeling of joy. So before getting out of bed, I decided to start my day reading the #StuckInPlastic blog. I then took a shower and set my guys in line to finish my post. As I always need some background noise to do anything so I set my Netflix on Eat, Pray and Love to keep me inspired. My mom says she thinks of me whenever she sees this movie and I can totally understand why. Continue reading Reborn

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