It is a wrap

SIP goes Hamburg 2016 is a wrap. A most beautiful weekend in the sunny city of Hamburg, Germany is coming to an end with most guests on their way back to their home cities like London, Stockholm, Malmö, Berlin, Smålandstenar (just south of Bree), Karlsruhe, Charleroi (also known as Brussels South) and Paris (the one with the Eiffel Tower).

A most beautiful weekend packed with historical landmarks, beautiful sunrises (yes, plural), plastic toys and thousands of raw footage shot on Nikon, Canon, Smartphones and a historical Nokia alike.

Saturday morning, 7 am. Das Auto is getting some attention from David, Sven and Lizzi
Saturday morning, 7 am. Das Auto is getting some attention from David, Sven and Lizzi

A weekend packed with old and new friends alike. A weekend filled with memories to be remembered and raw materials to be processed in the coming weeks and months to come.

Toy Photographers in action on the steps of Hamburg
Toy Photographers in action on the steps of Hamburg

We will be doing a much more detailed write up in the coming days of some of the special moments we had, and will be sharing some guest posts from the #sipgoeshamburg2016 members, but for now it is a wrap.

Thank you Leo, Lizzi, Stacy, David, Julien & Julien, Sten, Stefan K, Susanne, Miriam, Wiveka, Sven,  Michael, Carolina and Maëlick to join us in Hamburg. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Another groupie attempt
Another groupie attempt

And then there was our fearless guide. Our host of the weekend. The Fabutastic Stefan himself. Thanks for inviting us all in your beautiful city and showing us your favorite places. Thank You !

Here are some of the epic goodness shared on IG this weekend ….

♬ Follow the yellow (and red, blue, green…) brick road ♬

Hasbro’s 6″ Star Wars Black Series, NECA’s 7″ Alien Xenomorph, Revoltech’s highly articulated Woody and Jessie from Toy Story, Bandai’s mega-detailed 6.5″ Predator… these are the types of figures you’ll see if you stumble across my Instagram page.  So how in the world did these cute little Lego Minifigures find their way in front of my lens?? Well, the credit… or blame, haha… goes to Stuck In Plastic‘s own Shelly Corbett.   Stuck In Plastic is a regular, if not daily, stop for me along with my other usual news sites, forums and blogs.  And it was during one of these stops a couple months ago where I learned about a Lego photography contest – one that was high on creativity and low on rules.  Perfect, I thought, so I decided to give it a go. Now this is where, if this was a movie, the picture would fade to black and white and the audio would become echoey… yes, a mem-mem-memory flash-flash-flashback to when I was just a nerdy little kid sitting on our home’s 1950s-era yellow carpet playing with my Legos.  Only these Legos are not the Lego Minifigs of today… no, these were the classic  bricks, the only Legos I really knew up until a couple months ago. Back to present day – movie picture exploding back to full color, DTS surround sound crisp and clear, closeup on my wide eyes as I scan Amazon for Minifigs and see a whole new world unfolding before my eyes.

Several days later I found a package on my porch.  I opened it up and was struck by two things – one, how small these Minifigures were (of course the word “Mini” should have been a clue!), and two, how they arrived in a million pieces (sure, an exaggeration, but only slightly!).  And thus, my Lego Minifigure adventures had begun!

I’ve now had the chance to create several images with my Minifigs, and I’ve found it to be a unique experience with unique challenges. Until now I’d photographed two types of toys – fully articulated and not articulated at all. Fully articulated figures allow me to pose the figure to help support the story I’m trying to tell – for me they are the most versatile figures to work with, with untold stories possible.   In the non-articulated category I’ve photographed some Disney Infinity figures and some inexpensive Lion King toys. These are probably the easiest to work with because, more often than not, they are sculpted in their ultimate “hero” pose.  The angle one photographs them is often predetermined by the sculpture… but because of this I find that I get limited use out of them.  The Lego Minifigs are in a category all their own, sort of a hybrid of the two. They aren’t fully articulated (not even close) so its limited articulation can only go so far in helping to support a story.  But because they do have a degree of articulation, they don’t provide one with a given “hero” pose like the frozen moment, non-articulated figs.  With that said, I was relieved to find that they are much more versatile than the non-articulated figs and, I believe, can ultimately be used in as many stories as the imagination allows.  They are much more like the fully articulated figures in this regard and are primed for story-telling

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The smaller size of the Minifigs haven’t really required a change in my shooting style… stylistically they are of course delightfully unique, but the fundamentals of photography – composition, lighting, etc. – remain the same. For me it still comes down to creating worlds for my toys to live in.  I strive for my images to have ‘atmosphere,’ and I feel the smaller scale of Minifigs almost makes that easier for me to find or achieve.  The world is a pretty big place, and it’s even bigger for Minifigs.

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So, will I continue to photograph Lego Minifigures?  Absolutely!  The Lego toy photography community has been very welcoming, which I really appreciate. And I love the huge variety of Minifigs available, and the range of prices one can find them at. And because of their diminutive size and light weight they are the perfect toys to bring along on vacations and trips. I’ve always made a point of photographing different types of toys and properties and find that Minifigures add variety, depth and interest to what I do. Ultimately, a toy – any toy – is an excuse to get creative and tell a story…and that’s exactly what I see in these Minifigs.

~ Mitchel Wu

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The Basics – Working in a Series

series

(ˈsɪəriːz; -rɪz)

npl -ries

1. group or connected succession of similar or related things, usually arranged in order

What happens we you apply this concept to photography? What happens when you decide to create a Photo-Essay?

photo-essay is a set or series of photographs that are made to create series of emotions in the viewer. A photo essay will often show pictures in deep emotional stages. Photo essays range from purely photographic works to photographs with captions or small comments to full text essays illustrated with photographs. – Wikipedia

A photo essay can be found in the form of an article, a book, a web site or an art show. There is no doubt that a series of photos loosely arranged around a topic, theme, emotion or story line will have more impact than a single image. This concept was driven home for me yesterday when I was working on a new photo book featuring my images based on the characters of Mouse Guard. {My local BrickCon is just days away and it’s my first time attending as both a participant and as a Lego Ambassador and I want to be prepared. (I’m nervous, but thats a different blog post.)}

As I was finishing up with my book I was struck by how great the images looked together in this loose series. The photographs had more impact when shown in context with each other. In fact, by assembling the images together I had impressed myself with the quality of my work. That may sound weird, but like most artists I tend to be my own worst critic.

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A small gem I turned up when editing for my book. While I took this over a year ago, I never did anything with it. Today it seems fresh and the perfect addition.

When I think about other toy photographers that have inspired me, or left a lasting impression, they’re always photographers working in a series. By working for a period of time around a particular subject you’re able to delve deep into the story and explore depths you can’t achieve with only one or two images. I’m thinking about Vesa and his work that led to the publishing of Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy, Mark Hogancamp and his book Marwencol, Brian McCarty’s War-Toys project or Kristina Alexanderson’s parent / child stormtrooper images. But beyond these outstanding examples I’m also thinking about Brett Wilson and his simple and long running series of photographs that played off of the word ‘probably’. Each of these artists has worked on a series of images over many years and the sum is greater than the whole.

In my last gallery exhibition I created a series of four images around the Peter Reid robot ‘Keko’; each image reflecting a different season. There is no doubt in my mind that those four images were stronger as a group than they ever were as individual images. I was able to tell a better story over four images than I could with only one.

Another great reason to purse a photo series is the creative inspiration it can provide. By creating my small book of Mouse Guard images, I was able to see I had created a compelling and interesting viewing experience, but I also revealed where the ‘holes’ in my story were. When I was arranging the images to create a mini narrative there were certain activities I wanted to see and others that I had too many of. Now I know where to devote my energies the next time I have a chance to photograph toys.

 Its unfortunate that the photo sharing sites that we all post our work to don’t support or encourage the creation of this type of deep work. With an online audience that devours imagery at a record pace, its hard to create a story or series that unfolds over days, weeks or even months. Online sites are not ideal for looking at work that is created in series and meant to be viewed in relationship to each other. This is unfortunate because it’s these in-depth works that hold our attention and ultimately inspire us.

Photography is more than pixel counts, ISO numbers or camera type, it’s a conceptual medium. It’s a medium that can be used to express your thoughts, your feelings and your ideas. By using a series of images, rather than just one, you have the opportunity to create a carefully constructed story, one that will have more meaning for both you and your viewer. Why then do we so often limit ourselves to only one photo to tell our stories?

~ Shelly

When you look back over your work do you recognize themes that are repeated? Have you considered grouping your images into a loose story or photo essay for greater impact? Have you created a book of your images that was thematic rather than simply a ‘best of’ grouping? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions I would love to hear about your experience. Did you find it helpful? Have you continued to work on your series? 

I named only a few toy photography series that I have enjoyed and admire, but I can think of many more examples? Can you name a toy photographer who created a series that you enjoyed? 

Sip-A-To-Do-List i

Sip-A-To-Do-List i

Backyard Battle

Whilst shooting for the upcoming exhibition, my car has racked up quite a few kilometers on the odometer, however, maybe it needn’t have?

Inspired by FourBricksTall’s Levelling Up with Lego post, and Shelly’s advice to “make the best of what you have” I spent some free time last weekend taking photos of plastic confined to my backyard.

Now, I can already hear peoples’ questions; “Isn’t your backyard 70 acres?” “And doesn’t your backyard contain a lake?” “And doesn’t that lake have it’s own sandy beach in front of it’s own bar?” “And, isn’t your wife an avid gardener, who works at a nursery and rarely comes home from work without a tray of new plants?” “Hasn’t your wife created a virtual rainforest in your backyard?” “And haven’t you harvested moss from around your property and planted it, creating living dioramas?”

Yes, this is all correct, yet I decided to venture only as far as our Wi-Fi signal, keeping me within a reasonable distance of the house and not allowing me to venture too far. I also banned myself from using any living dioramas, or any unusual plants that only my wife knows the names of.

So with my phone close by, ensuring I only strayed as far as our Wi-Fi signal would reach, I set out to explore what I could find, and I didn’t have to travel far.

Served up in the backyard
Cooked too long on high
Flying out the window
Even dogs have passed them by
Helmet – Biscuits for Smut

Growing in the backyard, within two Wi-Fi bars distance from our backdoor, I found this clump of moss growing in the garden, under a fern, between the garden edging and a planter box.

Even a small piece can make for a great setting.
Even a small piece of moss can make for a great setting.

The thing about shooting LEGO out in nature, is you don’t need large elaborate landscapes. As the image above shows, the clump of moss is no bigger than 15 centimeters in diameter.

A minifigure telescope, or similar, makes a great anchor for stubborn minifigures
A minifigure telescope, or similar, makes a great anchor for stubborn minifigures, especially when you require them to bend over without toppling.

I wanted the unfortunate Trooper that had dropped his ice-cream to bend over, looking remorsefully at the ice-cream on the ground. Shelly, and others I’m sure, have spoken about securing minifigures with Blu-Tack, and similar products, in previous posts. However, Blu-Tack doesn’t really work with moss.

So why were you so anchorless?
A boat abandoned in some backyard
Propagandhi – Anchorless

To achieve this bend, without him toppling over, and without any cursing from behind the camera, a LEGO telescope was used to anchor him to the clump of moss. By simply pushing the telescope into the moss, I could get him to bend at the angle I was after.

A long shot of the setup.
A long shot of the setup.

It’s all about what you leave out. This long shot illustrates all the unwanted “stuff” in the background; a pagola post and the garden edging on the right, the planter box and a disproportionate leaf on the left.

D'oh!
“You hit something! The ground!”

So with a zoom, a simple piece of white cardboard used as a makeshift bounce card, a double check that the Wi-Fi signal was still present on my phone, and a little editing, here’s the result of an hour’s work.

Actually, an hour’s fun.

Thanks FourBricksTall and Shelly for reminding me I needn’t start my car in order to discover amazing places to shoot LEGO.

Unfinished Projects

Anyone that ever visited my workplace will know I am a post-it person. You know the sticky note kind of  paper that people use for all kind of creative projects from post-it art (external pintrest link) to simple shopping lists alike.

I use them for everything:

  • urgent action items with deadlines (the ones sticking on my computer)
  • big kanban boards on my window to manage the weeks workload (to do, doing, done)
  • jotting down great ideas or just smaller reminders for a few weeks and months down the line.
  • and yes, I use them also for shopping list items like buying art paper for the Hamburg prints I need to print this week.

I use them for almost everything and it is actually interesting to see I did not use them that explicitly inside my photography yet (I just jotted that down on a post it as yet another great idea). I tried electronic alternatives like trello and notes alike, but for me nothing beats a simple Letraset Promarker and a pack of post-it notes to jot down some great ideas and to do’s alike.

And that is one of the key challenges of all these great ideas floating around on little sticky notes.  Ideas needs to be executed upon, turned into projects with clear deliverables (the first step to move from todo to doing) and then execute towards a creative end state that allows a sticky note to move from doing to done.

And this is where I am currently slightly struggling in my creative workflow. I have to many creative ideas that made it into the unfinished project stage. They are not just ideas, but projects that have started and needs some closure or be packed up and sent back to the ideation phase in my little black book where I keep the post-its that are good ideas, but have not yet started.

An unfinished project
RoboWash – An unfinished project on the Nexo Knights

Here are some of the unfinished projects my plastic Kanban board is showing me:

  • Chez Albert
  • Finish the LEGO factory interview series
  • The Nexo Knight Project
  • Das Auto – Part II (Scale Right)
  • Project Blue (or whatever name I end up with)
  • The Attic Project

All of them are in process and have some kind of creative end state defined and range in time to complete from a few hours to weeks to say the least.

There is one special little post-it that will be getting some extra TLC (read Tender Love and Care) in the next few days. A post-it with just one letter H on it. The letter H. stands for project Hamburg and it slowly starts to sink in we will be meeting this weekend in Hamburg with a bunch of fantastic toy photographers, old and new friends alike. Our host of the weekend will be taking good care of us, and has selected a fine set of locations for capturing the city from all it angles.

I started to pack all the gear for our upcoming meet up, and since we will be travelling by road the amount of plastic that made it to the shortlist is well, lets say pretty extensive (done). I got a new package of Canson Infinity Papers – Etching Rag Edition (done) and still need to print my prints for the print exchange (to do). I finally got a new set of hubcaps for Das Auto (done) and I will for sure try to make a headstart on Das Auto – Part II in Hamburg. Not sure I will complete that little project, though. So here I am 4 nights before we meet in Hamburg and the focus on me getting ready for project Hamburg is getting more traction, with smaller “little tasks” post-it notes making it to the todo list of Project H.

The one thing I cannot capture on a post-it is the experience these three days in Hamburg will give. The experience of meeting new and old friends and toy photographers alike.  The experience of capturing plastic together …

How do you manage your creative ideas and projects ? Do you also use kanban boards and post-its to manage your creative flow ? Are you completely digital or you more the analogue paper type ? And last but not least, how many creative projects do you run in parallel ? Curious to see how you manage the creative overload of ideas we all experience once in a while ….

Color vs. Monotone

Black and White photography, two simple colors, sounds easy enough – right?  The color guys, now they are the ones that have it rough.  CMYK, RGB, HEX – the acronyms alone are enough to drive a photographer mad!  Hell, you can write a Masters-Thesis on color….so why not take the easy road and stick with one basic tone?!  But let’s think about this Color vs. Monotone photography thing for a second…it may not be as simple as Black and White (see what I did there?).  The two colors, Black and white, could not be more-contrasting.  They are literally at the opposite ends of the spectrum.  Maybe we need color in our photographs to keep Black and White in check?  Maybe color is the mediator between these two very opposing forces and when removed you’re left with the bare bones of the photograph for the entire world to see…your skill as a photographer exposed (for lack of a better term).  We’ve all seen the power of a successful black and white image and we know, albeit a difficult tool to master, that it can be done.  There are images that just seem to translate better in Black and White, so this brings up a good question…when does an artist decide that a photograph is worth the effort of converting to Monotone?

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Like all other skills you and I master, to understand the “when”, we must first understand the “how”.  Obviously the components of a successful Black and White Image are far too numerous to list….like I said, you can probably write a Masters-Thesis on the subject.  So for the sake of time I’ve tried to narrow down my personal approach of B&W Photography to “The Three Powers” of a Successful Photographer.

First and foremost is The Power of Good Exposure.  I cannot stress how important it is to understand exposure on an intimate level.  I am not talking about learning what an “F-Stop” is or what ISO you are at.  Don’t get me wrong, those are important, but I’m talking about something much deeper here.  You need to come to an understanding that your camera is stupid…its “intelligence” is nothing more than a stream of bits and bytes running through a processor.  It cannot plan for every scenario and you must learn when (and how) to overwrite what it’s telling you the “perfect” exposure is.  Exposing a photograph in the snow is a good example of when you need to take a step back and question what your camera is telling you.  Knowing when and how to overwrite a camera’s logic is integral to taking the perfect black and white photo.

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The second step to successful B&W Photography is The Power of Good Light.  Light is the only thing that a Monotone Photograph has going for it.  The dance of blinding-white and sharp-black tones can create contrast and textures that get lost in color photography.  By learning to notice interesting light you begin to see things in a different perspective.  Toy Photography is excellent for taking advantage of good light because we work on a very small scale.  A landscape photographer can have a scene ruined with harsh light but a small amount of shade at high noon can become a whole new world for your Lego.  It may take a little practice but once you begin noticing good light then you are well on your way to dynamic black and white photography.

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The next power is one that we all can get lazy on; however, this is where I firmly believe that the creative artist can truly be released into a photograph.  It’s difficult to master and extremely time-consuming but The Power of Post Processing cannot be underestimated.  No matter how well you expose your photograph, or how perfect the light may be…a photo can *always* benefit from post processing.  I’m not going to get into my disdain for apps and filters.  In a pinch, they’ll do.  I love shooting “in the moment” and sometimes they’re convenient and can get the job done…but if I have a free second I will take it and run a photo through Photoshop.  While Photoshop can be intimidating, its power with Black and White Photography is second to none.  Show me a photographer that understands layers and who can “burn” and “dodge” and I will show you a successful Monotone Photographer.  It will take some time to understand and there will be some frustrations along the way but you will eventually arise victorious and become a better photographer for doing so.

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Lastly, what I am about to tell you, may go against everything you believe about when to process a photo in black and white.  It’s very important that you understand — Black and White photography is not an excuse for fixing bad color….it’s about eliminating bad color.  As contradictory as that sounds, it’s as true as an arrow from Robin Hood’s Quiver.  Let me explain.  Color is everywhere and it has a profound impact on our sub-conscious.  It can make us feel anxious, happy, sad, cold, impulsive or nostalgic at a moment’s notice.  It is a force to be reckoned with and has potential to be extremely distracting.  By eliminating color we eliminate distractions effectively drawing more focus onto the subject matter of the photograph.  Not all photos work well in Black and White.  The magic happens when light and shadow dance in harmony because of powerful exposure, when crisp white highlights lean against deep black shadows because we notice contrasting light and when textures jump from the page because we “burn” in the detail with post-processing.  It’s in those moments when you take a picture with deep contrasting light and exciting texture that you should consider playing with black and white.  Like anything worthwhile, Black and White photography takes practice and patience so take advantage of the digital age and have your camera bag with you wherever you go.

Until next time…

Happy Shooting!

Dennis T. (Krash_Override)

When do you employ the Black and White technique on your toy photographs? 

Do it because you love it

After being a fine arts photographer for over 30 years I think I’ve learned a few things and one of them is this quote:

“Do what you love and the money will follow.” – Marsha Sinetar

…is bullshit.

Am I being harsh? Probably, but I wouldn’t tell you anything I wouldn’t (and often do) tell my own kids. Life can be harsh and there isn’t enough time to follow really bad advice. No offense Confucius but your advice isn’t much better.

“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” -Confucius.

I’ve been following my passion, my bliss, my photographic muse for over 30 years and I can tell you that success, financial or otherwise is fleeting and probably more of a mirage than a reality. Sure I’ve sold prints, I’ve had gallery shows, my work has been in magazines and my images have graced the covers of books; by todays standards I’m a success.

To summarize… I’ve done what I’ve loved, I’ve experienced success and the money has NOT followed. If I added up all the money I’ve spent on photography and balanced it against all the money I’ve earned – well I’m pretty sure I know which one would be larger.

Why do I continue to be a photographer of toys and other subjects? Because its fun; because it feels good; because it enriches my life in ways that I can’t explain but I know are there; because life is too short to fixate on money and the ‘stuff’ it can buy. In short, because I love it.

I’ve never reached the heights of success that many of my contemporaries have and that’s ok with me. I’ve seen first hand what happens when you find monetary success from your passion… it changes everything! As soon as you attach money to your passion, it no longer becomes your passion, it becomes your job. You’re suddenly put in a position of having to produce at a certain level, in a certain way to keep your customers happy and the money coming in. You don’t take chances anymore because you can’t. Your customers want to buy ‘the same, but different’ which can be a difficult task for many. With financial success you suddenly find yourself in a box of your own making with no way out. For me that’s too high of a price to pay.

If you have dreams of making money off of your toy photography I hope you won’t be discouraged by this post and that you will continue to create and share your work. I want you to take toy photographs because they make you smile; because it’s a fun hobby, because it’s a great way to tell stories, because it satisfies your inner creative drive, because you meet interesting people. I hope you will continue to take toy photographs for any number of reasons, but don’t take them because you want to make money. There are easier and much more profitable ways to make money to support that toy habit than trying to sell your photography.

Be a toy photographer because its fun… because you love it. 🙂

I will leave you with one last quote from Mike Rowe, host of the TV show Dirty Jobs.

“Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”

~ xxSJC

Why are you a toy photographer? 

Mouse-guard-legography-kayaking-xxsjc

The Basics – Rule of Thirds etc….

In this series on The Basics I’ve already touched on Leading Lines and Foreground Interest, two methods that help you create a visually interesting image . Another classic method you can use to balance and organize the visual elements in your photographs is The Rule of Thirds and its compositional cousins The Golden Ratio and the Phi Grid.

Before I go any further I want to stress  that these concepts are guidelines, not rules. Once you have learned the basics of composition, any rule can, and sometimes should, be broken. 

The Rule of Thirds requires you to imagine a grid over your image that consists of two horizontal and two vertical lines.  If you line up the important elements of your image along these lines or at their intersections, you can create a nicely balanced and more interesting image than by simply placing your subject in the center of your composition.

rule_of_thirds_reduced
The easiest of the organizing methods to use is the Rule of Thirds. In many ways, this is a simplified version of the Phi Grid and the Golden Ratio.

These imaginary lines are not hard and fast rules, but a guide to help you think about your composition and where you want to place the important elements. For example a strong horizon line will look more natural if placed either 1/3 of the way down from the top of the frame or 1/3  of the way up from the bottom of the frame rather than placed directly in the middle. If you line up your subject with one of the horizontal / vertical lines or one of the four intersections you will create an image that has a visually pleasing and balanced composition rather than centering your figure in the middle of the frame.

It’s easy for small subjects, like toys, to get overwhelmed by their environments. By placing them off center and opening up the composition you give your subject space and it will become the natural focal point of your scene. Also by increasing the negative space (empty areas) around your subject you’re creating opportunities for even more creativity. The negative space is a great opportunity to utilize other compositional tricks like foreground interest, leading lines, texture, light and shadow to bring more structure to your image.

The Golden Ratio is similar to the Rule of Thirds although it’s based on the mathematics of Leonardo Fibonacci rather than design theory. While the Rule of Thirds divides the picture frame into nine equal cells, the Golden Ratio divides the frame using a fibonacci spiral. The spiral is a great guide to use if you have strong curves leading to your subject or you want to use the diagonal lines created as your focal points.

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A classic Fibonacci Spiral used to organize the composition of a photograph.
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Diagonal lines emanating from the center of the fibonacci spiral can be used to add structure to your composition.

The Phi Grid is similar to the Rule of Thirds grid, but is divided using the ratio of 1:1.618. In fact many photographers simply view the Rule of Thirds as a simplified Phi Grid (see diagram below). But I don’t think its that simple. Below is an image that shows how the Phi Grid relates to the Golden Ratio. Don’t you love math!

rule-of-thirds-and-phi-grid-reduced
A handy illustration that shows the differences between a standard Rule of Thirds grid and the Phi Grid.
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The Phi Grid (in black)  illustrates  how it can be used in conjunction with strong diagonal lines (in blue) to create strong focal points at the intersections.
golden-ratio-versus-rule-of-thirds-reduced
I really like this illustration and how it shows the relationship between the Fibonacci Swirl / Golden Raton and the Phi Grid.

None of these guidelines are better than the other, they’re simply an easy way for you to start thinking about the composition of your image.  If you’re not used to thinking about your images in this way it might feel a little overwhelming and confusing. But with a little practice, you will be composing your images with one of these methods with not a lot of extra thought.

Whenever I get behind the camera and start to frame my image I always try to view the scene through the lens of Rule of Thirds or the  Phi Grid. I like to think I can visualize the Golden Ration, but who the heck am I fooling! When I’m editing in PhotoShop I often pull up the Fibonacci Spiral to see if it will work with my image just for fun.

Like I said before these cropping overlays are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. It doesn’t matter what method you use for any given photograph as long as you know the rules, are prepared to break them and as always create your photograph with intention.

Now go out and practice!

~ xxSJC

I’ve included a few sample images that use one of these methods. Can you tell which one I used? Do you think it matters?

Of the three methods I’ve mentioned do you have a favorite and if so, why? 

There are so many different ways you can mathematically and graphically organize your images. If you’re interested in seeing a complete array of cropping overlays for your photographs please check this out.

Sleepy Sapceman

classic-spaceman-legography-xxsjc-flower

sauramon-legography-xxsjc-toy-photogrpahy

seasick-unikitty-legography-xxsjc

Lego-China-Legography-xxsjc-stuckinplastic

I forgot how perfectly scaled high altitude wild flowers can be for lego mini figures!
I forgot how perfectly scaled high altitude wild flowers can be for lego mini figures!
"I've...seen things people wouldn't believe..."
“I’ve…seen things people wouldn’t believe…”

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Sip-A-To-Do-List

Sip-A-To-Do-List

Sip-A-Dee-Ay , my oh my what a wonderful day.

Aaaand…“click”…send!

And with that seemingly insignificant click of the keyboard, all my photos are sent to the printers for the exhibition. I was kind of hoping for some sort of fanfare, or maybe some streamers and balloons to burst out of the laptop, however, I’ll happily accept the feeling of relief and the chance for my life to return to somewhat normality.

*exhales

Now what? I can confidently fall back into familiarity with a backlog of challenges, ideas and even a potential post title thanks to the wonderful Stuck In Plastic community to cushion my landing.

There have been some amazing posts over the past month or so, during the looming exhibition lunacies, which have sparked my interest. And, whilst I haven’t had the time to follow these posts up, I’ve added them to my ever-growing “Stuck In Plastic To Do List”.

As I’ve been racing around, scouting, searching and shooting for the exhibition, I’ve neglected my own backyard as a place to shoot LEGO. Four Bricks Tall, with the help of Shelly, reminded me to “make the best of what you have” in her wonderful post about shooting in her own backyard and leveling up.

Big lizard in my backyard
Bustin’ down my neighbour’s door
The Dead Milkmen – Big Lizard

And yes, I’m sure some of you are aware that my backyard is 70 acres, however, to accept this challenge fairly, without taking advantage of the wonderful piece of earth we are lucky enough to call home, I’ll only be venturing as far as our Wi-Fi signal reaches. So, as long as there’s a Wi-Fi signal on my phone, I’ll be within the self-imposed acceptable shooting zone.

Road to Know Where
Road to Know Where

And speaking of Shelly and phones, it was her post about challenging herself to shoot on vacation using only her iPhone, that has also inspired me to return to my roots and give my recently rejected iPhone some much needed attention.

Shut out, banished and locked away
The knife that did me in, I carry to this day
Rancid – Rejected

I too want to rekindle my joy of mini figure photography, as Shelly experienced using only her iPhone. Yes, I still enjoy what I do, but this past month of racing towards exhibition deadlines has, at times, made what was enjoyment feel more like a chore. Maybe, putting the camera away, and using just my iPhone will, if nothing else, remind me of what initial lured me to this stuff.

And finally, speaking of stuff, AliceInCleveland suggested, during a conversation here last month, that “The Ambiguity Of Stuff” would make a great post title. I couldn’t agree more. Now I’ve just got to think what stuff to write about stuff.

So, thank you Stuck In Plastic community.

Thank you for indulging me as I’ve toiled away with this exhibition. And thank you for giving me plenty of fodder now that I’ve returned to regularity, albeit somewhat brain-dead; fodder I don’t need to use my depleted brain capacity to think up!

Have LEGO, will travel

At the end of the month, I’m heading off to Hamburg for the 2016 European toy photo safari. The moment I saw it announced, I knew I had to go. To be able to share toy photography with other like-minded people is an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

This is a little out of character for me. I mean, I don’t normally like to leave the comfort of my own home, let alone get on plane to another country by myself. I did try to persuade my partner to come with me, but he has enough trouble standing around whilst I pose LEGO figures for five minutes, let alone spending the whole weekend doing it.

So that was out, and I was left to make the decision to go by myself or not at all.

So I booked it. Non-refundable. I’m going.

And that is a good thing right? It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and do things that scare you. So that’s what I am doing, and the closer it gets, the more excited I am to go.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m still nervous. Reasons for nerves? Silly things like:

  • what if I’m not good enough to be there?
  • what if I’m not into camera’s enough?
  • what if I’m too weird? Too shy? Too talkative? Not weird enough? (All at the same time? It happens.)

I’m pretty sure that none of these things will matter. At the end of the day, we’re all going to be there because we enjoy toy photography and want to meet all other toy photographers for real and get to know one another.

I’m hoping that it will be a great opportunity to share and learn something about how we each take on toy photography. I’m hoping to get more awareness around different styles and types of photography. I’m hoping that it will encourage me to delve deeper into toy photography than I currently do.

And, importantly, as Stefan said in the introductory post to the toy safari, we’ll be there to have a great time. In my case, I’ll also be there to eat as many German pretzels as I can get my hands on. (I have a serious pretzel problem. I may eat them for every meal going whilst in Hamburg.)

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Of course, now I’m excited and ready to go, I just have to answer that tricky question all toy photographers face: what toys should I take with me?

Lizzi/@stepping_on_bricks

An Arts Collective