toys

"I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies."

"I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies."

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.

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Sh*t Got Real JC: Part 2

Wander • Shit Got Real JC

Last week a post about my ThreeA figure "Sh*t Got Real JC" was published.  He rules.  Over the weekend I brought him over to Clough State Park, which I have done with my other ThreeA figures in the past, and spent a lovely afternoon making images with him.

Intimidation • Shit Got Real JC

A word of advice to other ThreeA collectors out there that like to take photographs of their figures:  BE CAREFUL WITH THE WRIST PEGS!  While trying to remove that awesomesauce Mad Max jacket I have for him, I pulled on the sleeve too hard and his wrist peg snapped.  This is the second time I've had a wrist peg snap - the first time was back at the start of 2017 when changing hands for my Blind Cowboy and his peg snapped.  Replacements can be found on eBay, but they are stupid expensive.  So be extra careful when doing anything with the hands or wrists.  I've since cut that long leather sleeve off the jacket, so now it's more of a badass leather vest.  Still looks excellent.

You can see a few more example images I made over on my Flickr page.

Sh*t Got Real JC • Three A Figures

Shit Got Real JC • ThreeA Figure

ThreeA figures continue to control my life.  Oh my god.

This is "Shit Got Real JC".  He's Jesus, only his arms are wrapped in bandages and he's covered in tattoos and he is 100% badass.  He roams the landscape punching out zombies when he can. When I started picking up ThreeA figures my list looked like this:

  • Blind Cowboy/Dead Equine (horse)

  • Tomorrow Kings: Cornelius

  • Fighting/Tracky JC

KDA, my first ThreeA figure, was purchased because at the time he was the lowest priced entry-level figure into the world of ThreeA figures.  He was the figure that told me "Yup, you are going to certainly want the other figures because they are incredible!" and I keep him around because he goes so well with Cornelius, which was my second figure.

There are earlier versions of JC that exist; the body of the figure is different and the head sculpt is vastly different compared to the updated Shit Got Real version. Here are two sample images I found via Googling:

Even starting right at the top of his head, JC has had some adjustments made to him for the revised "Shit Got Real" version.  As you can see in the comparison images, the original JC has flatter hair and a smaller beard.  The revised JC completely makes a new head mold and turns his hair and beard up to 11; a large spikey portion of his hair juts out, his bangs are longer over his right eye, and his beard is much longer.  His "GODLIFE" tattoo is the same, but now there are more additional tattoo's.  On the original JC, his hand bandages were part of his hand cast, but with the new JC, his arms and hands are wrapped up in actual bandages.

Overall it's a fantastic upgrade.  The only "downsides" are that his costume is much more sparse on the revised figure; the original came with a track suit and a zombie head that fit into a satchel that hung around his waist.  The revised JC looks more militant; more badass and more roughed up. Which was something that I was excited about.  Even his feet changed dramatically; the original JC had sculpted shoes whereas the revised JC has faux-leather combat boots that his legs/feet slide into.  It's really awesome.

I had been keeping an eye on JC through eBay, and when one came up at a good price, I jumped on it.  I had a few "custom" ideas that I wanted to add; a weathered leather jacket that I picked up off eBay from a Mad Max: Fury Road unlicensed 12" figure, and a wood/metal sledgehammer that I also found via eBay.  I just thought that this JC would look badass standing there holding a sledgehammer.  Forget swords or guns - he needed something raw and blunt and heavy.  The sledgehammer I found worked perfect. The great thing about 12" scale figures is all the amazing 1:6 scale accessories you can get for them.

Shit Got Real JC • ThreeA Figure

pictured: profile of JC with leather jacket and sledgehammer

I immediately make some portraits of him shortly after he and his accessories arrived, and it also gave me a chance to use this stuff called Atmosphere Aerosol.  I have been using fog machines for toy work for many years, but I've had terrible luck with fog machines; Dave let me borrow his fog machine, and after two uses it clogged up, despite me following directions on how to clean it.  Then, over the last few years, I've gone through two more fog machines - each time following exactly what the directions enclosed with the machine say on how to take care of them, and each time, after only 1 use, they both got clogged up.

So I did some googling and found Atmosphere Aerosol:

It's small and compact, and I hadn't read about any clogging issues with it, so I bought a can and gave it a test with JC:

Shit Got Real JC • ThreeA Figure

The stuff works like gangbusters! Since I'm only shooting small figures with it, a little can go a long, long way, which is awesome!

I also picked up a 1:6 scale Captain America shield for cheap jut for a little extra patriotism:

Shit Got Real JC • ThreeA Figure

I'm looking forward to taking JC out in the warmer months this summer to get some outdoor images with him.  Hopefully Sara and I will take another trip to Clough State Park, where I've taken images of my other ThreeA figures.

I love these figures - so expressive, so badass.  They are so damn fun to make photographs with.

Annie Are You Okay?

Michael Jackson S.H. Figuarts

As y'all probably know by now, I love action figures and toys.  I've always had an action figure in my hand since I was a little kid.  I'm a bit of a pop-culture junkie, and when I was in college, I started photographing some of my toys as portraits, and over the years I've done a few series' and lots of individual images.

toys hanging on studio wall and displayed on shelf

toys hanging on studio wall and displayed on shelf

For Christmas, Sara got me a few figures that had me really excited.  One was a Michael Jackson figure dressed in his "Smooth Criminal" video outfit, and the second was a Freddie Mercury figure, both by Japanese toy makers BanDai & Tamashii Nations, who also made the totally awesome Daft Punk figures I got years ago.

I spent a little time with Michael Jackson at the studio one afternoon.  It also gave me a chance to try out a can of Atmosphere Aerosol.  I've been using and having terrible luck with Fog Machines for years.  I've bought three different brands of fog machine and every time I've tried to follow the directions exactly as listed in the manuals and these machines would always bind or gunk up after my very first use.  It got so frustrating when these stupid things wouldn't work any longer.

I was poking around the Interwebz and saw a wedding photographer using this Atmosphere Aerosol for a portrait in a barn.  It was small and portable, unlike those big fog machines, and you could use it over and over without it gunking up.  Cool.

So I ordered a can from B&H and it arrived and I sat down with Micheal and we started taking some images.  For the record, I also had MJ playing on the stereo at the studio.  Just 'cuz.

Michael comes with a bunch of extra hands in different poses, a 2nd face with a different expression, and he also comes with a second torso (seen in the photo above) in his "Michael-Jackson-arms-stretched-straight-up" pose. Totally awesome.

Eventually I got him posed in the image above and the lighting looked good and I set the timer on my camera, locked in focus and then sprayed a few sprays of the aerosol as the shutter clicked - and I was totally in love with the result.  The aerosol is so awesome and works amazing with small-scale figures; you hardly need any of the spray at all, and it is so much easier to use and store and have on hand.  It's a tad expensive for a can, but I think it's worth it in the end for simplicity and it should last me a good amount of time since I've only been using it for toy photography.

Here is a behind-the-scenes shot of the image up above:

S.H. Figuarts setup shot

I had three lights set up: one directly above him, like a stage-light, with a grid on it to control the beam and to create a circle of light at his feet.  I had two gridded strobes off to his left and right; gridded yellow and blue, to give some accent colors.  I had him standing on a clear piece of plastic with a piece of black backdrop paper underneath that, to make it look like a glossy stage floor. Not shown is the Atmosphere Aerosol, but I just sprayed it directly down from over his head at the right moment.

I like photographing toys because they don't really take up a ton of space and you can mostly shoot them anywhere. If I ever had to just work out of my house and not have a studio, I could continue to shoot toys with no issues, as long as I had enough space for lighting and grip.

I've spent my whole life appreciating figures and little tiny human-being models.  It allows me to still connect to my childhood joys while being able to create and totally art-direct the action and situations of the toys - exactly the same way I work with real-life clients; in controlled settings where I'm setting up lights and directing them for the sessions.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!  I love sharing the stuff that I'm passionate about.

Toys rule! :D

The Dead Equine

A while back I had posted some images I created of The Blind Cowboy; a fantastic 1/6th scale figure by ThreeA Toys.  He was originally what got me thinking non-stop about ThreeA figures.  He usually comes packaged with the Dead Equine; a giant 2o-pound horse sculpted out of polystone, and it was only available for an extremely limited time and a very expensive price.  Some people, however, like to buy ThreeA items, split up the contents, and then resell them; this was how I ended up purchasing the Blind Cowboy.  I didn't think I'd ever be able to purchase a Dead Equine, but the image of that horse was burned in my brain. A short while ago, I actually found someone that was selling just the Dead Equine without the Blind Cowboy.

...and now my Blind Cowboy/Dead Equine set is complete.

It was actually fortuitous, as the Dead Equine I purchased was literally everything that comes with the retail version *except* the Blind Cowboy.  So it's a complete set!  How awesome!

The box that the Equine comes in is HUGE.  You can't see it by this picture, but it's massively large.  I bet Sara could sit inside the box it comes it.  It also comes with a gorgeous fold-out poster featuring the artwork from the cover.

I'll be doing more formal photographs once it gets warmer outside, but right after I got him I broke out the fog machine and played around a little bit.

This is the one toy/collectible where Sara supported my purchase 100%.  When it finally arrived, she said "This is a work of art.  This is a sculpture."

It's so amazing.  Prints of my Blind Cowboy portraits are available on my Society6 page starting at $20.