June 2nd 2016. Memory Lane. The forbidden section. The LEGO House, Billund.
Our host of the day dives behind the barrier and comes back with a box behind his back and calls out: “No pictures”. He slowly reveals the box and a blue car appears and I instantly know I have fallen in love.
July 25th 2016. The Studio. Somewhere in the Stockholm Archipelago.
A brown box appears on our doorsteps just hours before the crew is heading for the airport on the way to their summer destination. A box with that unmistakably LEGO logo on the outside. Boxes get frantically unpacked. Luggage rearranged. 3 plastic bags and a set of instructions are nicely tucked in between the other gear. And a few hours later, set 10252 is officially on the road. Thank you, LEGO (*).
When I saw the VW Beetle in the dungeons of The LEGO House in Billund, I instantly knew I wanted to shoot it. I had shot the VW Camper before, and took the little Mini all the way to Cape North two years ago. What better place than taking it to the sandy roads and seaside cliffs of Portugal was the first thing that crossed my mind there in the cellar in Billund. And here I was, just a few hours later. Packed with all the gear, including this beautiful azure Beetle (albeit still in pieces), flying all the way to Portugal to get some location shooting done. A happy
Our expert builder got the wrenches, the manual and the superglue (just kidding) out as soon as we reached our destination and put this master piece together in no time (well it took a good two hours of build fun on the little kitchen table in our hotelroom) . We enjoyed the overall build and had some great fun with the engine. No surprises here as the engine is after all legendary in the original Beetle as well. An air cooled boxer engine, originally invented by Karl Benz and used in other iconic cars like the Ford A, Citroen 2CV and the classic Porsche 911. And now after all these years available in the plastic version of this VW Beetle.
The designer of this plastic beauty Mike Psiaki explains all the features of this beautiful car in great detail in his little youtube video and reveals some of the awesome details of the car, including the spare wheel and a secret compartment to put your swimming gear . I think Mike would have made the original designer of the VW Beetle, no one less as Ferdinand Porsche proud with this little curved plastic beauty.
The build includes more than 300 azure blue pieces, 26 unique pieces never coloured azure before and one brand new arched piece that makes this beauty curved all the way (hmm, am I too obvious I really love this car ?).
Enough about the actual build. If you want to have a detailed look into the step by step build experience, I can warmly recommend the detailed review Andrew made over at Brothers Brick as he leaves no brick unturned (oh, and Andrew I am soo going to steal like an artist and bring your Chris along on my next journey).
So here we were on day two in the sun packed coast of Portugal amidst azure blue waters, sandy beaches and harsh shadows ready to get our first shoot of the day going.
Where were the iconic stickers this car comes with. Stickers that gives this groovy look of road travel and surfboard wax alike. Stickers that for once seem to make sense in a LEGO build. Stickers, safely tucked away at home (4K kilometers north) as everyone in the crew knows I do not like stickers one single bit. I think the last time I used a sticker on a piece of plastic is a good 30 years ago. LEGO stickers go straight in the archive, not to be used on any build as they just ruin the shot.
A rule I may need to reconsider moving forward.
So here we were without any stickers ready to get the first shoot on the way. A beautiful cliff, a perfect backdrop and the sun straight into the camera with no real possibility to turn the cliff the other side. Simple solar geography told me that this problem would continue to persist whenever I tried to get the atlantic ocean as my backdrop during the day.
Harsh shadows became my new best friend during one to many shoots this summer. A challenge not easily balanced out with a reflection panel and one I need to further explore and master.
We continued our journey all the way to the the most southwest part of Portugal and were welcomed by a grey mist blocking the complete sun out and giving a perfect grey (dull) background. While it made for some great on the road shots of the VW Beetle on location, this was not the iconic surf image that was lurking in the back of my head when I saw that Beetle the first time in the LEGO House Memory Lane archive in Billund.
While looking through the viewfinder on the cliffs of Cape Vincent I spotted something else. The hubcaps of VW Beetle were missing. At first we thought one or two may have accidentally slipped off but after a quick search and some head scratching we came to the conclusion that we must have left them in our very first hotel when we build the Beetle on the first night of our journey on the grey kitchen table. A hotel room we had checked out two nights before.
Not much one can do when out on the cliffs then acknowledging this adds to the authenticity of shooting on location. No stickers, challenging light conditions, iconic locations and vehicles alike. A real road experience after all and a true photographic challenge I was looking for.
We continued our little road trip up north along the coast line and found ourselves a few days later on a gorgeous sandy beach with atlantic waves and yes, bright sunlight straight ahead.
The crew was ready for yet another shoot and we got all the gear out, including the rescue team in case the waves would act up (they did, yours truly got soaky wet and only barely managed to keep his naked camera out of the surf).
One wet hour later it was a wrap.
I am pretty happy with the final image of the VW Beetle from our roadtrip in Portugal although it is without stickers and hubcaps. It gives me the feeling I was looking for when I saw that box in Billund, but I also know there is a bigger story to explore with this little azure blue car. The challenge is far from over. The adventure is just beginning.
Das Auto. An unfinished project I am planning to take to Hamburg.
(*) Disclaimer: The LEGO Group provided Das Auto for this photoshoot ahead of the VIP release for the Stuck In Plastic crew to review. The VW Beetle is available today in the LEGO store for 99 USD in US store (in backorder at the time of writing). Looking at the German store it sells for 89€ while the Swedish store sells it for 1099 SEK. Maybe I should get a second one in Hamburg in three weeks from now :)