Week 25 – Eric Clapton

Our Guest This Week

The person in focus of this week´s edition of SiPgoes53 is British musician Eric Clapton. Rumour has it that there are people who haven´t heard of him before (as for myself: my first tattoo showed a cover of my favourite Clapton albums, but that’s a completely different story). Still most everyone will recognize some of his famous tunes like “Layla” or “Tears In Heaven”, as well as his versions of other artists’ songs like “Knocking On Heaven´s Door”(by Bob Dylan), “I Shot The Sheriff”(by Bob Marley) or “Cocaine”(by J.J.Cale).

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Rawr Rawr Rawr I’m a dinosaur!

Earlier this week, we shared the announcement of the new Jurassic Park: T-Rex Rampage set featuring a brick-built dinosaur. At the same time, our friends in Billund were sending us two copies as part of a toy photography collaboration. I received one on Friday. I binge-built it in order to enjoy the sunny weekend with Rex.

In this blog post, I want to share my first impressions about this set from the point of view of a Jurassic Park fan, LEGO enthusiast and, of course, toy photographer.

First impressions

Despite being aware of an upcoming mystery Jurassic Park/World big set for a while, I only discovered its actual content when the press release was out. (I could have known a bit earlier, because Stefan and Julien saw it during the RLFM days, but decided to keep it a surprise.)

I was expecting a classic Jurassic Park set. Something like a big playset, similar to what LEGO did for Star Wars with the Ewok Village, Assault on Hoth and Betrayal at Cloudcity. A couple of dinos, the complete cast of the first movie, and buildings/scenery/vehicles. But I didn’t expect a giant brick-built T-Rex and gate.

At first, I had quite mixed feelings. On the positive side, the dinosaur looked good. The face seemed to have quite a lot of expression for a brick-built dino. But I had no idea how much motion Rex actually had as it is hard to judge from the few official pictures.

But I decided to wait (a bit impatiently) before judging. From experience, it’s hard to judge the potential of a LEGO construction based on a few still images. And sometimes, having the model in hands, or looking at it through a camera, can be a whole different experience than pictures or videos.

Building the set

I built the gate on Friday evening, it took me a bit more than 4 hours with a break for dinner. I spent Saturday afternoon building the dino. 15 bags and probably around 8 hours in total. The instruction manuals start with the dino and then the gate. I decided to do it the other way to avoid procrastination. I knew that once I would have finished the dino, I wouldn’t care too much about the gate.

Overall I found building both the T-Rex and the gate enjoyable, varied and including cool SNOT building techniques. They’re both very well engineered to be sturdy and stable. The build also contains one of the most hilarious Easter egg left by the designer I’ve ever seen.

Rex

Motion

Rex looks great and has plenty of motion. The arms have great posability as they are made of multiple ball joints. The legs can be rotated, and very slightly angled. However, the main purpose of the leg movement is to angle the body. Don’t expect much of a walking pose as the knees can’t be angled. It might be possible to get one, but Rex needs some help to stand up as she’s too heavy to stand on one leg.

The tail uses multiple ball joints that allow to move it, a bit like a snake toy from the 80s. However, most segments of the tail are attached with more than one ball joints, probably to add friction so the tail stays in place. This prevents it from moving vertically.

Finally, the head, neck, and jaw can be moved. The base of the neck can be angled up and down. The head is attached to the neck with a big ball joint, but it doesn’t have enough friction to stay angled up. The eyes are made of what appears to be a new printed tile which really adds to the expressiveness of Rex’s face.

Sira helped me holding Rex’s head angled up while taking photos. Without her, the head was angle down.

Rex for Photography

Overall, Rex has plenty of movement but it’s not perfect. Also, I can’t stress how this set is a display set, not a playset. Just playing with Rex at home, there were often parts falling off from me not being gentle enough with the joints. This is even more of a problem for outdoor photography. During my first photo session, I almost lost bits from Rex’s foot that fell off in the forest while I was trying to get a walking pose.

In addition, while Rex is very well balanced on flat surface, it’s sometimes a bit of a problem outdoors when the ground isn’t even and slightly inclined.

Surprisingly, getting Rex posed like was quite a challenge because of ground wasn’t flat and even, making her fall constantly.

On a more positive note, with the body, head, legs, and tail attached with ball joints, it is fairly easy to detach them. So Rex can be transported quite easily in a box to go play outside.

The Gate

From the front, the gate looks great and is really sturdy. However, it’s big and can’t be disassembled easily for transport like Rex or the Disney castle. I initially planned to take the gate outside for my first photo session, but I had to change plan as the lake where I go in the winter is currently infested with mosquitos. (And the gate won’t fit on my bike to go further away, where mosquitos aren’t much of a problem.)

The gate, Rex and way too many other dinosaurs packed in a big box… All of it for nothing as there were way too many mosquitos to take a single photo.

The back of the gate also features small vignettes depicting iconic scenes from the movie. Some of them are really well detailed and fun to build, but they are really crammed into the gate. There’s little space for a camera or light without disassembling everything.

The Minifigures

I’m pleased to see the Toys R Us exclusive minifigure of Ian Malcolm is part of the set. I’m also pleased with the other new minifigures, but the one I’m really happy with is John Hammond. Every time I look at him, I hear him say “I spared no expensive” or “Welcome to Jurassic Park!”.

Did you know that John Hammond considered opening Jurassic Park in Northern Finland before Costa Rica? He changed his mind when he was told that dinosaurs might not enjoy winter… But maybe choosing an island subject to storms and volcano eruptions wasn’t a much better idea?

On the other hand, I don’t understand why not all characters are included. I can forgive the missing Tim and Lex which can be found in the JP Velociraptor Chase. But I really wish Donald Gennaro and Robert Muldoon had been included. It’s possible LEGO didn’t include them because they intend to release later sets with them. (But maybe not…) Still, it’s pretty disappointing in such a big set to not find the entire cast.

Is it worth it?

Apparently, this set has received quite negative comments from the AFOL community. As a Jurassic Park fan, I can understand the disappointment. I wish all characters would have been included and finally get a LEGO version of the Jurassic Park tour car. As a toy photographer, I would have preferred a playset, rather than something that’s aimed at being on display. (Particularly when I’m currently lacking space for displaying large sets.) I would have preferred to get minifig-scale dinosaurs, and previously unseen ones like a Brachiosaurus.

Another critique I’ve seen reading comments online is that the set is expensive. One I disagree with. Maybe if you only care about the minifigs it is. But comparing it with other large licensed sets, I think it’s not outrageously expensive. At 250€\$ for over 3000 pieces, it seems like a pretty good value. In comparison, the Star Wars Y-Wing and Tantine IV are 200€ for less than 2000 pieces and don’t include more minifigures. Betrayal at Cloud City is below 3000 pieces and cost 350€. And even Apocalypsburg cost 300€ for a mere 58 pieces more.

But as a LEGO fan, I have to admit the brick-built Rex is epic. The engineering behind it is pretty amazing despite a couple of points that could be improved. As a dinosaur fan, if I hadn’t had the opportunity of this LEGO collaboration, it would have been hard to resist not ordering it day one.

Buggy Review

Stuck In Plastic’s #sip_apocalypse challenge was great fun. I really enjoyed creating characters, stories, and pictures to illustrate the survivors of the doom. My work was appreciated by SiP’s crew and I ended as runner up of the challenge. One of the prizes I won was 70829 Emmet and Lucy’s Escape Buggy which I review below.

The Buggy

Although there is plenty of sand and dust here, Apocalypseburg is not a sandbox, definitely not a place to play. It’s the landscape after the battle. These special time and place require special vehicles, and under the inconspicuous name of “escape buggy” hides a monster, ready to run through the wilderness of the ravaged world of bricks.

Just look at its silhouette. Huge wheels on balloon tires, high suspension, which makes it possible to spot a threat in the distant horizon of the post-apocalyptic desert, a silhouette inclined like a wild, untamed beast, ready to attack. The front is protected by a menacing and powerful truss, “adorned” with a heavy chain and a sign that unambiguously makes it clear that it’s better not to block the lane of this dray [hey, there are no lanes anymore!]; ok. better not to block the way [better?]. Light of powerful headlamps cut the dense darkness of the future, bereft of the street lamps. In the back, on the warning bar even turn-signals were mounted [in case you want to show the pursuer where you are going], and the long hood lets the camera make a loooooong ride from the front of the car to the window, from which you throw threatening glances to the left and right while clenching hands on the steering wheel.

But still only few will see your fierce expression of a [non-existent] road warrior. The powerful 24 studs engine V6, the real ornament of this car, with the power of 500 mechanical bricks, makes the Escape Buggy run in the form of a smudged streak, disappearing quickly in the clouds of dust and smoke from six powerful exhaust pipes.

There is also a gear [there must be a gear!]. The passenger has at his disposal a large harpoon with a coil rope [very useful in the everyday overcoming of sharp corners on the edge of the abyss!], on the truss the mentioned heavy chain [heavy chain is always useful!]. And under the body huge gas tanks are warning with exclamation markers. Are these boosters for such a powerful engine? Or maybe it’s compressed air, allowing doing great, frog jumping over the ruins of civilization? Only the constructors of this monster on four wheels know that.

This car says with all its means: don’t mess with me.

The Users

What’s more, its users say the same [well, Emmet’s two faces say rather that HE doesn’t want to mess]. Wyldstyle/Lucy’s face, even when we turn her head with the smiling side, does not portend anything good. And the angry side is really angry. Similar with Sharkira; regardless of whether she’s scaring with teeth on her helmet or with a dubious smile under the visor. Do I have to mention that Steelbeard is furious? Who wouldn’t be, being reduced only to the chest and the noddle!

And who’s messing? Supersweet Star and Heart, who are only waiting to literally explode with love. Straight in your face.

As You can see, even the WALL-E – Weaponized Antihuman Lethal Liquidator [Eradicator class] – who brought me the possibility of winning this great set – is afraid of “Buggy”.

We also asked Danny – our crash test dummy – to check this car. I think Danny’s stare speaks volumes!

Photographing large toys – part 1

I’ve always felt quite uncomfortable when I have to photograph relatively large toys. I’m used to photographing minifig-size toys and when I need to move to a larger scale, I usually struggle. It’s completely out of my comfort zone. Bokeh is an important element of my photography and with a larger scale, it gets more difficult to rely on it. As an outdoor toy photographer, another challenge with large LEGO sets is transport.

For over a year now, I’ve been forcing myself to photograph larger toys, mostly complete LEGO sets and builds. My main goal has been to have photos of the entire build, not some close-up shot of details. (I consider close-ups as cheating as it would amount to going back inside the comfort zone.)

In this two-part blog post series, I want to look back at how I practiced photographing larger toys, in particular, large LEGO builds. Today, I will talk about how I rehearsed and trained myself. This will lead to talking next week about the story of how I ended up photographing the Disney Castle as the Ultimate Challenge. and what I learned along the way.

(And maybe there will be a third part later after receiving the new LEGO Dino…)

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Better Run… Or Get Your Camera Out

The News Is Out

Today the LEGO Group announced some great news for all fans of Jurassic Park AND for toy photographers. Whether you’re into dinosaurs or not, this set will probably be a gem if you like to spend your time taking pics of toys.

The Set

The new set to come, 75936 Jurassic Park: T. rex Rampage,  will not only consist of a fantastic model of a beautiful dinosaur as the Dino will be  accompanied by a giant gate and six minifigures (three of them brand new). Additionally, the gate will be framed by a wall. If you turn this around there will be six rooms that were inspired by movie scenes. That sounds like a whole lotta fun!

The Dinosaur

This new T. rex is a GIANT! What’s new about this lady is that she’s so very detailed and fully poseable, making her great fun to go on a photo shoot with. Just think of where to take her and what adventures to witness (and capture in pictures). What alternative story, apart from the movie scenes, do you already see before your imaginary eyes?

The Minifigures

Here are the pictures of the minifigures that weren’t included in last year’s Jurassic Park set.

The details

And here’s more photos of the gate:

*Knockknock*
Open the gate!
Oh, eggs…

The Facts

75936 Jurassic Park: T. rex Rampage will include 3120 pieces.

There will be six minifigures.

The Jurassic Park gate measures over 42cm in height, 48cm in width and 14cm in depth.

The dinosaur is 22cm high, a massive 69cm long and 17cm wide.

The set will be available from 19 June, 2019 on (available at LEGO Stores and shop.LEGO.com) and will cost US $249.99 – CA $299.99 – DE €249.99 – UK £219.99 – FR €249.99 – DK 1899DKK..

The included minifigures on their stand with a baby dino and a signpost about Tyrannosaurus Rex.

P.S.

When we were in Billund for the RLFM days we had the great pleasure of talking to the designers Mark John Stafford and Marcos Bessa . We hardly got to ask any questions we had prepared as our attention was almost completely taken by the new dinosaur and its prototype version. We still found out that the actual model was worked on for five months to get it the way it looks now, as the trickiest part was to get it balanced perfectly. Congrats to the team for creating such a beautiful model!

Two very happy designers, a grey prototype dino and her newly available sister.

There are rumors that there’s a little box on the way to Finland. Once the content is fed and tamed there will be some more photos to look forward to…

The May Recap

May is over and it’s time for our monthly #SiPgoes53 review. Last month we explored Carrie Fisher, Haruki Murakami, Florence Nightingale, Anton Corbijn, and Leonardo Da Vinci. It’s time to look at your entries that caught our eyes on Instagram.

(If you want to join in the SiPgoes53 series you can still join at your own pace and leisure. Just tag along and creatively explore our handpicked 52 humans. One every week.)

Week 18 – Carrie Fisher

(If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out Feature Friday blog post as a May 4th tribute to Carrie Fisher.)

Week 19 – Haruki Murakami

Week 20 – Florence Nightingale

Week 21 – Anton Corbijn

Week 22 – Leonardo Da Vinci

Week 23 – Christopher Lee

For this week of #SiPgoes53, we’re starting the month of June with another movie celebrity, Christopher Lee.

The actor

Christopher Lee has a cinematic career spanning almost 7 decades. He is best known for his iconic roles as a villain. Most notably, Dracula for the oldest ones, Count Dooku and Saruman for the youngest ones. In addition, he’s also known for playing other villains such as the Creature of Frankenstein, Lord Summerisle, Sir Henry Baskerville or Francisco Scaramanga.

One key feature of Christopher Lee such was his iconic strong deep voice which led him to also to voice acting. I can only recommend listening to the beautiful original poem of the Nightmare Before Christmas he narrated.

Although limited by his age, Christopher Lee continued acting until passing away 4 years ago (on Friday) at the age of 93.

I always ask myself ‘well, what else could I do?’. Making films has never just been a job to me, it is my life. I have some interests outside of acting – I sing and I’ve written books, for instance – but acting is what keeps me going, it’s what I do, it gives life purpose.

Christopher Lee

The singer

To me, Christopher Lee is also of importance for his work as a music singer and narrator, and in particular as the oldest Heavy Metal singer. Having grown up with French dubs of Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings, I actually heard Christopher Lee’s true voice for the first time as a teenager while listening to Rhapsody’s Magic of the Wizard’s Dream.

Following this first collaboration with a Heavy Metal band, he continued to do narration work for Rhapsody. (I can only warmly recommend the wonderful 16-minute long “Mystic Prophecy of the Demon Knight” which ends with Lee’s beautiful narration.) Later he also replaced Orson Welles as the narrator of Manowar’s re-recording of their first album. His last musical appearance was as the narrator on the opening track of Hollywood Vampires, a rock band formed of Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, and Joe Perry.

But next to these collaborations with existing bands, Christopher Lee also ended up with his own personal project and released two concept albums about Charlemagne. He even became the oldest person to enter the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his heavy metal version of Jingle Bell.

My Elven Charlemagne, inspired by the cheesy but never tiresome video clip of the Bloody Verdict of Verden.

Your image

What will you create for this week? Which aspect, or role, of Christopher’s Lee life will you reuse? Let us know and don’t forget to tag your photos on social media with #SiPgoes53 and #SiP_Christopher_Lee.

The Eagle Has Landed

The LEGO NASA Apollo 11 Lunar set 10266 also known as “Eagle” has landed. It is since yesterday available in LEGO stores around the world. A good month and a half ahead of the fiftieth anniversary of Neil Armstrong being the first man to set foot on the moon. This set nicely completes last years NASA Saturn V rocket. One which got Stefan running around in Hamburg with the rocket in one hand and making woosh woosh sounds.

The Eagle is beautiful, fragile and very discreet and has a prominent place on my working desk.

One small step…

And while the detailed replica of Apollo 11’s Eagle lunar module may not be ideal to run around within the fish market in Hamburg on a Sunday morning, it is an epic nostalgic build. I replayed those magic first words of Neil a few times while holding the set in my hand and making touchdown on the Sea of Tranquility. From the iconic “Houston, the Eagle has landed” to the first step on the moon. “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.

One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind …

Now how to shoot this set?

That was the question that ran around my head for a while. First, I was thinking about taking a step back and go analog. Getting some good old film into my Hasselblad. I quickly came to the realization I do not have an analog Hasselblad at my disposal. And even if I had to, I would most probably get frustrated with the analog process of not having instant validation on the digital big screen. For those of you who are wondering what Hasselblad had to do with the moon landing, have a look at this beautiful page over at their website.

A selfie with a Hasselblad (*)

LEGO Space

And while I was contemplating how to get this set on the wet plate, Pink from Benny’s Space Squad came over and had to take some quick snapshots. After all, this felt for her like going back in time. A nostalgic moment she learned everything about in the Space Academy. And while she liked the gold touch on the helmets of these iconic men, she felt much more comfortable in her pink space suit.

Pink (**) is getting some snapshots from the Eagle.

The Golden Van Allen Belt

The Eagle has quite a few golden parts on it. When looking at them I thought that these golden parts were there to protect against space radiation. And while I ultimately was wrong in my assumption(*’), they brought me to the idea of shooting the set with a different kind of camera. An X-Ray camera.

Not the one used in space guns, but the ones used in Hospitals and Airports around the world to see through the plastic with a different lens. And so I sent the Lunar model for an X-Ray check up with my co-conspirator and operator of big cameras, and the result was special. Very special. Feel free to maximize the video below.

The Eagle for sure had landed.

(*’) The golden parts on the Eagle are not there to protect against space radiation but against the heat of the sun. Technically that is also radiation, but I was more thinking about the evil Van Allen Radiation Belt. The golden foil is actually Kapton multi-layer insulation blankets, and they act as a heat barrier to sunlight.

Worth buying?

Well, every LEGO set is worth buying of course, but this one is special and makes a perfect gift for the upcoming Father’s day (Mother’s day just happened in most countries so you were too late to get it for that occasion, but of course you can still gift it as a late present). The Eagle won’t break the bank as much as the iconic Porsche or Bugatti (another Father’s day present). It sells for a comfortable 89 EUR at the local LEGO store in Hamburg (Stefan, just in case if you want to land in the Fish Market).

The set is great fun to build and packed with nostalgic memories to a time when landing on the moon looked so easy. And with it’s grey and gold Kaplan-like color scheme it nicely fits in any library or office space and it won’t take up too much space.

And for those who are into collectibles, the LEGO stores around the world have a unique LEGO NASA patch available. Limited editions I was told.

Please note that Pink (**) and Hasselblad (*) are not included in this set.
They were added by yours truly as part of the creative review process.
TLG provided the set for review and picture taking.

Week 22 – Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci, another brilliant mind that is so famous it seems pointless to present him. Yet while his “Mona Lisa” could be the most famous painting in the world, Da Vinci was a lot more than a brilliant painter. Inventor, drawer, writer, sculptor, engineer, mathematician, and so much more. Da Vinci is the ultimate example of someone who was truly interested in anything with a neverending curiosity and imagination.

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