I LOVE the 1978 movie Alien. The atmosphere, the design, the cast, the ambience, the pacing – everything is just darn perfect. Toy company NECA has been making figures based on the movie Alien and it’s franchise, and I’ve been picking some up, making some dioramas here at the studio and making some more “cinematic” photographs using the toys. I wanted to share a little about how I’m making them and share some of them here on the blog. More after the cut:
BRING BACK LIFE FORM. PRIORITY ONE. ALL OTHER PRIORITIES RESCINDED.
Working with Alien figures first started when I picked up a few of the Super 7 Reaction Figures a few years ago. These were small sized without much detail, and I was more or less just kinda messing around with them knowing that they looked “toy”-ish.
I also tried making some images with a model that I got as part of an Xbox 360 deluxe edition game:
I liked the feel, but I wasn’t a big fan of the model, and I only got as far as the above image.
LISTEN TO ME, IF WE BREAK QUARANTINE, WE COULD ALL DIE.
But then I discovered toy company NECA. They were making Alien figures at a larger, more detailed scale. And they were making figures based on the “compression suit” design. I LOVE that design. It’s so 1970’s Heavy Metal Magazine. Alien director Ridley Scott was pulling design elements from Heavy Metal Magazine and European artist Moebius. Gorgeous designs with lots of bulky tubing and padding.
So when I saw that NECA was producing figures in their compression suits from the movie, I was all over that. I snatched some up and then sat down with some plastic tubing, cardboard, black spray paint and some small LED lights and started constructing some sets.
I also discovered that NECA also make to-scale alien eggs and face-huggers. Which I quickly ordered a set of, and used them in my images.
I’ve been using Atmosphere Aerosol instead of big, bulky fog machines (that I never have any luck with and they always end up getting clogged or broken after the first usage) and after I got my composition I’d remotely trigger the camera while spraying the fog down or into the frame.
I love how the fog creates this dense layer of atmosphere. Ridley Scott is quoted as saying “If you want to add more depth, add smoke” and he’s totally right – it can add depth and dimension.
I also love how their helmets reflect the LED lights and the environment. It adds another layer or reality to the images. I love that these might look like screen-caps from an Alien film, but it’s all being done here in my studio in a pretty small area.
This set was some kind of cardboard that came with … I can’t remember. I think it was from something we bought for our apartment and this was part of the packaging. I plopped the Alien eggs inside and put the figures on the other side of that opening. I love the little starburst of light that is coming through. I love that you can see it’s more than one figure/person. Adding more figures adds to the depth and scale.
To light these dioramas I’m using a mixture of studio strobes although I’m mostly using it with a set of finger-lights I got at the dollar store.
Because these images were being made with long-exposures, I would set the camera timer and I would paint the light into the scene and move the lights around. There is an element of trial-and-error, so I keep shooting until I see something on the back of the camera that looks good.
I then go into the image and crop them mostly to a 16:9 aspect ratio – the same format that most movies are filmed in, so that I can give it even more of a “movie” feel.
I love making these. It’s a great way to combine my passions of photography, toys, and movies all into one. I’m hoping I can make more of these in the future. I’ve got a few more “compression suit” figures that I didn’t have when I made the images above, so it’s time to make some new ones.
If you have questions, feel free to ask down below and leave a comment!
FINAL REPORT OF THE COMMERCIAL STARSHIP NOSTROMO, THIRD OFFICER REPORTING. THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE CREW – KANE, LAMBERT, PARKER, BRETT, ASH, AND CAPTAIN DALLAS – ARE DEAD. CARGO AND SHIP DESTROYED. IN SHOULD REACH THE FRONTIER IN ABOUT SIX WEEKS. WITH A LITTLE LUCK, THE NETWORK WILL PICK ME UP. THIS IS RIPLEY, LAST SURVIVOR OF THE NOSTROMO, SIGNING OFF.