Something Wicked This Way Comes

Another week has passed and it’s time for #spacecowboysaturday

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Today’s character features a mashup of minifigure parts:

  • Space suit from the Classic Space – Orange (with air tanks and updated helmet) minifigure included with the 2020 book LEGO Minifigure: A Visual History (New Edition – hardcover)
  • Face from Captain Poe Dameron (Headset) in the 2018 Star Wars set 75202 Defence of Crait
  • Revolvers from the Bandit in the Series 6 Collectibles Minifigures
  • Cowboy hat from unknown source, bought used on Bricklink

Behind the Scenes

I enjoy sharing a look at the process behind my work and my creative journey.

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 pretty generic: simply a mashup of classic space and classic cowboy elements. With the line ‘Something wicked this way comes’ from The Scottish play in mind, I browsed through my collection and came up with this:

As with many of my minimalist scenes, this one is set on a piece of black ceramic tile with black foam core as background.

Light

This setup works well for my preferred style of low key photography: predominantly dark and dramatic scenes, with only the subject highlighted.

I used two lights and and a pair of DIY reflectors to achieve this look:

  • Main: Litrapro with softbox, positioned with a Platypod gooseneck arm and Ultra tripod base.
  • Bounce cards: two 10×15 cm white folded recipe cards
  • Background: Litrapro with grid lying flat on a table top

I chose this setup to provide soft lighting on the subject, with the bounce cards filling in the shadows under the hat’s brim. I kept the horizon dark horizon and fading into infinity, evoking the vastness of outer space.

Subject Isolation

Subject isolation was easily achieved through colour and brightness. The background lighting is subtle, but does help provide separation for the subject. Not much more I can think of to say about this.

Composition

I try hard to get as close to the final image as possible in camera. To help with this I compose in live view with my mirrorless camera’s rear display, using a crop mask and grid overlay. It looked almost exactly like this:

I composed using the rules of thirds, using his eye as an anchor point, and staged him moving diagonally across the frame to create a dynamic scene. With the dual pistols at the ready, and his glance out of the frame, we sense a lurking and unknown danger.

Having filled the left side of the frame with his reflection, I left the right side as empty space to provide balance.

Tech Stuff

Instead of sharing the exact technical settings for this one photo, I’d rather share my standard operating procedure for, which can be applied to all of my LEGO photography with but few exceptions:

  • 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
  • Aperture priority centre-weighted metering with exposure compensation to taste
  • 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’m working at the limits of my system here: shooting wide open at minimum focus distance. The only crop is to make the image square, and you can see how quickly the focus falls off.

Wrap Up

Time once 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.

Best,

Scott.

Published by Scott Murphy

Photography for the love of it.

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