Around the world in 90 minutes

You may remember back in July 2019, the image I created of the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander appeared on LEGO social media. The good folks from Billund have now sent me the not yet released 21321 LEGO Ideas International Space Station to review in preparation for the official launch at the beginning of February.

The International Space Station

For those of you who do not know what to expect, here are three interesting facts about the ISS:
1. It is one of the largest single structures that mankind has ever put into space.
2. The space station was taken into space piece by piece and gradually built in orbit.
3. The ISS circles the globe every 90 minutes at a speed of 17,500 mph.

I really did not know what to expect when I said yes to reviewing this set. I knew it would either be something else or just space junk. Once my son put it together we could see just what I had to work with for producing images for LEGO.

It’s big… And it really has to be if LEGO is going to create a replica model. Indeed, the actual space station including its large solar arrays, spans the area of a US football field. This scaled-down model spans a width of 19 inches (49 cm). The solar panel width span is 12 inches (38 cm) so you are going to need ‘SPACE’ to store it.

The International Space Station

It is fragile, oh boy is it fragile. I would not recommend you purchasing it for children to play with as it will be broken into the tiny little pieces it started off as. It is definitely a display model if you have the ‘SPACE’. The attention to detail makes it like the actual real thing and this set includes eight movable solar panels.

Three are a Team

The ISS generally holds crews of between three and six people who are responsible for science experimentation and maintaining the station. Included in this set are officially two (well actually three) Astronauts. However if you are expecting the usual size mini-figures I will have to disappoint you. These figures are only half an inch high. Nevertheless they add to the scale of the model. In addition as a nice little touch, a little Space Shuttle is also included.

Three Astronauts

The Mission

My mission was to photograph the International Space Station ready for the official release. As a matter of fact, it was a challenging mission. Firstly I needed ‘Space’ and not to mention good lighting. The model reminds me of the size of an old fashioned television aerial, remember them? Secondly, I knew I would have a few hours editing the final images. Nevertheless, the build itself took a few hours and I have created five different images in more time than the ISS circumnavigates the world. (Keep an eye out for the pix, remember to check every 90 minutes).

The question is, would I purchase this set? Personally I do not have the ‘Space’ to display it but if I did, yes I would, simply because I love the idea of this set and what technology can do for our learning experiences. I will never get close to the real International Space Station (ISS). Still this set gives me the opportunity to explore and learn. It allows my perception to envisage just what Space Agencies are achieving. The fact that different nationalities live together in harmony shows that it can be achieved. The team from LEGO Ideas has created something special and again I will say: If you have the ‘Space’ then make this station yours, too.

What’s the Best Disney of 2019?

This blog post is a bit different from the usual ones about toy photography. But being a (toy) photographer is not only about taking photos (of toys). It’s also about inspiration. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might have noticed that I’m a Disney fan. Like LEGO, it’s been an integral part of my childhood and something I can’t separate from being a toy photographer.

During the holidays, I decided to catch up with all the Disney releases of 2019. Initially, I wanted to make a short Instagram post about my opinion on last year’s Disney movies. However, it quickly became too long so instead, I decided to write it as a blog post. Maybe this will be the first post in a series about movie reviews.

Elsa invited her “LEGO colleagues” to enjoy the mild Nordic winter so Woody could pick his favorite movie of 2019.

Frozen 2 – the one I wanted to see most

The only one I was genuinely excited about was Frozen 2. I usually don’t expect much from sequels though. But the first trailer got me quite intrigued. And after all, Frozen is the Disney movie about the North.

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The Best of the 2019 LEGO Friends Advent Calendar

My experience with LEGO Advent calendars has been quite a disappointment in the past years. After regretting not getting a Star Wars calendar in 2014, I got one in 2015 and 2016. Then LEGO stopped including exclusive Christmas-themed minifigures in the Star Wars calendars, so I stopped buying them. While I’ve been tempted more than once by the City calendars, I had got one in 2014 and felt like there was not enough novelty for getting one again.

But this year, I decided to get two calendars: the new Harry Potter calendar, and for the first time the, Friends calendar. With not much left to do with SiPgoes53, much of my photographic effort has been focused on these two calendars.

So on this Christmas morning, I wanted to share my thoughts about the Friends calendar.

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Getting ready for Xmas

Christmas is a magical time, even at Hogwarts. As soon as December comes around, The Great Hall transforms into a Winter Wonderland. But did you know that the annual display isn’t forged by magic?

Xtra to the rescue

Despite Hogwarts being the home of some of the world’s most skillful witches and wizards, they just can’t quite do Christmas like Muggles can. And that’s why the job of bringing the festive spirit to the castle is sub-contracted to Xtra, the Muggle-based decoration company (you may have seen their signage, botanical installments, or catering business before?)

Dumbledore and Hagrid welcome the Xtra team to Hogwarts. Two boats were just enough to transport all of their kits. But boy was it cold out on the Great Lake, beanie hats were a must!
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Off Roading the Land Rover Defender

LEGO Technic Land Rover Defender 2019

The wonderful designers at the LEGO Group have only gone and done it again. The new Land Rover Defender 2019 has been released and like its original design, it is a force to be reckoned with. The new model 42110 from the Technic range is authentic and iconic. Developed in partnership with Land Rover, this impressive LEGO replica does not disappoint.

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Adventures with the Land Rover

When I found out I had the chance to shoot this iconic vehicle, I couldn’t wait to get out in the local streams and woods where I thought this set would be right at home, but first I faced a bigger challenge, building the Set. With it being a Technic set I knew I had a big job on my hands but I took my time and built it over 4 evenings so not to lose what is ultimately the point with any set, the enjoyment of the build.

What stood out from a lot of other technic sets was the realistic look of the vehicle. It seemed very photogenic and rugged just like the real thing. The amazing innards of the vehicle are probably lost on a lot of people but the suspension and gears are a wonder of modern Lego design.

When I came to shooting I was faced with my usual dilemma how to transport the set and keep clean and in one piece. I had to get the set to my selected location without losing half the pieces so I opted for the bulky but secure enormous plastic box. Having to walk to the secluded location took it out on my arms and back but there’s alway a few awkward steps when doing something you love.

The early Monday morning clouds had given way to a clear sky but my preferred favourite spot in a shallow stream had become a raging torrent due to the usual seasonal weather conditions in the North West of England. But I had my heart set on this location so had too improvise. Luckily I had worn my Wellington boots so I trawled the steam for pebbles and rocks and built a platform for the Land Rover to sit on set just below the surface of the water. I had to take extra care not too lose any pieces of they’d be lost forever. Somewhere downstream.

The bright sun was presenting some harsh shadows but also some interesting shafts of light through the overhanging tree branches. These were enhanced with the help of some Atmosphere Aerosol smoke and I managed to capture some satisfactory shots before the clouds rolled back in for what was to be another wet day.

All that was left to do was to take the set and trudge back to safety (before I ended up with a soaking wet Land Rover) and spend the afternoon editing my images down to a handful of ‘keepers’.

Collectible Minifigures Seris 19 and Minidolls

It’s been already a month that the new CMF series has been officially out (and more unofficially)… Yet it seems like yesterday to me.

Because Boris received the box of minifigs late, we decided to not proceed with our usual crowd review of the series. Still, Boris asked if one of us wanted a full series to review.

My first reaction was “no”. From the images available online, I wasn’t particularly excited about this series. There were a couple of cool minifigs I wanted, but I wasn’t feeling like photographing the 16 minifigures. To me, the series was too focused on new accessories and some of the minifigures were rather “meh” once the accessories removed.

But then I thought… What about focusing on these new accessories and see how many of them I can reuse for my LEGO Elves photography? So I ended up saying yes. But somehow it still took a full month. First the Swedish or Finnish (or both?) has been slow. Then I got on the same day the Gingerbread House which got prioritized. And then it took longer than I expected to gather all the photos I wanted and come up with a (rather lengthy) blog post.

In this (rather late) review of series 19, I will focus on the accessories that inspired me for my LEGO Elves photography, and more generally to use with Minidolls. There are however quite many accessories I didn’t use. These include generic accessories that didn’t spark a flame, new ones I didn’t care about, new ones I like but don’t fit my Elves, and most animals as they actually don’t need to be used alongside another figure.

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The Gingerbread House

A few weeks ago, Boris told me about the opportunity to review a LEGO Creator Expert set part of the Amusement Park series. I was a bit surprised as these used to be released in spring, and after the Roller Coaster, I wasn’t expecting something else in that series.

Nevertheless, I decided to accept the challenge. I had no idea what the set was, and was afraid it would be another set too big to easily transport outside. But I thought that if that was the case, then it would force me to take some indoor studio photos for a change.

Fast forward one or two weeks later, I get a shipping notification from our friends at LEGO. Two hours later, once back from work, I see on multiple LEGO news websites the official announcement for the new Creator gingerbread house. So it meant the set that had just been shipped from Billund was actually the gingerbread house.

I was partly disappointed (no new amusement ride for my city) and partly relieved (no struggle finding a place a place for it in the city). I was also partly excited (winter is coming!) and partly scared… It will take a few weeks before the first snow comes here in the North. This meant I had no choice and would have to put my (rusty) indoor photography skills to the test.

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Disney train station review

This summer I received the new Disney train station set to photograph from our friends at LEGO.

It took me more than 6 hours to build it and it was such a pleasure! As you may know, I’m not an AFOL (I’m more into skeleton toys) but I must admit that building a big LEGO set is something. One brick with another brick, with another brick and suddenly there is a wall, and then a complete floor! Yes, that was a nice building experience.

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The Elves’ Treehouse

Last month, I got the chance to take part in a photo collaboration with LEGO on the new LEGO Ideas Treehouse. Thus, I got the opportunity to build and photograph this beauty before it was publicly unveiled. And it ended up being quite a surprise. (That said, it wasn’t the total surprise I was excepting. Like most people, I saw the leaked images that were circulating online while the set was on its way to Finland.)

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