Anybody else think of Full Metal Jacket when they hear this?
Today’s #troopertuesday mashup brings in Mickey and Mini Mouse from the LEGO Ideas set 21317 Steamboat Willie, based on the 1928 Disney animated short of the same name.
The above lyrics are from the The Mickey Mouse Club March, the opening theme from the TV show that aired in the United States from 1955-1959. The show was well before my time, but I do remember the tune from my early childhood years.
However, I’m a big fan of cinema and the version that sticks in my head is from the end of Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam War film Full Metal Jacket, when the US Marines sing the song to ironic effect as they march out the city after the Battle of Hué.
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
- Subject Isolation
My original idea had nothing to do with Full Metal Jacket though – that connection only came to me after the shoot. I was simply looking to do a mashup for #troopertuesday, and remembered that our youngest has just rebuilt our Steamboat Willie set. With its black and white colour scheme, I thought that Mickey and Minnie would look great in Stormtrooper armour. So I decided to put them on foot patrol, much like I did for last week’s Sandtroopers blog post.
A little creepy…
My preferred style is low key photography: predominantly dark and dramatic scenes, with light emphasizing only specific areas of the frame.
Today’s lighting setup was pretty typical for me:
- Main light: Litrapro with softbox, positioned with a Platypod gooseneck arm and Ultra tripod base
- Background light: Litraprod with grid, lying flat on a tabletop surface
- Reflectors: two DIY bounce cards, to provide fill on the subjects and soften the light
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 decided to make Mickey the main subject, with Minnie as a secondary subject adding context to the scene. To isolate Mickey I used a few techniques:
- Depth of field: Knowing the shallow depth of field at this working distance, I focussed on Mickey’s eye to make him sharp and Minnie blurred
- Light: Mickey is the brighter of the two, and I’ve placed the background light so that it emphasizes his head only.
- Composition: more on this below, but Mickey is prominent as the leading trooper and is looking towards the viewer
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 Mickey eye as an anchor point. To create a balanced image, I used Minnie’s eye 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.
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 with a crop:
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.