MARWENCOL

It’s (almost) the weekend and +Me2 is returning from another sojourn working for Darth, Inc. so I am filling in with a quick post. (He promised me he would make up for his recent absence this weekend.)

As an artist its’ important to know where you fit in, who (or what) are your influences and who else is working in your field. The biggest advantage being that you can speak intelligently about your craft. In this light I have been trying to educate myself on this crazy field of toy photography and when I find something relevant I can’t help but share it with you. 
Recently I was introduced to the fascinating and poignant story of Mark Hogancamp depicted in the documentary Marwencol. If you are looking for something to do this weekend I sincerely recommend this movie. It’s a story about toys, photography, survival and the power of imagination. It also touches on what happens when your hobby is suddenly deemed art. So basically it is completely relevant to anyone who is passionate about toy photography. 
I found the movie to be profound, touching, heartbreaking and ultimately inspiring. The director handles the subject with respect and because Mark trusts him we are afforded a glimpse into a truly unique world.
If you have already seen the movie please leave your comments. If you haven’t, watch the movie immediatly and let me know what you think. 
~ xxsjc

If you want to see more of Mark’s photography look here and here

Suspension of Disbelief

Reality vs the suspension of disbelief is a very strange phenomena in the Lego universe. It’s seemingly arbitrary rules continue to amaze me.

Yesterday I posted this photo and the talented +Gordon Webb commented “Great shot Shelly. The pink strat is upside down, unless the squid is a lefty, and plays like Hendrix. :)”

We are willing to accept a guitar playing squid and singing mermaids but not the guitar in a non standard position. The last time I looked, the definition of a guitar is a six or 12 string instrument, not three. What kind of instrument is this really? Does it matter? Is that kind of attention to detail necessary?

There is a trend within the Lego community for an AFOL (or TFOL) to create a signature figure that represents themselves. I myself have a fairly distinct red headed figure I have used for well over a year that is my Lego alter ego. (She even has her own Lego alter ego.) This figure looks nothing like me…nothing. I was talking to a woman the other day who I have know for a few months. She met me first through Instagram. She told me that on our first in person meeting she was very disappointed to find out I looked nothing like my mini figure; where was my pink hair!?!

People take great pride in recreating famous land marks, album covers, particular cars and just about anything else you can think of in the human world with their Lego. In fact many of Lego’s most iconic sets are based on something in the human world: The VW Bug, The Taj Mahal, The London Bridge, The  Lego UniMog …the list goes on and on.

But where is the fun in that? How come we can’t make cars that grow flowers or crazy houses that twist and turn, bridges that don’t conform to logic or create a mini figure that looks like who we want to be? Why can we suspend our disbelief about a talking squid and some mermaids but not with an upside down guitar? For all I know Squidward taught Jimmi Hendrix everything he knew about guitar playing. Because in MY Lego world anything is possible.

If you have a Lego mini figure representing you, does it look like you?
When you create with Lego do you work from photographs or from your imagination?

~ xxsjc

PS – I hope you will check out Gordon’s work on G+ or on Instagram. He creates wonderful, fabulous, unique mech’s – each a thing of beauty that has no basis in reality.

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

And the winner is …

 
During the awesome madness of indypendence day on IG,  we got word from the awesome folks over at LEGO and Warner Bros that the Awesome After Party made it to the finals and was selected as the number one also know as the winner of The LEGO Movie Scandinavian Master Builder Challenge.  
To quote Gitte Bloch Eskildsen, senior brand manager, LEGO group: “The Awesome After Party is one of the most impressive and creative LEGO houses I have ever seen built by a LEGO fan and fully captures the essence and fun of THE LEGO Movie and what LEGO is all about, namely imagination, fun and creativity …”
And fans we are here at stuckinplastic of all things LEGO ! 
Now we could not have won this challenge without all of you and your fantastic support in making all of this happen.  To celebrate the awesomeness of all of this we have decided to not just give one, two or three signed prints away of the Awesome After Party™ but five exclusive signed prints.
Handpicked by an innocent child from a planet far far away, here are the five lucky winners:
Ella N. Big thanks for tricking her daddy in going all in on FB to get the vote out, a signed print is on its way. 
Goedele D. from Belgium for outing herself on FB.
Lyn M. Thanks for doing all the great stuff both on the interweb and IG.
And last but not least Anna G. from D. in W. for being such a great support and also outing herself on FB. 
Number five will be handpicked out of all the fantastic IG comments you guys and gals have been giving us !
Time to get ready for the next crazy adventure

Me2

PS. We will upload the images on Flickr as well.
PPS. How many times was the word awesome mentioned here on stuckinplastic in the last 5 posts ?

A Brave New (Toy) World

Have you noticed how much toy / childhood imagery there is in the art world lately? Maybe I’m just fine tuned to this genre due to my involvement in the Instagram toy photography community.  I noticed that at the art show I was recently attending there were more than a few artists working with toy / childhood imagery in a variety of mediums.

For example there was the titillating photography using HO scale figures called bodyscapes, the crazy 3-D toy collages by David Burton (seriously check this guys work out) and more HO scale photography by Audrey Heller. But my favorite by far was Joachim Knill’s paintings of imaginary stuffed animals.

I first met Joachim many years ago when we both created photography to sell at arts & craft shows. His work has alway been compeling and nicely off kilter. His latest series of paintings is titled “National Treasure”. The idea behind National Treasure is that these paintings are artifacts from another world inhabited by stuffed animals. Just imagine a formal gallery that has been dropped in the middle of your street and these portraits of stuffed animals in gilt frames are there to be “shared, viewed and consumed, ” and you might begin to understand the concept.

These renaissance styled paintings are slightly disturbing yet endlessly intriguing. They are beautiful haunting images that take me back to my childhood and my own well worn stuffed animals.

Talking with Joachim and hearing him refer to his paintings as cultural artifacts was fascinating and certainly rang a familiar bell in my head. I think that whenever you are dealing with mass produced consumer goods in your art work that some aspect of the cultural artifact will naturally occur. It only remains to be seen how you interpret and reflect back your own culture using these ubiquitous objects. Will you become a social commentator, a mirror into the past or create a path into a parallel universe? The possibilities are endless.

I encourage you to look around and see what other artists are creating. It feels like there is a brave new world of toy art upon us.

~ xxsjc


Tripping Horse Battle Scene by Joachim Knill 
oil painting
38.5″ x 48.5″

You Are Awesome !

Thank you all for your awesomeness !
This is our 100th post here on the stuckinplastic blog and we thought we share some stats of awesomeness with you all !
Our very first post was posted only 4 months ago and attracted a good 17 page views and no G+ recommendation.
In average individual posts today get an average of 54 page views and our most viewed individual posting got a good 136 individual page views and 19 G+ recommendations.
We accumulated a great grand total of  11K page views.
The top countries visiting us are US, Sweden, Israel, UK, Australia, Russia, Finland, Singapore and Belgium. 
33% of you awesome people are using windows and another 33% use a Mac and 21% actually likes to visit us from the comfort of their iPhone.
We accumulated a good 115 comments here, but get much more traction on G+ (do visit our G+ community if you have not yet done)
And last but not least (and I know some of you will not believe this, including myself), Shelly and Me2 posted each approximate 50 posts each.
Thank you all for awesome support the last 4 months.
Looking forward to another quarter of awesomeness together with you !
Shelly & Me2
 

Crash Test Dummies …

While Crash™is telling great stories and enjoying ice creams in Oslo on the Awesome After Party and really likes you to vote for us on facebook we experienced another not so nice crash this week.

We were having a great time in The Studio™planning and prepping for our next big adventure (more on that later next week – but rest assured the plans do not include dinosaur train stations) when the whole studio turned dark. 

Or at least the viewfinder turned dark.

It did not matter what lens we put on, the viewfinder became more and more dark, and we could not even focus correctly anymore.

Something was seriously wrong and even the display threw an odd error message.

We felt like a painter who’s brushes just turned into stone or a writer without a pen.

What did just happen ?

We only had a full clean and check up a little while ago and so with shivering legs we went to the mothership to get the verdict on the damage and the ETA of the repair.

Especially this last one was a big concern as we were planning a first set of shoots next week, before the start of the next big adventure in three weeks time.

The young trooper behind the desk took our body into the dungeons for a thorough check, and after a while a more senior trooper returned with the verdict.

A tiny little screw got lost on my lens and this ultimately damaged the aperture mechanism, turning the viewfinder dark as the aperture ring was bent.

My favorite 105 got a replacement screw, but the body needed to stay for repair.

The senior trooper advised to check occasionally for this little stop screw and even take a little screw driver along (yes sir, rest assured I will check this bugger once in a while).

So, if you are shooting DSLR and change your glass on a regular basis do check for the little stop screw on your lenses as it is a critical component and you don’t want to be caught out like us.

I had no clue about that little screw and the damage it could do.
I am sure most of you are not checking for it either.
Here is a quick post on flickr showing the missing screw on a lens (not my lens, I just googled for missing stop screw) 

At the same time the young trooper returned with a replacement body so we could continue our planned shoot while awaiting the final repair.

Awesome service.  

Thank you, Nikon !

Me2

PS. If you are planning to go on a longer trip (photo safari, holiday, art project…) it is always good to take a second body along (your iPhone is the backup of the backup) and check your gear a week ahead of the departure date so you can work out any last minute hiccups you may encounter …

Remember, the gear of a photographer is an essential piece of kit to produce awesome art or cool pictures and you dont want to be caught out when you traveled far and beyond.  

Here is my small pre-flight checklist for photo shoots abroad.

Check your gear at least a week ahead.
This really means taking some pictures with all your lenses and look for dust spots.
If dust spots, go get a cleaning of your sensor at a certified photo shop.
Make sure you have a second body with you (which you also tested).
Make sure your batteries are fully loaded, and you have a travel adapter along.
Make sure you have the possibility to backup your memory cards on a hard-disk and online.
Make sure you have sufficient memory cards along so you can at least survive two days.

Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something.

While we await news of +me2’s grand adventure, I’ve been having a small adventure of my own.

When I left town a few days ago, I packed a wonderful collection of Lego and all my camera gear with grand intentions. My family and I would be driving nearly 1800 miles (2824 km) across the US and we would be passing by some of my favorite places in the country like Yellowstone National Park and Moab, Utah. I was going to be ready!

Five days later, not a single Lego picture was taken, not even a quick iPhone photo. What happened? In our spare time we decided to do stuff a 9 year old boy wanted to do: a train museum and a dinosaur museum were the highlights. Besides having fun I realized I was actually taking a much needed mental break. I have enough photos on my iPad to feed the Instagram beast for a couple of weeks and it was more important for me to take a breather.  
When you embark on your creative path, it’s important to realize that when you’re not working on your work…you probabaly still are. Even when taking a break, your mind will continue to be working out those artistic road blocks. And this is what happened to me this week. At some point while driving I realized where I wanted to go next with my Lego photos and what my project would look like. Now I can’t wait to get home and get started. 
If you’re feeling stuck or unmotivated, simply kicking back and relaxing is the best course of action. Let your subconscious work it out, more than likely it’s already got the answer. Sometimes you have to do nothing to move forward. 
I have had a request to do more photography tips on the blog. If this is something you would like to see, please leave a comment below.


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.