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.

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Dr. Jones and the Temple of Hutt. As Dr. Jones runs towards the exit with the newly recovered Chachapoyan idol in his hand, he suddenly realizes that this wasn’t just another ancient temple.

Although I take pride in trying to not recycle my ideas as such, and I try to bring something new to each photograph, there are recurring themes that I like to work with. Such as these smoky interior settings that come up again and again. I even have a name for it: The Forced Atmospheric Perspective – effect. I coined the term to describe what this effect is all about. A little puff of smoke helps with the illusion of scale, it makes the air in the setup thicker and that makes the space appear larger. I enjoy revisiting old ideas and concepts to improve them, not simply to repeat them.

Here is that smoke again with the Rancor Pit set 75005:

Rancor’s Pit. The search for the stolen Death Star plans was thorough, on Tatooine the imperial troops looked everywhere, EVERYWHERE, to find them. Even the feared gangster Jabba the Hutt did not make an exception. TK-24/7 was in charge to secure the dungeons under Jabba’s palace. Due to some unfortunate circumstances during the operation TK-24/7 had to make do without his helmet for a while. A new replacement helmet arrived within a week.

And again:

The First Attempt. Little known fact: Princess Leia tried to free Han Solo from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt twice. The first time was not a success, Princess Leia realized very quickly Jabba the Hutt was not going to be ostri… ostracized from his posse just like that. They needed a different strategy. The pun was horrible but I love the appearance of those Prince of Persia ostriches and I just wanted to use them no matter what.

These were variations of the theme with no particular goal, I only wanted to get it to work better each time. From these photos you can see the process. I think they show how the idea evolves into something more defined, photograph by photograph.

I returned to this concept when I got the chance to shoot new images for the book. Even though I didn’t know where this was going, I knew I hadn’t made the best of it yet. With the book I had a great opportunity to show images in bigger size than the usual inter-web size and so I pushed this idea with that in mind. This time I went for a distinct warm/cold lighting scheme to add something new and make it stand out from the earlier iterations:

Jabba’s Prize. Little known fact: Jabba the Hutt was unhappy with the condition of his prized possession – Han Solo in carbonite – and ordered bounty hunters Boba Fett, Bossk and IG-88 to make some repairs. You could call it a galactic recall, if you will. (Photograph by Vesa Lehtimaki. ©2015 by DK. All rights reserved)

I shoot in low light and my camera (Canon EOS 5D MarkII) is prone to delivering noisy images with high ISO. I had big issues with noise while making this, and I didn’t manage to avoid of it completely. There’s still some left if you look closely. The lighting of this is far more complicated than usual, and there are a couple of cheats involved to make it work. It’s not a single exposure image.

I was extremely busy at this time with all the work that had to be done for the book, I was focused on the lighting too hard. In fact, I was so busy that I forgot to stop and think about the story in this photograph. I just threw it together and shot vaguely thinking about something something story something…

When my son saw this nearly completed image, he immediately said that C-3PO couldn’t have been there when Han Solo was delivered to Jabba. D’oh! I had completely overlooked that fact and this was indeed supposed to be the moment of the delivery. It didn’t work, then. Come to think of it, why would IG-88 and Bossk be there too? Where does it say they were with Boba Fett on Slave1 anyway?

I briefly considered shooting it again without C-3PO but I really didn’t want to. So, instead of reshooting the whole thing, I sat down and rewrote the story. I changed it to being about a recall with Boba and all the bounty hunters concerned, who had been summoned back to fix the malfunctioning carbonate slab. Or, perhaps not malfunctioning, just underperforming; maybe it was a poor wi-fi bandwidth, or something.

I think this image is about as good as I can accomplish using this setting and technique.

Full time illustrator, part time photographer. As such, I created blizzards with Star Wars Lego and had an influence on how The Lego Movie looks like.

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Shelly
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I love this series! Its incredible to see how each image evolves and grows as your skills have improved. Thank you for sharing this incredible glimpse into your process.

brett_wilson
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I couldn’t agree more Shelly. It’s a fascinating insight into the creative evolution of a wonderful artist. And an inspiration to revisit old shots that have always been nagging our ‘perfectionist’ selves. Thank you Vesa.

Andrew Saada
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I concur!