Saturday, June 16, 2018

Workstation improvements

I have spent some time over the past couple days getting my studio back in order.  I've done a lot of projects lately and the clutter is building up.  It is not perfect yet (likely never will be), but the biggest improvements are to my workstation area.  This is the place I do a lot of my photo editing. 

My wifey didn't want her monitor anymore, so I added it to my setup - its the tall one on the right.  I also decluttered everything.  I am pretty sure this is the cleanest and most useful my workstation has been in years.

I suspect this will last until Tuesday.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

PhotoshopWorld 2018

PhotoshopWorld is a photography conference put on by the awesome people at KelbyOne.  I went last year, and I loved it.  So this year when the  Toy Safari and PhotoshopWorld were on back to back weekends, my adventure was clear.

I did the Oregon Toy Photography Safari the weekend before.  So when that ended on the Monday night, I took the red eye over to Orlando so I was positioned for the start of the conference.

The conference is 3 days of learning sessions on dozens of different topics, for dozens of different genres of photography, design, business, and inspiration.  I ended up taking a lot of sessions on composite and other Photoshop tips and tricks - hopefully some of those lessons will appear in my art work over the next few weeks and months.  

This means I got to spend some time learning about Photoshop and composites from some amazingly talented people.  One of which is Glyn Dewis, from the UK.  An amazing artist, decent human being, and co-host of the He Shoots He Draws podcast.
One of the other instructors I was anxious to spend more time learning from is Tim Wallace.  Another UK photographer who shoots luxury cars and other "expensive shiny things."  I highly recommend checking out his website at to see his amazing work.

Tim was the one that clued me in that shooting toys is a lot like shooting cars - both are shiny curved objects - the only difference is scale.  A hugely useful lesson.

Tim doesn't teach a lot of classes, so I was glad to be able to learn some things from him again.  I took his pre-conference workshop on shooting cars in studio (great class), and took in a couple business related sessions during PhotoshopWorld.   He is amazing at teaching the business of photography, and I highly recommend checking out his classes at KelbyOne on the subject.

When the sessions were not on, there are a lot of other things to do. For one, there is getting your photo taken at the sign.
I have been so blessed to have fallen into a group of amazing photographers that we self-describe as Scavengers.  A couple of those Scavengers had the good fortune of setting up photo booths at the conference.  These are intended to be practice locations for attendees.

One was built by the amazingly talented Gilmar Smith, who recreated an old fashioned gas station, right there on the exhibition floor.  

On Thursday night is the After Party, which is a chance to socialize, get some food, and drink, and listen to some awesome live music.  I didn't attend last years party, but I did this year, and was treated to a great rock show by a band called Big Electric Cat, with frontman Scott Kelby.  Scott is also the CEO of KelbyOne, the company that produces PhotoshopWorld.  So this is basically like having the dean of Harvard rock out on guitar at homecoming, but for photographers.
Many of the KelbyOne instructors took the stage to jam together, including dutch photographer extraordinaire, Frank Dorhoff.
It is kind of surprising how few photos one takes at a photography conference, so I am out of them. So I'll end with one taken by Gilmar Smith at Mark Rodriguez's booth.
So that was my adventure.  After the conference I hung out for a bit, then flew home.  Next year they are having two PhotoshopWorlds, one in Orlando, and one in Vegas - I've signed up for both.

See ya next time.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

LEGO Space Logo and the Stranger in the Checkout Line

The logo on the left is likely famous if you were a kid in the 70s or 80s.  It is the logo for the LEGO space sets from that era.

Since I am a child of the 70s and 80s, I have a t-shirt with that logo on it - ya know, cause of nostalgia, and to prove, beyond all shadow of a doubt, that I am a fan of the brick.

A couple weeks ago I was on my way to the Oregon Toy Photography Safari, and stopped by a grocery store in Seaside Oregon for some supplies.  I was, of course, sporting that LEGO space logo'd t-shirt.

I got my supplies and was standing patiently in the check-out line to, ya know, check out.  The fellow in front of me turned around, saw my shirt, and mentioned he liked it.

I said thanks.  Then he pulled out his cell phone, and showed me he had the same logo on the back.

Cool.  Nice coincidence.  Turns out the fellow made the sticker. Before I knew it, he called someone (I remember it being his wife, but I can't be sure of my memory on that point) on his phone.  They were waiting for him in his car in the parking lot. 

By the time he got to the front of the line his wife/friend had come into the store and gave me a sticker.

Since it is a black sticker, and my phone is black, I needed some place else to put it.  My laptop is already stickered, so I put it on my portable CD-ROM.  Here is it.

I didn't get the fellows name, but I did give him my business card so he could find me. If that person happens to come across this blog, thanks!  Your sticker is going to decorate my office space for a long time to come.

Also thanks for an awesome encounter after a stressful travel day - thats the sort of thing good travel memories are based on.


Wordless Wednesday

Monday, June 04, 2018

Oregon Toy Photography Safari

During the last 12 days or so I was on a grand adventure, criss-crossing across the continent, and getting my creative photog on.  The second half was attending PhotoshopWorld in Orlando, which I'll cover in a different post.

This post is all about the first half:  The Oregon Toy Photography Safari.

What does that mean exactly?  In short, I spent 4 days over Memorial Day weekend hanging out on the coast of Oregon, which looks like this:

with people who look like this:
Photo taken by Leila Chieko (brickandmordor)

taking photos that look like this:
This is a collaboration with myself and Brett Wilson.  I shot, he threw sand, and together we created art.  Not a bad way to spend a morning, eh?

All of those folk are members of the toy photography community, and hang out in various forums, communities and instagram accounts on The Internet.  For the past few years they have been meeting up in various places to hang out in the real world for a few days, share tips, toys, and stories, and take pictures in pretty places.

The weekend started with a meet-up at an early morning showing of Solo: A Star Wars Story on Friday.  Then we all headed towards the coast for the rest of the weekend.

I have been to Oregon on many occasions for work, but I never made it to the coast. So I was thrilled to see it is an absolute gorgeous place to visit. 

We spent many hours on the beaches (Oswald West, Arch Cape, Hug Point, Arcadia Beach), and a bit of time in the woods.  So I spent a lot of time taking photos of others taking photos of toys.

Looked a lot like this:

The great thing about the Toy Safari is that everyone can borrow from everyone elses toyboxes.  This allows one to get shots they wouldn't normally be able to get.  Some of these toys are quite rare and expensive.

Some are just fun.

We also spent some days shooting in the woods.  The Oregon coast has some amazing woods to shoot in - giant red woods, nice green foliage on the ground level - not a lot of thorns or poison ivy - gorgeous.

I took a lot of photos in those woods, and collaborated with a photogapher named Dennis T, who, together, took a pic that won first place in a photo competition held over the weekend.  He also made the custom minifig for the event, shown here:
At nights we hung out at a rented house, waxed photographic, geeked out, socialized, and had a lot of fun.  I made a lot of new friends, and cracked a lot of jokes, and impressed an Aussie with my ability to consume Tim Tams.

You know, the usual.

When the weekend was over, I said goodbye to my new found tribe of toy photographers, and headed off to the airport for my next grand adventure.

What will that lead to?  Who knows.  You'll have to wait and see what happens next!

Happy trails!

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Returning From My Adventure

I am currently sitting in an airport about to get on a plane to head home after a 12 day adventure.  It is a long story that will take several days and posts to tell.  But the highlights are that it started on the Pacific coast while attending the Oregon Toy Photography Safari:

It ended at PhotoshopWorld 2018 in Orlando Florida:

Needless to say I learned a lot, had a great deal of fun, made some awesome friends, and now I am tired and facing the wonders of modern air travel.

I'll see you when I land, at which time I will begin to spin the tale of my past dozen days.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Gone On An Adventure...

I am currently out on an adventure!  Updates to this blog may be slow for the rest of the month. 

Happy trails!

My Online Gallery Updated

I've spent some time in the past few days updating my online gallery, which contains the best of my work.  If you haven't checked it out recently, now is a good time to visit

Alternate Realities

With a vivid imagination the imaginary worlds described in books can seem almost real. Be careful what you read, 'cause some imaginary worlds are more real than others.

This is my most recent experimentation with shooting action figures, with a bit of a genre mix to include my self portraiture work as well.
I got the idea for this shot the first time I watched the credits for the totally awesome cinematic event known as Deadpool 2.  The ending credits shows hand drawings of Deadpool interacting with the other characters in interesting ways.  This is how I imagine he'd interact with Yours Truly.

I used my 20" Deadpool figure for this shot, as well as a very temperamental Dave stand in (he's becoming a bit of a diva - it is a bigger problem than you think!). However with some coercion, bribery, and a heavy dollop of Photoshop Magic(tm), I managed to get the shot I wanted.

Maximum effort!

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Quick quiz, hot shot!

There is a LEGO model in a blank cardboard box.

The box is in the hands of a crazy man who takes photos of LEGO.

What do you do?

What. Do. You. Do?

Well, if you are that crazy man, you buy it, and let it sit in your basement for a while until you are ready to really enjoy it.


But, what is in the box?

Well, this:

That, my friends, is a minifig-scale Millennium Falcon.

If you have been following me for a while you may remember that I already have a Millennium Falcom model, and I took some photos with it.  This is true, but its not big enough.  The existing Falcon model is not minifig scale.  When trying to take photos with it I was continually frustrated with the fact that a minifig could not stand underneath it (or on the ramp), and the cockpit couldn't support two minifigs side by side.

As soon as I saw this one I knew I wanted it.  Being minifig scale means all of the issues I had with the other model are solved.

Of course, being minifig scale means the set is huge.  In fact its the largest model LEGO has ever produced for retail sale. 7541 pieces (nope thats not a model number, thats seven thousand five hundred forty one pieces).  The finished model will be just under 3ft by 2ft.  Huge.

When it came out back in September 2017 it sold out almost immediately.  I wasn't fast enough to get one, so I had to wait for them to make more.  In January I finally got my hands on one.  At the time I wasn't ready for such a project.  That all changed last weekend when I unveiled it to the family.

My kids were thrilled:
So now I have this model.  It is going to be a project in itself just to build it. Then it will be a prop in photography projects.

Of course, me being me, I decided to make a photography project while I am building it.

So, what it is, is, essentially, a photography project about a build project for another photography projects.  Thats projects cubed!

This is an extravagant model, but it is a model that keeps on giving.

Stay tuned for results from the first photography project, coming to a blog near you in the near term.

Until then, I need to study the build instructions. It is a thick book.  A very thick book.

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Deadpool Rocks

This is my latest attempt at shooting action figures.  Deadpool rocking out.

What is notable about this image is that it is the first time I played around with practical effects. 

I wanted to give a smokey effect to add some ambience to the image.  Some smoke effects to go with the rock concert feel.  I started using actual smoke, but my smoke machine, which is perfect for LEGO sized images, wasn't really sufficient for the much larger 20" Deadpool figure.

So I went back to the ol'd standby: water in a spray bottle. 

This is a peak behind the scenes.  Along with the two speedlites at table height to provide side and rear illumination (think stage lights), I also had a speedlite on a stand in front of the figure to fill in the shadows.

I think it turned out pretty good.  I am going to mark this attempt a success.

On to the next image - what shall I do next?  Suggestions welcome.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

New Instagram Handle: TheRealStudioDave

FYI: I have changed my account name on Instagram to be more generic. I am doing more than LEGO now so my old name didn't really apply.

So my new name is TheRealStudioDave. My current followers will get moved over automagically, but new folk can now find me here:

Review: LEGO Creator Expert Detectives Office

Over on the Toy Photographers blog, Yours Truly has written a review of the Creator Expert Detectives Office.

TL;DR version:
Outside:  beautiful, detailed, and great for photography
Inside:  Amazing detail, not so awesome for photography
Minifigs:  Vintage looking, nostalgic but not expressive.
Recommendation: For the photographer: buy it for the outside.  For the fan, just buy it.

Check out the full review here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Good Artists Copy...

One of the phrases often used by artists to discuss the creative process is  "good artists copy, great artists steal." On my personal quest to expand my artistic horizons from LEGO to larger action figures, I am still in the process of figuring out techniques and styles.  As a  result I can't honestly say I am great at it - so I decided to go with the copy route.

Recently I obtained a 1/4 scale Deadpool action figure, and have been working on getting some ideas for how to shoot it.  In search of inspiration I went spelunking thru a Google Image search and came across a promo poster from Comic Con for the movie Deadpool 2.

I decided to recreate it.  This is the result:
It is interesting to shoot larger figures. I have been shooting LEGO figures for so long that it is refreshing to be able to treat my subject more like traditional photography - including using studio lights, soft boxes, and backdrops.

Scale is still an issue tho as I had to make due with whatever stuffed animals were in my daughters toy box.  As a result I had to composite in the bear to get the scale at a proper scale (in real life the bear is almost the same size as Deadpool).

Oh, if you are wondering about the original, it looked like this:

So thus ends my second foray into shooting action figures.  I think things are going well, even if I do say so myself.  Don't you agree?

Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, May 05, 2018

The 22nd Round Of The Chrysta Rae Photography Scavenger Hunt

These were my entries for the 22nd round of the Chrysta Rae Photography Scavenger Hunt, over on Google Plus.

Behind the scenes is here.