Saturday, May 09, 2020

Scavenger Hunt Round 27

I am deep into making images for the 28th round of the Scavenger hunt, and I just realized I forgot to post my images for the 27th round, so here you go!

Car
Frozen
Jam
Lavender
Light Trails
Row
Spiral
Steps
Time
Touch

Friday, February 14, 2020

Making A Statement On Racism With Toy Photos


Go back in your mind to the early 19780s in Ontario Canada and imagine a little boy watching TV and stumbling across a show about two cousins who fight a comedically corrupt mayor and bumbling sheriff by driving fast around their county in an orange sports car with a fancy flag on the roof.

I bet you imagine that kid falling in love with that show.  As that kid I can tell you that the Dukes of Hazzard became one of my most favourite shows on TV. The car, known as the General Lee, was my favourite vehicle.  I also knew that the fancy flag that dominated the roof was a confederate flag, but at the time it didn't bother me so much.

Growing up in Canada I had no real concept of racism.  I knew slavery was a thing, but I thought it mostly died out during the Civil War.  I also knew about Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s.  However I wasn't exposed to racism on a daily basis, so I assumed, surely, the "greatest nation on earth" would have solved that problem by now.

Sometime along the way I picked up a model of the General Lee.  It was a memento of my favourite show from my childhood, and I thought nothing of it.  It sat in its see-thru box on a shelf in my office for years.

Fast forward to 2008 when I moved to North Carolina, USA, with my wife, and we started settling down and raising a family.  Living here,  it slowly dawned on me that the "greatest nation on earth", who I thought had solved its racism problem a long time ago, didn't. 

After Trump's campaign made it OK for people to be openly assholes again some folks in my area started driving around trucks with big confederate flags flying on the back.  Then in Virginia the Klan held an open rally and waved that flag, right along side the swastika, killing several people in the process.  I couldn't live with my assumptions that racism wasn't really a problem anymore.

Racism is alive and well in America, and the confederate flag was one of its biggest symbols*.  I was no longer proud to have that flag on a car on my shelf anymore.

This was extra unfortunate as, with the flag removed, the show and the car is actually quite fun, and as a toy photographer I really wanted to make images with it.  It is a sexy car, and would look great on camera.  However I could not reconcile the idea of taking a shot of a car with such a famously racist symbol on the roof. Even if I didn't actually show the roof in the frame, the flag was so iconic it would come to mind for anyone viewing my image. (I had actually considered Photoshopping a different flag onto it, but that still didn't feel right.)

So fast forward to January 2020 when I needed a car to shoot for the Photography Scavenger Hunt.  I wracked my brain for ideas, and as you can imagine, the General Lee model on my shelf kept creeping into my mind. 

Over the few months previous I have been watching some tutorials on tested.com about how to age and rust up cars using paint and other techniques.  Finally it clicked how I could shoot this car.  Make it old.  Make it rusted.,  Make it abandoned in the woods.

So that is what I did.

Now that car, with its racist symbology, isn't a shiny object of envious desire with a proud owner.  It is a relic.  A rusted, beat up, shell of a car that no one loves anymore, abandoned and forgotten. Waiting for the natural world to reclaim it.  Just as racism is an outdated pathetic, rusted out idea that that needs to be abandoned and forgotten. 

That is how I ended up shooting a car I've loved since childhood as an abandoned hunk of junk, and appeasing my conscience in the process.

Fuck racism.

*  There are so many reasons that the confederate flag is such a problem. Those that fly it have serious issues with understanding history, logic, reason, and what patriotism means. Being racist is just their biggest offense, and the only one that is unacceptable.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

One Toe, Two Toes, Three Toes, Broke


As I posted on Facebook on New Years Eve:  I may have the worlds first Scattergories injury (tho others want to claim it as a hockey injury, but really its a much less unique accident while walking while staring at a cell phone injury).


So at 7:30-8ish PM on New Years Eve I was lying down in the guest room of my in-laws house up in Ontario Canada.  I was relaxing and watching a recorded NHL game: Rangers vs my beloved Maple Leafs.  It was close to the end of the second period when my wife texted me from the first floor living room saying the rest of the family was about to start playing Scattergories (one of those word based party games).

Since I had a few minutes to go in the period I decided to watch the rest as I went down stairs.   I got to the 3rd last step when suddenly my feet kicked out from underneath me, my phone went flying, my butt went thumpy thumpy, and I slid down the rest of the stairs to the bottom step.  At which time I took stock of the situation. Most of me felt surprisngly fine, but my right foot hurt.  I slipped off my sock and saw that my middle toe was no longer facing the same direction as the rest of the toes.

To top it off sometime between my foot slipping and me arriving ungracefully at the bottom the Rangers scored on the Leafs.  Literal insult to injury.

So shortly after I got to my feet, my wife drove me to the emergency room of the local hospital.  X-rays confirmed that I indeed had two broken toes. (My first bone break ever - I am so proud) One had a simple crack, the other misshapen one was broken clean in half.  The doctor straightened the middle one, taped me up, and sent me on my way.  He did suggest that I go see an orthopedic surgeon to look at the middle toe.

So we went back to my in-laws house.  The annoying thing was that the emergency room didn't have any orthopedic boots in stock, nor crutches (very small town), so I had to use my hiking boots as a supporting boot.  The next day was New Years Day so I couldn't buy a boot, but fortunately I was able to borrow crutches from my wife's cousin.   So armed with mobility we headed off to complete our plans for New Years Day, which was visiting a photographer friend who wanted to get some portraits of me for his series of beard portraits,

The next day, Thursday, we drive home the 12.5 hours back from Canada.  Once home I booked an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon for Monday, and ordered an orthopedic boot off Amazon.  I was soon back in a hobbling but mobile state for the weekend.

The emergency room gave me my x-rays on CD-ROM, so a family doctor friend offered to drop by the house on Friday to take a look at my x-rays for a second opinion.  Once I downloaded a viewer for the images I quickly realized that I actually had a third broken toe.  So the 2nd and 4th toe had cracks, and the third was a clean break.

The orthopedic surgeon looked at my foot on Monday and his first comment was "Yep, you broke 4 toes."   Its a well documented myth that vaccines cause autism, but apparently every time I see a new doctor I break another toe!  After closer examination it was determined that the 4th "break" was likely an old injury, or an x-ray smudge.

Never been more relieved to only have 3 broken toes!

So surgery was booked for Wednesday (yesterday). 

For surgery prep I was basically told to keep my foot elevated at all times, to reduce swelling.  This basically means I spent a couple days lying on the couch and lying in bed.  Before this I was able to go downstairs to my studio basement and get some creativity in.  Staying still has been a challenge.

So the surgery was pretty simple, and pretty unremarkable as things go. I left the house at 9:30, and returned at 2:30.  I was under general anesthetic for about an hour. 

The surgery was to have a pin inserted into my middle toe to keep it stable to give the bone a change to heal cleanly.  However it also means I am basically not allowed to put any weight on my right foot,  and keep it elevated as much as humanly possible.

Annoyingly I am actually less mobile that I was before the surgery.  This is actually mentally very hard to deal with. Previously I could get into my studio and be creative, and do things.  Now I am stuck upstairs, and really limited to the bed or the couch. 

I  described it to my wife as it feels like the exact opposite of depression.  When I was having depression episodes I had all the desire to go do things, my flesh was willing, but I couldn't get up the mental energy to actually get off the couch to go do it. 

Now I want to go do things,  and I have all the mental energy and desire to go do them, but my flesh is keeping me on the couch.

The one benefit of having depression is that I am more aware of how things affect my mood, so I can deal with the mental stresses much better than I otherwise would have - yay for emotional intelligence!

So for now I am taking a couple days off work while I am on post-op pain meds.  Then I will be working from home for at least a week.  I have a follow up appointment next Wednesday to see how I am doing, and whether the doctor will allow me to go to work, or at least go downstairs to my studio.

Until then, its bed rest for me!

And thus ends the story of my 3 broken toes.


Saturday, December 07, 2019

3D Busts

So lately I have been getting into painting models.  These are the results of my current projects, which are busts of science fiction characters.  These are the finished products:

 These busts start out as models printed on the 3D Printers in the Makerspace at work.  It takes about 20 to 24 hours to print a full bust, which are 6-8 inches tall.
 The colour of the plastic changes, as you can see, Thanos' plastic being being black, and Batman's being the odd (for him) shade of white.

Fortunately these models came out of the printer without needing much cleanup, so I was able to jump straight to the paint stage.

All of the busts are painted with spray paint.  I started with laying down a layer of primer, then the appropriate colours for the character.   I wanted to go with a metallic look, so I primarily used metallic paint.

Once I had the base coat down, I masked off the model using the appropriately named masking tape.  I wanted to give the impression of a coloured metal, not a painted figure. However there isn't a shade of metallic paint in the shade I wanted (at least in the store I was in) so I lightly dusted the figures with normal colour paint, which allows the metallic finishes to still shine through.

This shot is pre-painted.

This is how it looked with the paint applied.
 Finally the magical reveal when the masking tape is removed.

The finished product.

The following shots are the finished model of Batman.  I used fleckstone paint for the base.
 I wanted an aged weathered look for the Stormtrooper helmet.
 Thanos was trickier to do. The armour is simple gold paint.  However the face was trickier.  When picking out the spray paint in the store, I tried to match his skin colour with images on my phone.  I (and my wife, who was helping with the colour choice) thought grape would be the closest fit.

Turns out grape coloured paint makes him look like, not shockingly, a grape.  To lessen the effect I dusted on some peach colour, and finally a light dusting of metallic paint to get a skin tone that more closely matches the character.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

3D Printed Skull

While I love toy photography, one of the frustrating things about it is finding props and other things that are at the proper scale for my action figures. Recently I have discovered that I, along with a maker space I have access to via my employer, have the ability to create some of my own props.

One of my recent projects is a skull.  I have often wanted a good looking scaled skull, so I decided to make one.

This is the finished result.

The skull started out life as a long filament of 1.75mm grey plastic.    I printed it off on the magical machine that is the 3D printer in the maker space.  Despite being pretty small (1/6 scale), it took 2.5 hours to print, so its handy I can do it at work between meetings, and while waiting for code to compile.
 3D printers, at least the ones I have access to, work by laying down a thin layer of hot plastic, then once its done the first layer it shifts up a smidge and starts on the next layer, slowly building up the model. It is your basic future tech in the present.  We never got our promised jet packs and flying cars, but we got machines that can print objects out of nothing.  I think we got the better end of the deal.

When a model has holes and overhangs, the 3D printer will automatically add brims and supports, and infills, to ensure the plastic doesn't distort while it cools.   This is why the print above looks so funny - it is full of supports.

So the next step is to remove those supports.  Took about 15 minutes to remove them all, and then sand down some rough spots.  The "cleaned up" model looked like this.
 At this point I had a mini human skull, but it was an unrealistic and unphotogenic grey plastic colour.  Its off to the paints!

I started by spray painting on some primer (which, ironically, made the model even more grey).  I then covered the entire skull in a bone-white-ish colour using acrylic paint and a brush.
The painted skill is at least the right colour, but its still lacks character, so I used a series of black and brown paint washes to age up the skull, until I got it to look the way envisioned.
Isn't it amazing what a bit of plastic and paint can produce?

My skull is complete.  Now I just need an idea for a photo to use it in.  If you have ideas, let me know in the comments below.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Scavenger Hunt Round 26: Welcome To Oz

These are my entries for the 26th round of the Scavenger Hunt.  It was a bit of an unusual round as I won the last time, and therefore was a judge this round. This means I wasn't eligible for the competition this time around (conflicts of interest and all).  However I was still able to have work in the reveal albums, which is the best part anyway.

These are the images I came up with:

Courage

What else are teddy bears for than to defend us from monsters while we sleep?  Thanks to my daughter for modeling as the sleeping child.
Coward
One of two shots taken at Moses Cone on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Thanks to @harri.hawk for lending me the Jason figure.
Curtain

A lover watching his love shower, or a creepy stalker.  You decide! (for the record I was going for the lover bit)
Home

There ain't no place like home (and by home I mean sewer). I made the sewer grate on the Glowforge at work.
Monkey

Hit-Monkey is a little known Marvel character.  I decided to go back in time to Round 23 to resurrect my comic book cover theme for this one.
Rainbow

Even tough guys have a tender side.
Road

The second shot to come from Moses Cone.  I built the road out of LEGO.  Really fun to make and shoot.
Selective Colour

The tricky thing about words like this is that the picture can be anything. So I decided to find the most interesting action figure I hadn't shot yet and make that my Selective Colour.  This is the awesome samurai themed line of figures from Bandai.
 Sepia

Again, the image could be anything, so its hard to narrow down ideas.  I decided to shoot one of my first figures I got as an adult, Optimus Prime, but have never shot, and put him in an interesting scene. The Very Large Array, often used for SETI also makes a good background for the transformers, who are trying to get back to their home planet.
Wizard

This may be slightly autobiographical.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Swiss Chronicles: Trümmelbach falls

During my recent Swiss adventures I visted Trümmelbach falls. These falls are unique due being located inside a mountain.  

 There is actually a series of falls, all inside a mountain and accessible via tunnels and stairs built both on the outside and inside of the mountain.

Trümmelbach falls is located in the valley of Lauterbrunnen.  Since Lauterbrunnen was J R R Tolkiens inspiration for Rivendell, it would not surprise me if these falls served as the inspiration for the Mines of Moria (tho I have no reason to believe this is true - it just reminded me of Moria).

See what I mean?

The power of the falls is quite intense.  Each one would be a tourist draw in and of itself. 10 in a row is quite spectacular.  You can sense the power in the falling water, and I visited at a pretty dry time of year where glacier runoff (the source of the falls) was not at peak.

I could also envision Gollum crawling over these rocks.

Some of the stairs were quite long.  This one is at least 2 storeys worth of stairs, all at once.

This is the pool at the top of the falls (at least at the top of the tunnel system). It is a long way back from here.
So that is Trümmelbach falls.  If you are every in the region, this is a must-stop destination.