Who goes there?

For #troopertuesday I’m featuring a pair of Imperial Sandtroopers.

Sandtroopers are a specialized type of Stormtrooper, trained and equipped to operate on desert worlds such as Tatooine, Jakku, and Jedha. Their armour is upgraded with cooling fans, helmets with sand filters, and they carry survival backpacks with extra rations and water.

We first saw Sandtroopers very early on in Star Wars (I still have a hard time calling it Episode IV – A New Hope…), when a detachment was sent to Tatooine’s surface to search for the Tantive IV escape pod and missing Death Star plans.

Today’s characters come from the massive LEGO Star Wars set #75290 Mos Eisley Cantina:

  • Sandtrooper Squad Leader/Captain – orange pauldron, ammo pouch, dirt stains, survival backpack
  • Sandtrooper (Enlisted) – black pauldron, ammo pouch, dirt stains, survival backpack

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

My thought was to show a pair of troopers on foot patrol at night, on edge as they traverse a bleak landscape.

I placed the troopers on a charred piece of cedar, and used a black painted wall as a background.

Light

My preferred style is low key photography: predominantly dark and dramatic scenes, with light emphasizing only specific areas of the frame.

I used a two light setup today:

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

I chose this setup to provide soft lighting on the troopers, with the bounce cards filling in the shadows. The background light adds some overall brightness and visual interest – check out the difference:

Subject Isolation

The subject is ultimately what the photo is about, and there should be no doubt in the viewer’s mind as to what it is.

I isolated the Sandtrooper Captain in a few ways:

  • Composition: more on this below, but the Captain is prominent as the leading trooper and is looking towards the viewer
  • Depth of field: I shot wide open at f/4 with the focus point on the Captain eyes, knowing that the shallow depth of field would make him sharp and his companion blurred
  • Colour: The orange pauldron is by far the most colourful element in the scene and draws our eye to him

Meanwhile the enlisted Sandtrooper is a contextual secondary subject, and stands out from the background with light, contrast, and colour, but not as strongly as the main subject.

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 the Captain’s eyes as an anchor point. To create a balanced image, I used the enlisted trooper’s eyes as another.

To make the scene look more dynamic, I put them in motion diagonally across the frame. I also had them looking in different directions, suggesting a continuous visual scan. To create a sense of tactical readiness, I placed their blasters in their leading hands (making sure that the barrels and scopes were catching highlights). Finally, to reinforce the martial aspects of the scene, I put them “in step” and with their arms/blasters swinging parallel to the opposing leg.

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
    • *Note: as detailed above, I shot wide open at f/4 today to minimize depth of field for subject isolation
  • 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.

This is as close as I can get with my system – the only crop is to make the image square. Now let’s get in a little tighter:

Amazing detail! I would normally have wiped off the charcoal specks, but left them on today to add to the dirt stain pattern.

Wrap Up

Time once again to close out with the before and after shots, showing how I realized my idea through deliberate lighting, subject isolation, and composition choices.

Best,

Scott.

Published by Scott Murphy

Photography for the love of it.

3 thoughts on “Who goes there?

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