My Unikitty Alter Ego.

Today I felt like Angry Unikitty for much of the day. Whenever I feel like this I’m tempted to post cutting remarks on various social media platforms but then I remember the immortal words of Mark Twain…

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Words to live by.
~ xxsjc
Have you ever posted something you regretted to a social media site?
Have you ever read something posted by someone else that really pissed you off? 
Do you try to be a positive influence on social media sites or just speak your mind? 

Building Community (One of the Hardest Job You Will Ever Love)

I’ve been thinking a lot about community this past week. As I have mulled over my limited time resources and the energy it takes to move any project forward, I actually contemplated shutting down Brickcentral on Instagram. It has been saved from the chopping block for the foreseeable future by the willingness of wonderful new volunteer.

Back in the early days of the social media frenzy you heard so much about “creating a brand” to sell yourself or your product. That drum beat has changed to the “build your community” chant. It has not escaped my notice that the majority of experts who extol the virtues of an on-line community are men. I think there is a very good reason for this: most women build community naturally and don’t need a name for what we already do. We just call it something else: making connections or simply making friends.

Community is an incredibly hard thing to create and maintain. It is an ephemeral and constantly shifting set of personalities and priorities. At least that has been my experience. What might be true one month won’t be what the community needs six months later. It’s a very complex friendship that needs lots of attention.

For most people delving into this community building quicksand is not a possibility; most people have jobs, families and more important priorities than creating an on line community. But when the community falls silent a hole is left. Maybe it will be noticed, maybe it won’t.

I have no answers as to the why people crave “community”, especially one as specialized as ours, yet they do. I see this desire all the time when I post on Brickcentral and the comments often include a “thank you for being here” sentiment.

I hope this doesn’t sound critical, because it isn’t meant to be. In my own experience creating, nurturing this online community of LEGO photography enthusiasts has been an incredible experience that has enriched my life immensely. I plan on sticking with it, probably longer than I should, and on the way I will keep thumbing my nose at the “experts” who talk about community building as if it was something you can do in your spare time. You don’t create friends and family in your spare time.

~ xxsjc

Do you converse with your followers wherever you post your photos?
Have you made any friends through social media?
Is creating friends and community an important aspect of your social media participation?

I seriously want to know what you think. I would love it if you could take the time to comment on the social media platform of your choice. 

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

Sunday Painters

In the lands I grew up with had a saying that referred to “Sunday Painter”.
Not sure what you call them in your area, but “Sunday Painters” or artists went out on Sundays to change or paint the world, yet found their home in their comfortable jobs during the week, and did not had the spine to fight the artistic battle (so the story goes).
Sometimes(*) I feel like a Sunday Painter when I abandon my daily plight in getting a post out (yet gather the blue collar inspiration that made Bruce a corporate icon).
Am I a rebel with a cause when I abandon my daily post commitment ?
Am I just another Sunday Artist who only shoots in weekends ?
A most interesting inner question(*) I am sure some of us struggle with (hard).
Me and Shelly have spent (and will most probably continue to spent) quite some time on this topic.
One of my favorite artists in this area is Scott Adams. Scott manages successfully to pour out his daily creativity,  yet I feel very connected with his main character when exploring corporate live and take a deep dive in Darth Inc. and beyond. 
I am a big believer we need to stay connected to the shopfloor called live, and so when we engage with our artistic self we should know the backdrop of reality.
I have been eaten up by my other corporate half the last month, and while some may argue I am a corporate creature and just another Sunday Painter, these corporate assignments and missions define who I am.
They define Me2.
So, I will call defeat on my daily challenge and continue to drop out at times (sorry Shelly, I aim daily posts), yet I will continue to take the F word serious and not only take the Fun serious but also Focus on what matters, including make our art work … 
Focus on getting the balance right, and if that means dropping oFF the grid for a week, so be it.
After all, we are stuck in plastic,
Me2
(*) Footnotes to self: 
I failed in my personal challenge here.
Yet I believe I grew stronger in my own artistic self.
As always, stay tuned and leave your view in the comments below or on your social platform of choice…

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!! 

Creating a photo through intention

You don’t take a photograph, you make it. – Ansel Adams  

This quote applies to the entire photographic process; from clicking the shutter, to editing the photo, to printing it out. The simple act of choosing an image to work on is part of the process. Each conscious choice you make determines the final outcome. 

I prefer to do this the hard way. I tend to edit my photos twice, once using Snapseed for future  Instagram posts and once using Photoshop for printing. I really enjoy using Instagram as a photo sketchpad. I like to test photo concepts and play with editing techniques all the while trying not to get too caught up in my head. When I want to print an image out on paper, I turn to Photoshop for more traditional photo editing. 

When I am editing in Photoshop I want to try to capture what I created with my quick Snapseed edits. Of course when I write this out, this process seems totally ass backwards to me. Here I am with my big fancy camera and my big fancy printer and I’m trying to capture the quick, grungy spontaneity of an iPhone picture edited with Snapseed.  

Needless to say this has been a challenge. This past weekend I had the most fun with my experimentations, but for all the wrong reasons. The filters I downloaded to play with are designed to emulate film stock. After applying them to my images I discovered something I have not seen in years…film grain! I forgot how much I missed film grain. In this age of digital images and pixillation, film grain is a thing of the past. But for me it was always an important part of my final images. When I enlarged my underwater images to 40″ x 30″ (that’s really, really large) the grain was so pronounced the photos became similar to a pointillism painting. I was so happy to make this discovery, it was like coming home again. 

So needless to say I can’t wait to re-edit a few classic images with these new filters, add some grain and blow the best images up really, really large. 

What was your happiest accident?
What is your editing workflow?

~ xxsjc

The Fallacy of Validation

“Validation is for parking” ~ from Steal Like an Artist

This made me laugh, because it’s so true! I often see people grousing that their posted photos aren’t getting enough likes or comments on Instagram. Another popular complaint is that their photos never get featured by any of the toy groups.  All I can think to say to this is that you shouldn’t look to Instagram, Flickr, Google, Tumblr or anything else for validation. Because you aren’t going to get it.

What people like or don’t like is a very fickly enterprise. It is based on their own tastes coupled with their own experiences and occasionally these will intersect with what you are creating. Think of it like a vin diagram with a very small sliver of overlap. Whether or not what you are creating is good enough, has nothing to do with it. Being good is only half of the equation.

Oh did I mention luck is the other half? It’s that weird intangible that separates those that get recognized and those that toil away in obscurity. Life is fickle and art is a temperamental task master. So don’t get frustrated, roll with it, and make some art. Trust me, you will feel better.

So get out your toys, have some fun, take some pictures and look for your validation inside yourself. If it makes YOU happy, then it is good enough.

Did you take any toy photography pictures this weekend like Me2 did?
When was the last time you got a parking ticket?

~ xxsjc

I’ve bored you all enough with my philosophical ramblings. The rest of this week I will be posting on technique. I didm’t play with my camera this weekend, but I did play with my printer. This was almost as good!

F as in …

Being stuck in corporate meeting rooms for 5 days is a … challenge (and I have another 5 days lined up)

Most probably it strikes a few of the disambiguation interpretations of the F word, but for me there are just a few that stuck out to me the last few days … and these are two of my Favorites when discussing the topic with Maya, my Friendly buzzy Bee (and both Friendly and Favorite does start with an F.)

F as in Failure.
I failed my daily posting. Big times …
I knew upfront it was coming up and I basically tried to challenge myself to get this done.
I failed, yet I grew.
Sometimes failure bleeds to a bigger thing.
I will come back to why I believe my failure made me stronger in a later post, but don’t feel bad if you fail on your personal journey, I am sure it will help to grow you stronger …

F as in Fun.
Shelly has been hammering this one hard and sound and if you are unclear what I am talking about, just do a quick read up of her last five posts.
I was so happy to collect my body and experience some Fun.
Remember, shooting should be Fun.
If it is not, look for the Fun.

Me2