We all know a Carl. Maybe you’ve even been in Carl’s shoes. Either way, my brush with Carl and his friends was the result of circumstance. Read on and maybe you’d like to try the editing technique yourself.
The picture of Carl and his forgetfulness happened after an entire afternoon of shooting. I’d managed to shoot everyone I took with me that day with the exception of the little, angry looking Lego Troopers. I really try to limit myself to the number of figures I take with me when I go out. I only started doing that after hearing Thomas Heaton speak about how he goes out to shoot one or two pictures an outing. It’s taught me to get more from what I brought, instead of chasing twenty different pictures at one time. Quality over quantity I guess.
Here’s the scene; I’m on the beach and it’s getting dark, fast! I had an image in mind for the Lego Troopers but the fading light was making that idea near impossible. Improvise! I really wanted to shoot these guys before I went home.
I was sitting on a rock looking at the three of these guys, brainstorming. Marching? Nah, boring. Too dark for a shot by the waves. The sun was down and I wouldn’t get a good silhouette… CAMP FIRE! A few complications came to mind.
It had been raining. Would I be able to find something dry and IN SCALE to create a campfire with?
It was windy. I’m always fighting the wind when I’m on the beach. I could deal with this.
IF I can get a campfire going, it’s going to be small and won’t produce the “warm glow” I wanted to get in this shot. Again, improvise!
So, for this shot I used my Canon 6D, Canon EF50mm f/1.8, a giant Bic lighter, a very old and very reliable el cheap-o wireless shutter trigger and my Joby Gorilla Pod. I quickly scoured the beach for something to use for a campfire and found some beach grass that had washed up well away from the high tide line. It was “dry-ish” and all I could find. I hoped it would work!
I was going to make this a two shot composite. One shot with the campfire and another to incorporate the glow. Glow first. I set Carl and his friends up in a half-circle around the beach grass. Set my camera to Manual, f3.5, iso100 and checked my exposure reading while I held the lighter above the figures. I adjusted the exposure so I had a nice little mountain in my histogram and ended up with a 1.0 second exposure. With everything ready to go, I hit the button on the remote shutter release and BINGO. Warm glow achieved.
On to the campfire. Honestly, this is the image I wasn’t too confident about. I was worried I’d (hopefully) get the beach grass lit and it would blow away or immediately go out. So again, I got the camera set up, same settings as before except I knocked the exposure down 1 full stop to compensate for any flame from the campfire. I lit the beach grass with one hand, finger on the remote button with the other and hoped for the best!
BINGO! The toyphotography gods were with me this evening.
I was reasonably certain I’d be able to work with what I’d captured, so I collected up the guys, did a double check to make sure I hadn’t dropped someone and headed back to my computer to edit.
The final image was a very mildly edited version of the two I’d taken. I layered the two images and used a mask in Photoshop to blend in the glow from the first shot. I was really happy with the way the background appeared, the separation of subjects from environment and the overall tone of the shot. I used a healing brush, again in Photoshop, to eliminate the lens flare from the camp fire. A little cropping and the image was ready to be called finished.
I’m quite happy with the final. I’m also pleased that five minutes of brainstorming and a little resourceful scrounging on the beach produced an image of some figures I enjoy a lot. How can you not laugh when you look at those angry little faces on the helmets? I’m no expert at shooting Lego MiniFigures, but they are portable, relatively easy to shoot, fun to put into ridiculous scenarios and extremely versatile when it comes to environments. All reasons why I’ve found myself in a bit of a Lego toyphotography binge.
Hope you enjoy this look behind the scenes. There’s always more to a picture then what’s seen at first glance. Have a story about a shot you took or a question about this one? Feel free to leave a comment!