Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Rules Of DEIMOS

(This article originally ran on the toyphotographers.com blog, and is reprinted here, well, cause I wrote it, and I like it.)  
I know what you are thinking: “What is DEIMOS, and why does it have rules?”  Furthermore your thoughts likely lean towards “Why do I care?”, and “anything on Netflix?” 
The answer are, in reverse order “No, your favourite shows were removed yesterday!”, and “I’ll get to that, hold your horses.”
First I need to tell you a story.
Is It A Short Story?
Yes it is (tho I have a tendency to wander in my thoughts, so stay close and hold on.)
So I have listened to the Toy Photographers Podcast since the very first episode.  Frequently the host, James Garcia, interviews various folks about their toy photography activities.  One of the questions I remember being asked more than once (at least I think it was more than once – I didn’t take notes) was something along the lines of: “Do you have any rules for your toy photography?”  
Basically, do you stay true to the source material, or does anything go?
The first time I heard that question, my response was a rather smug and snarky “no rules!”   However the more I thought about it, the more I realized there are, in fact, some rules I seem to follow in my work.  So I decided I’d write them down and explore just what makes my universe tick.
Originally I was going to reveal these shocking and stunning insights during my podcast interview, but I’ve never been asked to appear on the show.  Fiddlesticks! 
(As an aside, I am not sure what it takes to get onto the show, but apparently a subtle nod from across the room at the Oregon Toy Safari in James’s general direction while he’s looking away and eating a Tim Tam is not enough.  Next time I am going to try holding the Tim Tams before I give him that subtle nod, and maybe a playful wink and maybe add in a come-hither look.)
So, slighted at my changes of audio fame,  I decided I’d answer this question here. 
So, What The Heck is DEIMOS?
I am so glad you asked!
Along the lines of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and the DCEU (DC Extended Universe), DEIMOS is  the name that defines the universe my work exists in. It is a name that I invented, while walking thru the mean streets of Zurich 20 minutes ago, so totally legit.  DEIMOS stands for “Dave’s Enigmatic Intersecting Multiverse (Or Something)” It is basically the name for the universe in which reside all of my toy photos.
So now that I have a long term established universe for my work, we can discuss the rules that govern it.
When I say rules, I mean the same definition of rules like the Rule Of Thirds, or the Rules Of Composition – basically, they are guidelines, and can be violated at will if it serves the art.
Also, while I am on a tangent, the following are the rules of DEIMOS.  In no way am I implying that these are rules your work should follow. That would be both incredibly arrogant, and rather boring.  You are free to define the rules of your toy universes anyway that floats your boat. These are mine, and mine only (tho you can borrow them if you like.)
Can We Get To The Rules Now?
Sure, tho like I said, these are more guidelines than actual rules.  Here we go.
Rule 1:   Mixing universes is totally allowed
I haven’t done a lot of mixing of universes, but it is allowed in the DEIMOS.  My Star Wars characters live in the same multiverse as the Marvel characters, so there isn’t really anything preventing them from mixing it up now and then.  It just doesn’t happen often due to the distances of space and time separating the universes.
So once we solve that whole space-time thing, expect a lot more mixing of worlds in my multiverse.
Mixing genres is allowed in DEIMOS, but some care is required to not violate space-time.

Rule 2:  Characters behavior follows their established canon
This basically means that I don’t change characteristics of a given character.  Regardless of where they are placed, Luke Skywalker will always be a good guy. Depending on the age of Luke he may be a whiny brat, or a wise wizard, but always be a good guy.  Furthermore Darth Vader will always be a bad ass with a short fuse. Tony Stark will always be a snarky genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist.  Ewoks will always be yub nub. (You get the idea.)
This is likely why I, like many others, like Stormtroopers.  Due to their anonymous nature of their helmets, they can be anyone, and have any characteristics, so they can be used for pretty much any situation.
Stormtrooper surfing on a sea of foam

Rule 3:  There is no rule 3
Rule 4:  The characters actions must be plausible to their character
Basically this means that whatever the character is doing, it must be plausible and true to his character.  If Captain America visits the Star Wars universe, he’d still be a good guy. If Darth Vader ever came to earth, he would still be a short tempered death wizard villain, and not, say, a pizza delivery guy.  
No matter where he goes, Vader will always love a good force choke.

Again I am not saying that you can’t make Vader a pizza delivery guy in your universe, just saying it is highly unlikely to happen in mine.  Even if it did happen in mine, he’d still be a short tempered death wizard, so you better tip him very, very well.
Rule 5: Mixing LEGO and action figures is perfectly cromulent
DEIMOS does not discriminate between toys.  They can all mix together as they wish.  I’m not here to judge.
Deadpool watching TV Head

Rule 6:  Humans and Toys Totally Mix
When I talk about my universe, I am not kidding.  I do other work besides toys, and it all works together.  Humans and toys are totally allowed to mix, and not in that Toy Story “living in denial” method. Actual mixing.Dave being held up by Chewbacca.

Anything Else?
So those seem to encompass the rules of my universe, DEIMOS.  There are likely some other rules I go by, like “all elements in the frame must serve the story”, and “No Smurfs. Ever.”  but those govern all my work, not just the toys, so they are not really worth mentioning here.
Do you have rules you follow in your toy photography?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Weekend In North Myrtle Beach

I spent last weekend in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  The following are some photos from that trip.

My parents, and my sister, bro-in-law, and nieces were all in North Myrtle Beach for the week.  Since we live just 5 hours away, and normally they are back in Canada at 15+ hours away, we decided to toss the kids in the van and make a long weekend out of it.

Fortuitous timing had the remnants of a hurricane that hit Mexico arrived on our first day, so the weather was cold, windy, and rainy.  Despite the nasty weather we managed to get out to the beach some, including getting the above photo of Deadpool and Hulk enjoying a bro-moment at the beach.

The next day was a bit more friendly weather-wise.  Cool, windy, but dry.  So I went for a 5 mile walk to the closest pier. Along the way I got to see a whole mess of birds.

And the sun finally poking its head out for the first time.

Finally getting to the pier in peak light.

That evening we were gifted with a skim board that my nieces had outgrown.  The next day Zeke took it out into the surf and started to learn how to ride the waves.

He got pretty good at it by the end.

Abigail's speed was on the beach, where she built a castle for Belle (from Beauty And The Beast).
Shortly afterwards we headed back home.  A few short days at the beach, but we made the most of it.

One could say we body slammed it.  Maybe too literally?
Personal note:  Beaches are much more fun with action figures and cameras in hand.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

A Day In Milan

 When I was in Zurich last month, I had a day free on the schedule.  I decided that I was due for an adventure.  So I looked on the map to places I haven't been to yet, and saw that Italy was not that far away.

So I booked a train to Milan - as one does.

Turns out I could only get on an early morning train, so at 6:30am I pulled out of the Zurich Hauptbahnhof and took the leisurely 3.5 hour train ride south to Milan.

At first I thought going there was a big mistake, as the beginning of the trip seemed like a comedy of errors:

  • I had to fend off my pre-booked seat from a cranky old lady
  • My breakfast sandwich had pickles on it
  • At the Italian border someone from my car was arrested by authorities and taken off the train forcibly in handcuffs.
  • When I arrived in Milan my cell phone (which, being GoogleFi should have international roaming), stopped communicating and lost all cell signal.
  • The wifi in the Milan station requires a text message verification to get connected, which is impossible when one doesn't have cell signal.
  • I was depending on Google Maps for navigation, so I had no idea what subway train to get on.
  • The toilets, which cost money in Italy (despite being super disgusting) wouldn't accept by Euro, so no comfort stop for me.
  • I finally got cell signal again by rebooting my phone.  Train station wifi didn't work anyway.
  • Finally figured out the subway, and went to machine to get tickets, which promptly ate my 10 Euro note.
  • Managed to talk to attendant to rescue note.
  • Finally got subway tickets, and was on my way.
Three stops later, I arrived at the Duomo Cathedral.
The moment I walked into the square I knew I had made the right decision to visit.

The square was classic Italian... pigeons, old ornate architecture, Moroccan hustlers taking pictures of people holding pigeons... classic!

I stopped to take in the scenery, and to take some photos with my Hulk action figure (as one does) in front of the cathedral.  Ended up looking like this:

I then stated walking around the city, along old streets, and the old ornate archtecture.

This is a mall.  Yep, a mall. Called the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

This is the central ceiling of the mall.

So after this I decided to do some geocaching.  I got so involved in that I forgot to take a lot of photos... so you're going to have to trust me.  I ended up walking 9 miles, found 7 caches, and checked out some more of the streets, and an awesome castle in a park.

When it got close to supper time I stopped off at a restuarant with seating on the street, and had myself some pasta.

On the way back to the subway I followed an Oompa oompa band... as one does.

Then at 7:30 I got back on the train and headed off to Zurich.

My issues were not over tho.... on the way back we stopped just across the Italian border.  I asked why, and was told there was a fire in a tunnel ahead.  I may have misheard what the attendant said tho as 15 minute later the tracks were clear... however we lacked a Swiss train driver, so we waited another 30 minutes before we were able to move again.

So just before midnight I crashed into my hotel room and fell asleep.  Milan was tiring, tested by patience at times, but man, what a nice town.

Friday, October 05, 2018

A Day In Lucerne

A few months ago I was on a work trip to Switzerland.  I had a couple off days, so I decided to spend one of them checking out Lucerne.

This is a few moments that happened during that day.

Lucerne is a relatively short 45 minute train ride away from Zurich.  I took my time to get there, and spent the morning around the lake, and playing with the local swans.

After lunch I headed over to check out some of the history of this ancient town.  Starting with the Lion of Lucerne.  The lion is a relief carved in stone, with a nice pond in front of it.  It was carved in 1820, and is a monument to a massacre of Swiss troops during the French revolution in 1792.
Lucerne is infected with a lot of tour busses, and therefore crowds.   I spent a good 30 minutes at the monument, during which time 4 busses of tourists came thru.  Bus tours are the worst.

However they didn't keep me from finding my first geocache of my trip. I don't cache much anymore, but when I am at a cool location like this I get inspired to pull out the Geocaching app and see what is near by.  In this case there was a cache in the woods right at the edge of the monument.
After communing with the lion, I walked along the Musegg wall, which is a section of wall from medieval times, 1386.  This is the thing I love about Europe - nothing in North America is anywhere near this old.
The far end of the wall leads to a walk along the Reuss River, and more of the ancient architecture of the town.
I found a nice place along the river to grab a beer, sit back, and enjoy the town as it past me by.  Highly relaxing way to go - I recommend it as a strategy.

Shortly after I finished by beer and started walking again I came across a street performer, doing street performer things.
I then crossed Kappelbrucke, and spotted this perfectly lit tourist posing for her friend.  I sniped a photo.  This isn't remarkable in any way except it serves as a reminder that shortly afterwards I became a Lucerne Tourist Attraction.
So as I was coming off Kappelbrucke, I noticed a bunch of chinese tourists taking photos.  They were all excited, as chinese tourists tend to be.  One of them, an older gentleman, aimed his camera at me,  so I waved at him,  One of the ladies then aimed his camera at me, so I waved again. (I'm friendly like that.)

I went to walk past them, but they waved me over.  Before I knew it I was a part of a large group photo of tourists.  Then they switched out and I was included in another photo.  Finally I had my photo taken with the  gentleman who first took my picture.

There was much laughing, and good times.  I seemed to be a hit.  I just imagine that family talking about that large Swiss man they met, not knowing I am a fraud (from a Swiss perspective - I am legitimately large).

So back to Kappelbrucke.  In english it is known as Chapel Bridge.  It is a rather long wooden pedestrian bridge  - seveal hundred feet across the Ruess River.  Along the way are dozens of religious themed paintings so passerby's will spend time contemplating their eternal souls whilst they cross the river.

Now its a tourist attraction.  Mind you, a very pretty one.

Around this time a co-worker, who went off on a hike that day, was passing thru Lucerne on his way back to Zurich, so he stopped by and we spend some time exploring the city together.  Joel is the photographer in this photo.
Shortly after that we headed off for supper, then got on a train back to Zurich.

Lucerne is a nice town, and I hope to make it back here some day.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

The One About The Swiss Swan

So there I was in Lucerne Switzerland, walking along Lake Lucerne, singing Lucerne In The Sky With Diamonds, and giggling to myself at the clever, clever pun (internally laughing.  Outwardly I was stoic, I didn't want to appear too jolly in front of the Swiss).

When out of the corner of my eye I spotted a majestic swan, swanning out in the middle of the lake.  I sat down on the bank, and started taking his picture.  Suddenly he started swimming slowly towards me.
He slid up right beside me.  I kept taking photos the whole time.  He seemed as happy as a clam, or a swan, or a swan clam, whatever combination denotes super happy fun times in the animal kingdom.

He mugged for the camera, turning his head this way, and that way.   At one point in time I was going to ask him to do duck lips, but then I realized that was likely racist and culturally insensitive in the avian world, so I didn't.
 All was good until I zoomed my camera in to get an extreme closeup.  As my lens extended outwards, the white beast began to hiss.  He was having none of his extreme closeups (what a diva!)

I spoke sternly, and told him that if he wanted this model shoot to continue he would have to behave himself, learn some manners, and generally be civil.  Otherwise it wasn't worth the money I was getting paid (to be fair we were both just working for exposure).

Eventually he calmed down, and I clocked in this masterful (if I do say so myself), portrait.

After that, Mr "I don't like closeups", swam away.  He left so quickly he didn't leave any contact information for me to send his prints, so I hope he gets the chance to read this post.
Until then, this image will be the last memory I had of the time that I shot a Swan up close in Lucerne.

Wordless Wednesday