Yippee ki-yay, kids!!!

It’s #spacecowboysaturday and this wrangler is ready to ride!

Today’s character features a mashup of parts, consisting mostly of Apocalypse Benny from the LEGO Movie 2. The black horse (with movable legs) is from The Lord Of the Rings theme and was included in two LEGO sets: 9472 Attack on Weathertop and 79007 Battle at the Black Gate.

Behind the Scenes

I enjoy sharing a look at the process behind my work and my creative journey. Writing about it daily is new for me, but it seems to prompt a level of critical thinking that leads me to a deeper understanding and to new ideas.

Photography has long been my passion. With the level of technology available to us today, it’s easier than ever to take a technically competent photograph. And yet, some images still clearly ‘work’ more than others.

With LEGO photography, where we can often control almost every aspect of the scene, I believe that investing time and mental energy in the creative process can help make that difference. So I consider four fundamental things in making an image:

  • The Idea
  • Light
  • Subject Isolation
  • Composition

The Idea

Today’s idea was inspired by the painting Napoleon Crossing the Alps, by French artist Jacques-Louis David in 1802. First displayed at the Louvre, this has become the most reproduced image of Napoleon.

By Jacques-Louis David – kb.dk pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1478444

I decided to create a whimsical space cowboy homage to this classic work of art.

I built the scene on the same charred cedar plank as I have in recent photos – its been surprisingly useful!


I decided to experiment with a different lighting technique today: DIY reflectors using white letter-sized paper.

I used a single key light: LitraPro with softbox, positioned overhead with Platypod gooseneck arms and an Ultra tripod base.

For the reflectors, I used a small pair of butterfly clips each on the two sheets of paper. By leaning the top of the pages against my softbox, they held themselves upright just out of the image frame.

But why? Well, white reflectors bounce light that is nice and soft and which helps fill shadows. I wanted to create dramatic image with mood and mystery, with only the rider and horse’s head highlighted. For the remainder, I wanted deep blacks, but with also with hints of detail to catch our eyes.

For my experiment I shot in full manual mode: both pictures were taken at ISO 100, f/8, and 2 seconds. You can see the difference the reflectors made:

These crops show that they were particularly effective at lifting the shadows under the brim of the hat.

They also brightened the blaster and made the tail visible.

There wasn’t any difference worth showing on the left hand side; most of the light on the horse’s head and shoulders was coming from above, while the lower legs were simply too far away from that side.

Techie types may be interested to know that my centre-weighted camera metering indicated about a third stop difference between the two shots:

  • Without reflectors: -2.3 EV (Exposure Value)
  • With reflectors: -2.0 EV

Subject Isolation

Subject isolation was easily achieved through brightness and colour. Really not too much more to say about this.


Similarly for composition, I placed his face at a rule of thirds intersection, and pulled back far enough so that the horse’s eye was roughly on the left third vertical line.

Tech Stuff

Given that today’s shot was experimental, I modified my standard LEGO photography approach:

  • Different:
    • Manual exposure vs aperture priority (so that I could ensure the same exposure and measure the EV difference)
  • Same:
    • Tripod mounted mirrorless camera set to ISO 100 and triggered with 2 second delayed shutter
    • 120mm macro lens shot at f/8 and manually focused using magnified live view
    • Post processing the RAW files with custom white balance, luma curve, saturation, contrast, sharpness, vignette, levels, and dust removal

Up Close and Personal

Macro photography allows us to see small objects in spectacular detail. For me, LEGO minifigures are perfect subject material.

I decided to shoot the horse instead of the cowboy, because I just couldn’t resist. (wait…. that doesn’t sound right, does it?)

Tight crop. Very nice.

Wrap Up

Time again to close out with the before and after shots, showing the result of transforming my idea through deliberate lighting, subject isolation, and composition choices.



Published by Scott Murphy

Photography for the love of it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: