Week 3 – Charles Darwin

This week, our human being is the father of biological evolution, Charles Darwin. Originally a naturalist and geologist, his famous voyage around the world in the 1830s led him to make observations. As a result, he noticed differences between species and varieties of living organisms and fossils. These observations led him to conceptualize natural selection as the mechanism responsible for biological evolution. Moreover, it led him to believe that all living organisms descend from a common ancestor.

Darwin’s voyage around the world aboard the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. (© Sémhur / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0, or Free Art LicenseVoyage of the Beagle-enCC BY-SA 4.0)

Natural selection

While observing living organisms and fossils, Darwin understood that differences between different species, or varieties of the same species, is the result of a process called natural selection.

Darwin compared Natural selection to artificial selection. When humans breed domesticated animals or plants, they tend to select individuals which exhibit certain desirable characteristics. For example, a farmer might plant seeds from fruits that are bigger or more resistant to varying climates.

Similarly, organisms which have a slight advantage over others, are more likely to survive and reproduce in the wild. For example, a faster or more endurant predator living in the African Savannah will most likely be a better hunter. Hence it will have a better chance of surviving.

An illustration of natural selection. (ElembisMutation and selection diagramCC BY-SA 3.0)

On the Origin of Species and the Scientific Method

Years ago, I read his most well-known book, On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection. In the book, Darwin presents the idea of natural selection, but also what observations led him to it.

First, at the time of its publication in 1859, natural selection was a controversial topic in scientific circles. Even by the end of the 19th century when most scientists had accepted the idea of biological evolution, natural selection was still controversial. It’s only with the discovery of genetics in the 1930s that natural selection became accepted as the main mechanism driving evolution.

But what fascinates me with this book, it’s how it is an example of what science and the scientific method are. It’s from many empirical observations that Darwin got the idea of natural selection explaining the differences observed between living organisms. But at that time, natural selection was just a hypothesis. It’s finally after decades of studying, questioning, experimenting, and discoveries that this hypothesis eventually became accepted. (It is noteworthy though that natural selection isn’t the only mechanism behind evolution.)

Darwin and toy photography

What will Darwin inspire you to photograph? Will you take inspiration from his scientific legacy? Or will you rather take inspiration from his adventurous life aboard the HMS Beagle? Maybe you would rather more simply take inspiration from the living world?

The infamous caricature of Darwin as an ape following the publication of The Descent of Man. Maybe another source of inspiration for a toy photo?

So be sure to post your photo on social media with the hashtags #SiPgoes53 and #SiP_Darwin!

When it comes to photography, I’d rather take inspiration from both wild animals and Darwin’s voyage around the world. Maybe Darwin could have taken this photo if he had had a camera while he was in the Gapalagos?

The Elves are going 53

At the end of 2018, while I was about to complete #SiPgoes52, I was already looking to what was coming next. As soon as we started to discuss #SiPgoes53, I was excited. But at the same time, after putting so much effort in #SiPgoes52 during 2018, I didn’t know whether I could do it again for a whole year.

Like last year, I wouldn’t be home during the holiday season, and defining a project revolving around a rather specific idea (like Julien did) wasn’t really an option as I wouldn’t have time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration for taking new photos.

That said, I didn’t stay totally inactive while spending the holidays “in the South”…

Moving forward and constraints

Moreover, I wasn’t sure what would be my goals, from a photographic point of view, for 2019. What should be the focus of my efforts so I can move my photography forward?

One option would be a project. Something more personal than #SiPgoes52 (or 53). Something with more constraints that would force me to be more creative.

One of the things I wanted to improve is my Minidoll photography. I took my first photo of a Minidoll in Edinburgh. Then throughout 2018, I started photographing (and collecting) Minidolls. But they are hard to photograph. They’re very limited when it comes to posing them realistically. So far my Minidoll photography has been mostly about taking nice outdoor portraits. But how to go beyond?

For Tolkien, I reused one of those nice portraits I had taken last year.

The idea of relying solely on Minidolls for #SiPgoes53 came early… But at the same time, I already had photo ideas that require regular Minifigures for a few of our human beings…

Kicking off #SiPgoes53

#SiPgoes53 started easily with Tolkien. All I had to do was post one of my many LEGO Elves pictures and I was safe.

But then as the first week was ending, I came back to Northern Finland. And it meant I had to take a photo about Cleopatra. Needless to say Northern Finland in January looks nothing like a place where you would see Cleopatra.

On Monday morning, I had planned to go out for both sunrise and sunset because of good weather forecast. It was the only photography opportunity of the week because the forecast didn’t look good for the next days. I had to take my Cleopatra photo on that day… But one hour before sunrise, I still had no idea what to do.

It felt like our new project was already over for me. If I’m stuck with Cleopatra, how can I take a photo for people I’ve never heard about before?

LEGO Elves and #SiPgoes53

So Monday morning before sunrise, I was still looking for an idea. I thought about relying on LEGO Elves again. Then I read Wikipedia (again) but couldn’t find elements of Cleopatra’s life inspiring me in any way. I looked at photos depicting Cleopatra, historically accurate or not. And then I thought… Why not try to disguise a Minidoll as Cleopatra?

I gathered all my LEGO accessories related to Ancient Egypt and my Elves Minidolls. After a couple of minutes playing with them, switching accessories, I had already half a dozen ideas. More than enough (maybe even too much?) for a single picture.

The photo session was a success. Not only I had photos for week 2, but I had so much fun taking those photos that I knew I had to do more in the future.

My personal project for 2019

So it’s decided! In 2019, I will explore Minidoll photography. And #SiPgoes53 will be my framework for doing it.

I have no idea if it will be a success, but my constraint for #SiPgoes53 is to only use Elves and/or Minidolls. Although I will allow other Elven creatures (such as Dragons), I will try to focus mostly on Minidolls. (It’s still undecided though whether I will only use Minidolls from Elves or whether Friends and co will also be allowed.)

Minidolls are limited. Limited in posability, but also their number and variety. They’ve mostly existed since 2012 across a few themes and I find that male Minidolls are often too generic and boring. But this lack of variety is a good way of pushing me to be more creative through mix and match of LEGO accessories.

Will this be a success? I don’t know and still feel this project won’t be as successful as #SiPgoes52. Although I have now ideas for many of the names on the #SiPgoes53 list, there are still many names that don’t inspire me at all. So far I’ve got a photo ready for Week 3, an idea for Week 4 that I will shoot once my latest LEGO order arrives… and then nothing for Week 5, not even a tiny idea.

But maybe like last year, I will surprise myself… Or maybe not.

Do you also have a personal project to constrain you and push forward your creativity? If you do, I’d love to hear about it!

Week 2 – Cleopatra

For this second week of #SiPgoes53, our human being is the oldest woman of our list.

Cleopatra

Descendant of Ptolemy I, a general of Alexander the Great,
Cleopatr
a was the last Greek ruler of Egypt. She is also the first member of the Ptolemy dynasty to have learned the Egyptian language. She is famous for having had an affair first with Julius Caesar, and then Marcus Antonius. In addition, Caesarion, the son she had with Caesar, was the last pharaoh of Egypt. Following her suicide (with a snake), Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire.

What the real Cleopatra probably looked like.

In addition to her political role in Egypt and the Roman Republic at a time it was turning into an empire, she is one of the most famous icons of Ancient Egypt. In the past 2000 years, she has been depicted numerous times. Statues, coins, paintings, literature, theatrical plays, music, comic books, films, video games, and of course toys (including a LEGO minifigure).

But taking a photo inspired by Cleopatra doesn’t need to be a photo about Cleopatra’s life…

Egypt

As one of the most iconic rulers of Ancient Egypt, exploring “Cleopatra” as part of #SiPgoes53 can be as simple as exploring Ancient Egypt.

This is the direction I chose as I feel great nostalgia when connecting LEGO and Ancient Egypt.

During my childhood, I developed a fascination for Greek and Egyptian mythologies after a trip to Greece. It was so strong that back then, I aspired to become an archaeologist.

My team of LEGO Elves Adventurers.

During the same period, LEGO released the Adventurers theme, from which the first wave focused on exploring Egyptian ruins. Up to that point, I had always been obsessed with LEGO Space sets. But Adventurers changed it all and it stays today my favorite LEGO theme.

My LEGO Cleopatra as a tribute to LEGO Adventurers.

#SiPgoes53 and Cleopatra

How will you make your photo of Cleopatra? Will you get inspired by her life and actions, the pop culture icon she has become or will you more simply be inspired by the time and place she lived in?

So be sure to post your photo on social media with the hashtags #SiPgoes53 and #SiP_Cleopatra!

Welcome to the Apocalypse

LEGO does it again and turns January into a collectors month of awesome pieces. First we had the classic gas station. And now we get the Apocalypse Burg which is the feature model of The LEGO Movie 2. The movie which will be released on February 8th in most parts of the world. If you don’t want any further spoilers then do not read on, as we will reveal some of the characters which will give away some of the movie plots. That said, the set already was leaked in various social media, and so it may sound as old news to some of us.

If you want to see the full set ahead of the movie, do read on …

A look back at a year on the Death Star

That’s it!
My #SiPgoes52 project is finished.
1 year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 52 pictures.

At the time, I am writing these words, I have just finished editing my last picture in the series giving it its final name “32_Humility.jpg”. (Yes, I had to get back on the horse with this project after a long summer break. So I did not make them in order at the end.)
It’s a bitter-sweet moment…
On the one end, I am really happy with what I accomplished. I am proud of my pictures. I am relieved that I was able to finish in time.
But on the other end, making the 52nd picture, the last one, means that it’s over. And I hate things that end. I hate saying goodbye.

The full project

So, to help me with cope with “Post Project Depression”, let me share my feelings about this past year, my ideas for the future with this project, my “best something” pictures and show you the big picture to discover a secret hidden story.

What did I feel about this project?

In three words, I Loved It!!

As I explained at the beginning, I was dubious at the idea of making 52 pictures illustrating human values and emotions. It seemed a bit insurmountable at the time. And to ease my work, I gave myself a bigger challenge, the one of only using stormtrooper (inexpressive characters) to convey emotions and keep a consistency in my pictures.
Life came in the way and had me stop for several months. But I think that this break helped me gather my thoughts and come back even stronger on some words that I had trouble with.
Now that the project is over, I think that I succeeded in making a coherent universe and some great pictures. If you don’t agree, just le me know, but I am really happy with what I accomplished and proud with my work.

Inspiration

But, does that mean that I will leave this universe alone?
No, I don’t think so.
There will be a hiatus but I will probably come back on the Death Star for other stories and pictures. But not right now.
I am also thinking on bringing some characters outside of this world as they landed on a different planet to extend their stories elsewhere.

But I will miss this universe for sure.

Behind the scenes

As I explained in my initial post, I took all the pictures in my little “studio”, meaning the coffee table in my living room. I tried to do as much practical effects as I could to avoid spending too much time on Photoshop.
So, as always, I used plenty of blu-tack and for some pictures, I added some wires (that I removed afterwards on Photoshop) to keep elements in the air.

Here are some pictures from my living room :-)

The future of the project

Now that I have those 52 pictures, what could I do with them?
After some thinking, I decided to make two things.

The first one was to make a book for myself.
I went to Blurb and created a complete book with my 52 pictures. I added some BTS pictures and alternate versions of some pictures. It will be a great physical memento of this project.

The BIG book

And, since you can share and sell books on their website, I decided to make it available to anyone who would be interested. So if you want to get yours, follow that link!

A book is a great idea, but I wanted also to display all the 52 pictures so they could be enjoyed side by side at the same time. So, I decided to make a poster !

A new addition to my wall, at work

If you are interested in buying a poster, please contact me directly by email or direct message, as they are custom made. I will take care of have it printed, and I will personally sign it and ship it to you.

My “best something” pictures

Let’s do a quick review of some pictures.

The one I love the most

It’s difficult to answer since I have some attachment to all of them. But since I have to choose, I will have to say Confidence.

Confidence

I really like this one because it was not my initial idea for the word (see this post on the subject). And it was at that time I decided to create some characters and develop their story all along the project (see below).

The one I hate the most

Honesty

Hate may be too strong a word but I don’t like Honesty. The only reason is that, to me, it seems difficult to understand the story. In my mind, the lady stormtrooper lost a banknote, and the other stormtrooper, being honest, was rushing towards her to give her back. But does it read in the picture…?

The most photoshopped

Spirituality

The pictures where I spent the most time on Photoshop are the ones with elements in the air. I made several ones in this project. But I think the one I spent the most time on is Spirituality. On that one, I had to have Darth Vader and Yoda in midair, give them a bluish ghostly glow as if they were spirits and I had to close the “eyes” of the stormtrooper on his helmet as if he was meditating. It was a fun one to make and I am really happy with the result.

The most complicated to set-up

Action

The more characters or the more complicated background will make for the most complicated pictures to set up. But one comes to mind, which is Action, since I had 5 Stormtroopers shooting a movie. They had to be all in the scene (one actor, the director, the cameraman, the sound guy and the technician with the clapperboard). Initially, my picture was a mess. It was not easy to read, they were all in front of each other. It did not like it. But after several attempts, I was able to find a position for the background and the characters that I liked.

The most Stormtroopers in a picture

Harmony

When I thought about Harmony, I immediately thought of a choir (I was part of one in my youth) with several Stormtroopers singing in harmony. So I created a small scene on several level so we could see them all and I put 23 Stormtroopers next to each other in the same position (I wish there was one not doing like the others but the word was harmony…) and added the conductor.

The most liked on social media

I like numbers and stats. So I went to my social media channels and looked for the most liked pictures. However, we have to take into account that those pictures were posted all year long (and my number of followers kept growing other the year) and we all know that depending on when we post pictures online we get different level of receptions…
Anyway, here are the results.

On Instagram, the fan favorite is Power.

Power

On Facebook, it’s Friendship.

Friendship

On Flickr, it’s Emotion.

Emotion

And on Twitter, it’s Community.

Community

The most…

I think I could find categories so I could share all of them with you in this post, but it’s better to look at the bigger picture.

The bigger picture

I made these 52 pictures in the same coherent universe so that they could be enjoyed all together. Hence, the poster that I made :-)

The big picture

The secret story

Now that all those pictures are there. You can notice that some recurring characters are present. So, let’s take their pictures, put them in the correct order and a secret story will appear. Here is my vision of that story.

The last word

Now that this #SiPgoes52 project is over, it does not mean that I will stop taking pictures. As I said, I will take a break from this universe, but it’s time to get into #SiPgoes53 and maybe come back to discover more of the life on the Death Star for #SiPgoes54… Who knows. Only time will tell.

By the way which is your favorite picture/word of the series and why?
Please let me know as I am curious to discover your choices.

And, what are the words I should add to the series?

Julien (Ballou34)

Week 1 – John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

As the first of the 52 human beings we will explore in 2019, we chose J.R.R. Tolkien as a relatively easy one.

Tolkien is most famous for being the father of modern fantasy literature and creating the world of Middle-Earth, filled with Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves and Dark Lords. The books of the Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion have inspired for the past 70 years, generations of movie makers, modern fantasy writers, illustrators, role players, game makers, musicians and of course… toy makers an photographers.

Read more about Tolkien

A happy 2019

Well, it is that special day of the year again. The last day of 2018. The crossing to a new year. A year that is called 2019 (yep, it is a sequel) and we won’t keep you with long posts looking back on what twenty eighteen brought to us (that is normally reserved for the beginning of twenty nineteen), or long new year speeches and promises. Nope, all of that is (maybe) for a later time.

For now, stay safe, enjoy the turning of the year with friends, family and maybe some toy photography.

We will be back next year.
The SiP Crew.

A little behind the scene …

Just that little xtra

LEGO decided earlier this year to create smaller little polybags with those little xtra‘s we as toy photographers tend to buy complete sets for. When they were first released we raided the LEGO store in Billund and were planning to do a review of this toy photographer’s delight. But as with so many small things, time passed by and so did the freshness date of these polybags.

And then we got a mystery mail from The LEGO Group if we were interested in reviewing the brand new LEGO xtra 40341 set.
No more info.
And of course, we said yes. Since Julien got the Minecraft sets to review and Stefan took the the speedcars , I ended up with the mystery xtra set. And I have to admit I was curious to see if the polybag series would continue or we would enter the next level of awesomeness in the xtra series.

A few weeks later I got an envelope in the mailbox, with three LEGO xtra 403411 sets inside (yes, three, do read on, there is another little giveaway coming up (you did see our speedcar giveaway, didn’t you).

Three little bags of the set 40341
Yes, do read on, there is a little giveaway coming up …

Three (sugar) cubes with a coffee

Sunday morning, 9 AM (or is it 11 AM…). I need a coffee. And above all, I need ideas. I need to make some creative pictures for the review of the new LEGO Minecraft sets.
In a couple of weeks, TLG will release a series of 3 “bigfigs” and I have to prepare a post…

But first coffee… maybe with a cube (of sugar).

Continue reading “Three (sugar) cubes with a coffee”