Frodo and Sam argue over where they took a wrong turn on the way to Mordor.
Today’s scene features a crossover of Frodo and Sam from The Lord of the Rings into the 100 Acre Wood from the LEGO Disney set 21326 Winnie the Pooh.
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
Having used the big oak tree from Winnie the Pooh’s house as a background on recent shots, I wondered what crossover might be fun to stage. I immediately thought of Frodo and Sam, and the forests they traverse on their way to Mordor: the Old Forest, Trollshaws, and Lórien. (for LOTR fans, I just came across the LOTR Project, which brings J.R.R. Tolkien’s works to life through creative web projects such as interactive maps and timelines).
My preferred style is low key photography with soft lighting: predominantly dark and dramatic scenes, with light emphasizing only specific areas of the frame and with smooth transitions between light and shadow.
I use a continuous light source, which in combination with my camera’s live view, allows me to see in real time the result of my light positioning and shaping.
This is a simple one light setup:
- Key light: Litrapro with softbox, positioned with a Platypod gooseneck arm and Ultra tripod base
- Reflectors: DIY with folded recipe cards, to provide fill and to help 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 considered the pair the subject, and emphasized them equally with lighting, depth of field, and prominence. I chose to leave the sign clear enough to read, but slightly blurred to give a cinematic look.
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 their forelocks as anchor points. I filled the space beneath them with their reflection, for both aesthetic and balancing purposes. I centred the sign between them to provide context, and left the remainder as negative space to help define the focus area.
Instead of sharing the 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.
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 another 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.