Best of 2014 Photo Challenge

It is that time of year when I turn my thoughts to assembling a photo album of pictures I have taken of my children during the past 12 months. This is a tradition I started nine years ago with the birth of my second child. Each book is an epic adventure in its own right, but all the books together is mind blowing. For my 17 year old daughter, it is her most cherished Christmas gift.

After a Twitter conversation with Arby of @Worldofminifigs regarding her annual calendar, I was wondering if this might not be a good exercise for my Lego photography as well. Why not start with 2014 and create a small book of my favorite 12 images that I can then share with my family and friends? You know, the special ones that have been supportive throughout the year.

But I want to add a twist to this project; I want you to do it too.

…and then I want us to swap them.

I want to share my photos with you and I want you to share yours with me. Why?

  • We can feed the Marketing Beast together.
  • It is good practice to edit your images.
  • These images could be the seeds of a future photography show.
  • It is a great way to look back and appreciate your year in photography.
  • We can move one step closer to making our internet friends into real life friends.
  • Create an inexpensive holiday gift for friends and family alike.
  • A tangible way to show people what your passion is.

Not to mention that if we keep doing this every year, making a book of our12 favorite / best images, we will have a great archive and a tangible view of our progress. There is no substitute to seeing your images printed in a book or framed on a wall to give a real sense of accomplishment.

If you accept my challenge, please leave your intentions in the comments below. I will keep you up to date on my progress. Ideally, I will have all books printed and mailed before December 15th.

I hope you will accept my challenge and share your photography with me because I want to share my photography with you.

~ xxsjc

I wonder if I can persuade +Me2 and Avanaut to join in?
This challenge is open to anyone who has been a friend of this blog, not just toy photographers. 

Will this image make the cut?

Putting Social Back Into Social Media

#wwim10stockholm is the hashtag of choice amongst these fine folks behind me2
Today was the 10th World Wide InstaMeet (try #wwim10 out on Instagram)  with folks around the globe taking their cameras and phones alike out for a group walk and meeting other IG people in real live.  
I have always thought about joining a photowalk like these, but never took the deep dive into the unknown (I am most probably not the most social brick around).
Meeting strangers in real live. 
Shaking hands and exchanging lenses. 
A very nice experience I will for sure explore again.
 
After all, we are a social species. 
A species designed to connect and exchange creativity …

Why are these photographers walking in our picture – 50mm lens from another IG’r
People ?!?
Special thanks to:
@iggersstockholm for inviting us to the party, we for sure want to join again … 
@dasha for being such a great host and patiently herd the troops along …
@xxsjc for pointing out the obvious

Aqua

An Homage – Michael Phelps – Gold Medal Summer Olympics 2004

The last few weeks we have had our fair share of posts here on Stuck In Plastic looking for the why.

A most interesting question and I really enjoyed reading back from Balakov over Avanaut to East Mountain and beyond, including the fantastic positioning of Padawans and Jedi alike by Shelly.

One thing all posts have in common is a love for the métier. 

A passion for telling stories, painting with light and taking it beyond the instant snapshot of images that are flooding our retina devices continuously.

When I returned from a full week in the catacombs of Big Inc, another picture was crossing my retina on the flight back in. A picture I saw a few weeks ago when I was enjoying a video interview on one of those intergalactic flights back and forth. 

A picture of Michael Phelps, US gold medal winner in the Summer Olympics 2004.
A picture by Dave Black.

A picture that forced me to take a deep dive into the pool this weekend and get beyond my comfort zone and get wet.

A refreshing experience, and for sure I felt it was worth doing

Now, would I stick these Speedo’s to the wall ?

Not sure, but we did have great fun …

The Speedo Look

And here is an extra Speedo shot of Julien for the other half of Stuck In Plastic as it is Shelly Birthday week and Shelly has a special relation with water …

Happy Birthday, Shelly !

Past, Present and Future …

 

Exposition Universelle – Paris 1900

What started off as an innocent question on why we are shooting plastic has turned into a deep dive of old dinosaur emotions and recognition of our roots and influences. Most probably we will also be taking a little detour back to the future before we are done.

The Eiffel Tower for sure laid the foundations for the “Mechanics Made Easy” play sets found in 1901 and must have played an inspirational role in why some of our LEGO bricks contain holes in the middle.

Nobel prize winner Sir Harry Kroto actually goes as far as blaming the UK railway failures on the younger generation growing up with plastic (read LEGO) instead of perforated metal (read Mecanno).

We don’t want to turn this into an epic discussion of which toy is best (remember those epic Nikon vs Canon discussions) but stay on the why we are shooting plastic.

Do we look for capturing that perfect simple plastic smile?
Do we want to create epic movie scenes in our own cellar ?
Do we …

We will continue to search for the why, in our past, our present and our future …

Shooting plastic, one brick at a time …

Me2

Full House

Day two is coming to a close and we had a full house today.

We left in the early mornings the classic city of Gothenburg behind and started the epic trek up north following the good old inlandsvagen route and explicitly avoiding the “recommended” GPS instructions we stuck onto our dashboard and forcing modern technology into taking this route of beauty.

Our very first quick stop in the morning was Håverud, where horse, train and boat meet each other in an epic wonder of technology constructed in the hay days of industrial revolution. In the far backend you can see the car (previously horse) bridge crossing the river, followed by the copper train track and last but not least the waterways including a boat aquaduct called the Dalsland Canal created mid 1800. Our little camper is parked in front and you can expect some more #selfies along the road.

The crew had the pleasure of seeing the whole water works in action, and for the next few miles everyone was discussing the wonders of train and boat travel while our little engine just ploughed along and there were mentions of following Agatha Christie on the Nile and the Orient Express.

Are we missing a murder mystery here or is it just the longing for the travel.

And indeed travelling it is.

Long roads of green scandinavian trees and very bad 1/2/3/4G coverage (we were equipped with our three national internet carriers and explored quite some prehistoric black spots amongst our devices) made you wonder how communications, friendships and global world domination of being stuck in plastic worked in the olden days when everything took time and pigeons were the major mode of communications.

We had some tea with Selma Ottilia Lovisa and Nils and shared some of our travel stories with these two routined Nobel Price winners before we moved on to meet with Anders Zorn in Mora and discuss some of his great paintings in our epic quest for the Northern Light.

Right now we have reached the “middle” of Sweden called Ostersund and are taking a quick stop over before we embark on the next big hike up north. 

Shelly (@xxsjc) and Kristy (@sydneybrickchick) are out and about looking for some magical light in the long hours after sunset.
@herrk and @east_mountain went out for some quick boules, while the rest of the crew is catching up with doing dishes, having quick beauty sleeps or processing some of the RAW materials of the day ….

Tomorrow morning is a new day ahead of us.

Mosquitos, here we come !

The Basics (part 3)

By popular demand (read one request) I was asked to review the basics of macro photography. If you don’t know what macro photography is…it is simply the art of taking pictures close up of small objects.

The Basics:

1) Use a tripod or equivalent: When you are focusing on such a small object, camera shake will ruin your focus.
2) You will need additional lighting: Whether you are shooting inside or out, having some additional lighting will allow you take advantage of your full range of f-stop. A ring light, flash (not necessarily attached to your camera) or two small auxiliary lights are all excellent options.
3) Use Aperture Priority mode: when you are shooting closeup you will want to play with how much is in focus for the best effect. A slightly blurred background is a great way to set off your subject and minimize distractions.
4) Use Manual Focus: You should be in control of what’s in focus, not the camera. When you are going for pinpoint accuracy, there is no substitute.

Other Tips:

5) Vary the background: You can only have so many shots with blurred green foliage. Be cognizant of your color range.
6) Use a Third Hand: A clever device to have in your arsenal, it can help position a toy or help to add additional interest to your background with color or texture.
7) Use Reflectors: These are easy to make and small enough to carry around. They are a great way to bounce available light onto your mini figs face to minimize shadows or reflective lines.

Toy Photography Specifically:

8) Clear your surface: Stray leaves, grass, pebbles, pine needles etc may not look like much when you are shooting, but once you enlarge your photo they become huge distractions.
9) Minimize your figures: When shooting Lego, 1-3 mini figures is more than enough to fill your frame. More than three (which is itself pushing it), can be over whelming.
10) Be aware of where your toys are looking: The slightest change in a head tilt can signal dramatically different emotions. Don’t forget to make sure the face is in focus. For most people being able to connect with the subjects eyes is a way to connect emotionally.
11) Take your time: More than a few photos have been tossed because the hair wasn’t lined up correctly or the pants where a little askew. Review your photos on the screen before you move on and make sure you have caught these little errs. It can be the difference between a beautiful photo and another image on the virtual trash heap.

12) Change your view point: If your photo is just not coming together change your view point. Move above, below or even to the other side of your set-up. Often the image is there, you just have to get the right angle on it.
13) Have fun and don’t be afraid to take risks. This isn’t brain surgery. 

If you have any questions or anything to add to the conversation please leave a comment. We are all here to learn from each other.

~ xxsjc

The mask isn’t on straight in this image. I didn’t realize it until I had returned home and upload the image onto my computer. I let it fly since I like it so much. In the future I will need to follow step 11 more closely. ~ xxsjc

The Awesome After Party Continues …

Thank You !

After an awesome day in Stockholm Central Station it was great to see all the support on IG from the far away friends around the globe trying to get a vote in on Facebook and the  innocent by-passers who clearly were attracted by the The Awesome After Party build which took us into the 10 finalists.

At the end of the first day we are proud to say we are running strong in the top three and with all the engagement and emotion we saw in the central hall today with innocent by-passers young and old we do hope (fingers crossed) we can continue this position during the rest of the week when we travel to Copenhagen and Oslo.

Indeed, the exposition and supporting challenge for master builder of Scandinavia continues and we do need your continues awesome support to take us to the next stage.

Tomorrow is a travel day where all builds are transported to Copenhagen, Denmark and will be shown on Thursday, 26 June in Fisketorvet.

We will not be able to travel along and it would be great if some of you could sent us some pictures of the exposition (and post on Instagram with the hashtag #TLMscandinavia5 as every picture of our build in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo counts as a vote).

After the Copenhagen visit, the journey continues to Oslo where all the finalists will be shown in the central station of Oslo on Saterday 28th June and the voting endsend of June.

The challenge has only started and continues to need your support !

So, here is how you can help.

Vote on Facebook:

A lot of you has told us that voting is not always working, and we believe this is a build in challenge to test our perseverance. Just try again and here is a quick run down how :-)

Voting is a simple five step process:

1. Open the app in FB by clicking on the link here or here

2. Depending on the randomness of the app, you may be asked to first like Warner Bros Scandinavia Page. This is OK, just like the page (they sponsored The Movie after all) and then continue to like our submission on position 5.

3. Like #TLMscandinavia5 so it looks like the below and the little Like link is checked.


 4. Click on “Dela” which let you post a personalized link on your FB page where your friends and family can do the same. Everyone spreading the word enters automatically in a draw for a special signed version (thanks to everyone who already did it).

5. Make sure your kids, other halves, mothers, fathers and grandparents do the same so you effectively double your chances of winning an exclusive signed Me2 print of the Awesome After Party.

Vote on Instagram:

Here the rules are simple, just head over to Copenhagen and Oslo, enjoy the builds and post a picture of your favorite build and hashtag it with #TLMscandinavia5 and since you did not travel alone, make sure friends, family and pets do the same on their respective IG accounts as every vote counts.

If you havent posted your pictures of Stockholm Central Station, please make sure you do it before the end of this month and give them the right #tag.

Thanks again and we keep you posted on the great adventures ahead of us !

Me2 and Crew.

A most interesting post …

Today Jonathon Jones wrote an interesting piece in the guardian on being stuck in plastic and why he believes being stuck in plastic is women hating nonsense and at best a blip but far from art.

http://www.moistproduction.com/

I could not disagree more with Mister Jones, and I believe the work of Jason Freeny is art.

Maybe not the posh art with a capital A that only a few intellectuals understand and can write long essays about, but for sure the art that captures our attention.

Art that creates an emotion and let us wonder on our inner child.

Mister Freeny, please continue your candy colored madness and delight us with your work™and rest assured your art did its magic.

It triggered an emotion with Mister Jones who fell the need to become creative and write an article about it.

Art should just do that.

Trigger emotions and engage in discussions.

Me2

PS. What do you think of Jason Freeny creations ?

The Basics (pt 2)

I did a post for the Instagram Group Brickcentral a few months ago passing along a few tips for better outdoor macro photography. I thought it might be a good idea to go over these tips again to make sure we are all on the same page as we move forward to better photography. 
 
1) Pay attention to scale – the beauty is in the details. This is especially true with macro photography. You can reveal a new and fresh look at our world by getting up close. 
 
2) Keep your composition simple. To place maximum attention on your subject you will want to eliminate unwanted clutter. This includes small leaves, pine needles, bits of garbage, stray grass…these seemingly little things will distract from your composition. You want to emphasize what is important, minimize everything else. 
 
3) Take your time. Take lots of photos of the same set-up and check your view screen to make sure you got what you were looking for. Great photos can’t be rushed.  
 
4) Keep the camera level. Ok I admit it, this is a personal pet peeve. In my opinion crooked horizon lines are only interesting once. 
 
5) Use the “rule of thirds”to help your composition. (Please see earlier post for a full explanation.) 
 
6) Use a tripod. Even though hand held is convenient, you can’t always maintain good focus. You will also want to use the manual focus setting on your camera. Most cameras have a very hard time finding the correct focus point much less maintaining that focus on these small figures. If you have the money, invest in a lens with Image Stabilization.
 
7) Change your perspective. If you’re struggling with your set up, change your point of view. Sometimes an unforeseen angle is the best one. Also try to get below your figure. When shooting these small toys, I find that shooting up at them seems to help them feel more majestic. 
 
8) Take advantage of the “golden hour”. This is the hour right after sunrise and right before sunset. Amazing things can happen!
 
9) Experiment. Try different things, try things that make you uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to push yourself. 

~ xxsjc

Do you have any tips you would like to pass along?
Where is your favorite place to photograph your toy friends?


Next up I will share a few tips especially suited for macro photography. Stay tuned

The Basics (pt 1)

Sometimes when I am on Instagram and I see people use certain photo terms I am occasionally left scratching my head and going “Huh?” I never know if it is a case of ignorance or if something is simply lost in translation. So in the interest of clarity I thought I should do a quick explanation of a few basic photo terms so we are all on the same page.

Rule of Thirds: Is simply a guideline to help you compose your photograph. If you view each frame as if is divided into nine section (almost all cameras and phones come with these guidelines that can be easily turned on or off) composing a photo is easier. There is a top, middle and bottom third as well as a left, middle and right third to each phot. The points were these lines intersect are referred to as “power points”. When you are composing an image you want to align your horizon line along the top or bottom third line as well as place your subject near one of the power point intersections. This is simply a guideline and a nice place to start when learning to compose a photograph.

Depth of Field (often refered to as DOF): DOF refers to how much of your image is in focus. If you are using a small aperture (think Ansel Adams and Group f/64) the entire image from front to back will be in focus. This is referred to as a large depth of field. If you are shooting with the lens aperture wide open, like f2.8 – f4 you will have a short depth of field. Blurring the background by using a short DOF is a great way to draw attention to the subject and minimize distractions. (If you are taking photos on your phone check out the app BigLens to achieve a short DOF.)

Leading Lines: Is a strong line within the photograph that leads the viewers eye from an outside edge to the subject matter. You will often see railroad tracks, roads, tree branches used as leading lines. When you are shooting macro photos outdoors there are many interesting options.

Bokeh: Is an effect most often caused by reflected light in out of focus areas of a photograph. Bokeh is common when using a short depth of field. Bokeh can appear circular or hexagonal depending on the type of lens aperture your camera has. (If you are taking photos on your phone there are several apps that you can use to fake this effect like Lenslight.)

Macro: This simply means taking photos of small things close up. A macro lens is a lens that lets you get really close to your subject.
I am sure for most of you this information is not new and I appreciate your patience as I review some basic terminology. Toy photography is a wonderful hobby and for many kids and teens it is a great introduction to a lifetime love affair with photography. I hope that we each can pass on our passion as well as some basic tips and tricks to those new to the hobby so that the internet will be filled with even more great toy photography!
~ xxsjc
How did you learn photography: trial and err or take a beginning photo class?
Have you ever shared your passion with a beginning photographer? 
Can you recommend any specialty phone apps that emulate the effects of a full size camera?
My next post will be an expanded version of a post I did for Brickcentral on the basics of outdoor photography. Stay tuned!!