Sunday, 30 September 2012

Detention Block Escape!

And so, the experimentation continues apace. Or, perhaps that should read continued. It's been another prolific month here at Mos Espa, but it's drawing to a close, as is the amount of free time I'm going to have with College starting back up. I'm already starting pre-production on two different films, and then I'm sure there'll be re-writes of the feature film script I've been hired to work on as well, so it's going to be busy. 

Updates here will likely be less frequent, but don't worry; when the stresses of words and deadlines get too much, there's nothing better to do than crack out the toys for a shoot. In the meantime, if there's anything you'd really like to see, let me know in the comments. Otherwise, as always: thank you for reading!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Streets of Mos Eisley: Re-made!

Following the incident at the Cantina, the Droids aren't the only ones wanted by the Empire...
I'm working on a new display piece for my many Tatooine figures. The moisture vaporator is a key prop, although the 30th Anniversary Luke Skywalker it came with isn't as good as the one in the picture, which comes from the Blu Ray Commemorative A New Hope set (same as Obi Wan Kenobi, in fact). That's what I love about coming a bit later to the Star Wars party; at this point I can pick and choose the best versions of each character...

Ain't no-one taking Palpatine's moisture... *shudder*
The moisture vaporator is the one diorama piece that instantly makes a set indisputably Tatooine, and you could argue that it's not even convincingly Mos Eisley (or Anchorhead, or even Mos Espa) without it. Of course, a few more Sandtroopers, Droids, Aliens and Landspeeders wouldn't go amiss either, but everyone has a budget, which I've certainly blown for a few months with my latest haul (not the vaporator - exciting news to follow, pending shipping :D)! This set is still very much a work in progress; but I have plenty of photos for a making-of when it's finally done. Just a shame I still can't decide for sure between set-building for photography, and diorama creation for display...

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Vintage Wednesdays: An Autobot Shall Rise from the Ranks

88 posts per blog. That can only mean we're time travelling for the return of... Vintage Wednesdays!

Ba-Weet Gra-Na Weet Ninnybomb!
So, Hot Rod. Since you're on this site I can assume you probably know who this guy is, but the capsule version goes something like this... Hot Rod, a young, fast tempered Autobot, fought in the 2005 battle of Autobot City. At the defeat of Unicron, Hot Rod reclaimed the Autobot Matrix of Leadership and became Rodimus Prime; however the weight of leadership proved a difficult burden to bear. Following the resurrection of Optimus Prime, Rodimus gladly relinquished the Matrix, and returned to the ranks of the Autobot warriors.

Yesterday's Car... Today!
Due to the success of the Transformers line, by 1986 Takara and Hasbro no longer needed to rely on toys from various Japanese lines, and Hot Rod was one of the first to be modelled after his animated design. As the film was set nearly two decades into the future, he was given a sleek, futuristic-car alt-mode. Needless to say, we don't really have cars like this today. But then, we don't have huge, militarised cities built and populated by robotic alien lifeforms either, so he gets a pass!

I loved this toy as a kid. Alongside Kup, Springer and Ultra Magnus I had a full on post-movie Autobot strike force (which was good, since Galvatron was freakin' huge in comparison!). Unfortunately, in an incident which shall not be named, I lost all my Transformers in one fell swoop. Much like the Ghostbusters this isn't my original version of Hot Rod, but instead a re-issued one that a friend gave me for my birthday almost ten years ago. I'd like to say that I've kept him in good condition, but see for yourself - we've got a peeling decal sticker on the leg from too much transforming, and neither of his two blasters. Sigh. I am a bad Autobot owner :(

In a straight fight, with this articulation - I would be concerned about Hot Rod's chances...
Anyway, he still takes pride in my collection, and is the only Transformer I have who has ever wielded the Matrix - this is good when you consider I have a toy shelf that includes both Galvatron and Megatron...

Well, that's this Wednesday sufficiently vintaged. Till all are one!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Escaping Utapau

I watched Episode One on Friday night, for the first time in years and in the right frame of mind to enjoy it thoroughly. Jar Jar Binks wasn't as bad as the hyperbole, and at the end I was left thinking that it was a decent Star Wars film in need of some serious editing - just trimming scenes and shots and terrible dialogue here and there, nothing too drastic. Anyway, that's kept me in a Prequel mood. I'm reluctant to watch Attack of the Clones (for obvious reasons), but feel that I probably should watch them in order to get back around to Revenge of the Sith. Yeah, it's flawed, but it's the first time in any of the Prequel series that it feels like anybody involved in making it is actually having fun...

I tried a lot of different ways of editing this shot, but in the end went back to how it was (almost) originally. Still not thrilled with it from a composition angle, but it's passable. And considering how much I've been trying to force shots this weekend when there's been nothing doing, I'll take that.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Ran Into Some Old Friends - Redux

Another quick post today, with the fruits of a hastily-planned and executed photo shoot. This is my second version of this shot (the first is available here), with one key difference - I finally have the VOTC Leia! That means I'm two-thirds of the way to my goal of getting the best modern iterations of the vintage 12.

Even here the Leia sculpt isn't an amazing likeness to Carrie Fisher, but astoundingly this is the best currently on offer. Still, I'm sure there'll be a decent one released by the time ANH is re-re-released in 3D.

So, that'll be 2015 then...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Vader and the 501st

No Vintage Wednesday today, but I have more planned for next week. Instead my Star Wars run continues, with this 'inbetween the trilogies' shot of Vader and a Clone Trooper on the Jedi hunt. I think that's a pretty exciting time in Star Wars lore, and it's a shame that the planned live-action show is looking increasingly unlikely.

This shot took a fair bit more editing than most, and not just for the lightsaber. Vader's cloak, being quite a light material, let loads of background light through (you could actually see the trooper through the cloak under Vader's left arm), and so it required a little bit of work; I used the light and contrast settings along with gaussian blur, and even a little bit of paintbrush to get it as dark as it is now. This is only my second attempt at creating a lightsaber glow, and it's definitely better than my first; however, I think I made the white core a little too big here. I'll just have to practice a bit more... :D

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Luxury of Choice

I had a spare hour yesterday and knew I wanted to get some SW shots, although I had no idea of what. When I saw these guys on my shelf, everything kinda fell into place...

So, Star Wars. It had been a while. As much as I've enjoyed the Transformers shots recently, I've not taken any that I've been really happy with, and my interest has started to wander from the Robots in Disguise. Only for the time being, I should hasten to add - I'll be a lifelong fan, but a recent interest in Indiana Jones saw me drawing back into the world of Lucasfilm; really, this was inevitable!

I was messing around with some different lighting for these shots, experimenting with shadows and composition, but when I started to touch up the images this morning it was the more broadly lit pictures that I preferred, which surprised me. I think I'm starting to get the hang of editing shots, but as my last TF batch showed, maintaining consistency is hard. The main thing I've realised over the last few days is that I keep repeating mistakes, which I think comes from trying to rush and do shoots on the fly - basically, not being committed enough. What really helped me with this shoot was that I devoted some time to it, and got lots and lots of pictures, and tried different things as well. When I looked through the shots this morning I was surprised by which ones I preferred, but then, I gave myself that luxury of choice.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Indiana Jones and the Garden of Certain Death!

I've been having some Indiana Jones fun in the garden. I'm not sure, but I'm pretty certain that when you've got a back garden with even the least conspicuous of features, an Indy is the ideal figure to have at your disposal, any time...

Hasn't been much Star Wars here recently, has there? I've got a few ideas in mind for shots though, and I'm watching one of my Original 12 targets on eBay, so I expect to get back to a galaxy far, far away before too long. Anyway, thanks for indulging me!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Vintage Wednesdays: Ghostbusters

Welcome to the first in what is sure to be an occasional and short lived series: Vintage Wednesdays! This is basically my opportunity to showcase the older figures in my collection, be they pieces I've held on to for years, or more recent (but equally old and interesting) acquisitions. Without further ado, I present... Peter Venkman and Egon Spengler, of The Real Ghostbusters!

Peter Venkman was most kids' favourite Ghostbuster, and who can blame them? Bill Murray blatantly stole all the best lines in the first film (my memory is hazy of the second, mainly because I think I blocked it from my mind out of unbridled childhood fear), and in the cartoon he was like the *slightly* more serious Michelangelo of the group, forever sparring with Slimer and looking for the easy way out. He was cool, man!

My favourite though, was Egon Spengler. Not sure why but between Egon, Leonardo and Ultra Magnus, my favourites were always the hapless, geeky ones of the group (I know Donatello was the scientist of the Turtles, but c'mon, Leonardo was the uptight serious one, right?). Egon built the kit, used the P-K Meter, and generally knew how to get them out of the countless jams they found themselves in. That was cooler to me than sarcastic one-liners; mainly because those probably went over my slow-witted head...

I had all four when I was younger, along with the Ecto-1, and the roleplaying Proton Pack, which provided hours more fun than a hollow blue plastic box should. I would've loved the Firestation, but I was pretty damn spoilt for Ghostbusters stuff, and certainly couldn't want for more.

These two, however, aren't from my childhood collection, which has been long since lost. In 2004, during my ill-fated first attempt at University I picked up these two from a car boot sale, and they've been with me since. Sold as seen, with chipped paint and no accessories, they still stand proudly on my shelf. I've looked into trying to buy a cheap Proton Pack or two to plug the holes in their backs, but according to the 'Bay it'd be cheaper to buy new versions of the figures outright, which seems a tad unnecessary; guess I'll stick to scouting charity shops and car boots until the day they turn up...

Still, Proton Packs or not - they ain't afraid of no ghost!

Peace out!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Autobots & Backdrops

RTS Special Ops Jazz
This is photography 101 right here - last week I finally got around to spending the 35p needed to buy a sheet of black sugar paper to use as a backdrop for action figure shots, and then today I finally got the time to snap a couple of pictures...

The shots above were naturally lit from the window opposite. I got pretty even lighting but I could have used a reflector to bounce some light on to the backsides of the figures. Following the shoot, I made crops and adjusted the colour in Windows 7 picture manager before exporting the images to my phone, and then used the photo manager app to finish them off. I only recently started doing this kind of dual-processing, and that's mainly with Transformers shots; firstly because they're so colourful and bold that they make great subjects, and secondly because I really am figuring this all out as I go!

I tried a set up this evening after dark and using a couple of lamps, but couldn't get any results I was happy with. Regardless, I found a particular line-up of Autobots I like...

Dark Autobots!
The amount of colour correction required on this image really washes the colour out, but I've yet to find a way to manually adjust the white balance on my camera outside of a couple of presets. For that reason, until I get a better lamp set-up and more lighting skills, I'll be sticking to daylight shots!

Reasonably well-adjusted Autobots!
In general I'm happy with the results though. A neutral background such as this really brings the figures to the fore, and I can see myself going this route for reviews in the future.

Sunday, 2 September 2012


Temple of Doom was on the BBC tonight, and reminded me to post a pic of my newest acquisition - Dr. Henry Jones Jr. himself! An eBay bargain, I think this figure was from the first line that hit, with the terrible paint apps. Anyway, within 10 minutes of posing the figure I'd snapped both the belt and the bag, which disappointed me greatly (and led to the masking tape fix pictured above). However, it is the spur to obtain some other parts and customise my own 'Ultimate' Indy. Any donations of a Wolverine: Origins Logan figure would be gratefully received... :D

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