Behind the Small Scenes From a Big Galaxy

As you may know,  last year DK Books published my LEGO Star Wars photography in a book titled: ”Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy”. It was subsequently translated into French, Spanish and Finnish. This was all kinds of fantastic.

For the book, I made several exclusive photographs to create a balanced mix of new and old content. I posted these new photos to my Flickr and Instagram feeds a few weeks ago, but I didn’t explain what went into them. Long explanations didn’t fit into the book and my posts online were pretty much as they were in the book. So, I would like to take a moment and go through some of these images and talk about them with more depth and detail here on the SiP blog.

Here’s the first in the series of exclusive images. I photographed in the spring of 2015:

The Jawa Who Found Trouble (Photograph by Vesa Lehtimaki. ©2015 by DK. All rights reserved)

Its origins can be found in this photograph taken April 8, 2011, my first photograph with a Jawa mini figure:

Bad News Jawa

I’d purchased the original Lego Sandcrawler set 10144 via eBay in 2011. It was an auction of a used unit. It arrived unassembled from Germany with instruction leaflets, all the bricks but no box. It reeked of cigarette smoke and the bricks were yellow with tar and nicotine. It was revolting! I thought of returning it, but at the time, this was a very rare set and I actually felt I picked it up fairly cheap. I figured it might be okay if I washed each brick carefully with soap and water. I did this three times with a toothbrush! All 1669 bricks! One brick at a time! It worked, I got them all clean. The muck was mostly on the exterior bricks that had been exposed to the smoke. The set hadn’t yellowed due to overexposure to daylight, so that was good. Although the cleaning took three days!

My son and I had a blast building it together.

But to my surprise, the Sandcrawler was a nightmare to shoot. I never did get a good shot of it, no matter how much I tried. It just looked like a dumb featureless box. So I ended up with a couple of closeups of the Jawas and silhouettes of the Sandcrawler before I put it away. In 2011, this was the best I could do:

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The Derelict, April 2011. An idea of a crashed Y-wing that I have used several times. This one with the scrap salvaging jawas is the only shot with the old sandcrawler fully in sight – except it’s just a silhouette to hide the modest volume of details on the model.

With the release of the new Sandcrawler set 75059 timed well with my book project, I wanted to revisit my original Sandcrawler photo idea to see if I could implement it for the Small Scenes book. And man, this new set was more fun than a barrel of monkeys! It worked just as I’d hoped it would four years earlier. The new design was immensely better; it was rich in detail. I used the same probe droid for the shot that I’d used in 2011. I think it made a nice bridge between the earlier photographs and the new ones I was creating. While the Sandcrawler may have been updated the gag remains the same: an imperial probe droid found in the Jundland wastes of Tatooine and the poor Jawas who found it have no idea there is a self destruct mechanism.

I didn’t use the flying sand effect to simulate a sandstorm for this new version, it doesn’t work, at least not with the maize flour I used. It just looks like a dirty blizzard. Instead, I had some smoke blown on the setup for a subtle dusty midnight atmosphere. Its like the smoke is a prologue to a sandstorm, or perhaps a dust storm. The smoke also helps to create that cold/warm color scheme which I like.

The gleaming Jawa eyes aren’t drawn in, they’re masked from another exposure with a light aimed at them.

Sometimes my best photographs and ideas reveal themselves when I  miss a shot. I like to improvise with the setup, because it’s already there and I like to see what comes up. These improvised ideas I shoot from these existing set ups can be good, even better, than the images I shot of them in the heat of the original idea. I often revisit these ideas later to get a more refined photo, a slightly better interpretation of the original idea. Ideas are valuable, they don’t grow on trees and this process allows me to make the most of mine.

I shot several photos of the new Sandcrawler last spring, three of them made it into “Small Scenes From a Big Galaxy”.

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.

One Reply to “Behind the Small Scenes From a Big Galaxy”

  1. Such a wonderful insight into the concept of revisiting ‘old’ shots Vesa. With the recent acquisition of a ‘real’ camera, I too would love to reinterpret some previous shots that, due to equipment limitations, never quite hit the lofty expectations I had for them. But alas, time! But those ‘old’ shots will always be there I guess, nagging away at me. Begging for another chance to be what I imagined them to be. Thanks for sharing.

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