Being Camp Hosts in State and National Parks means that we have responsibilities outside of our Un Petit Monde project. Our daily routine consists of cleaning up campsites, answering questions and selling firewood to park guests. Yesterday, we had to deal with a problematic black bear that was hanging around the campsites. And when I say "deal with" I mean we had to stay out of its way! This particular bear was unafraid of humans, which is a bad thing.
Because of this, Edwige and I had more excitement in one day than we've had all summer. Starting around 8am, we took a report of a sighting from a family of four. Roughly 30 minutes later I had my own bear encounter just outside of our tent. Late morning, we received another report of a bear rummaging through a cooler. A few hours after that, we found the bear digging through the dumpster! Although this made for a very long day, it was only the second bear we've seen in our three seasons of camp hosting (to be fair, Joshua Tree N.P. doesn't have bears).
He may look like a big fella in the photos, but he was just about thigh high. Cute but dangerous. Which means I did not get a photograph of our miniatures with the bear!
Introducing Agent 187
All summer long, Kurt has been seriously working on developing his new character: Agent 187. Who is Agent 187? Kurt doesn't even know, the guy kind of dropped out of nowhere. We know this much about him: he is a good guy (whatever that means) who puts his life on the line to fight injustice.
Kurt is currently working on making figures for this series and we're looking for missions to send Agent 187 on.
Kurt and I are currently in Joshua Tree National Park working as volunteers and in our down time Kurt is photographing for our Un Petit Monde project.
Joshua Tree NP is notorious for its climbing opportunities as well as its off-road driving, night skies and of course, Joshua Trees. It’s a good thing that the miniatures in Kurt’s bag are always ready for adventure and exploration.
While exploring a wash in the Southern end of the park, Kurt found a good spot for his 4x4 jeep convoy. The sand was smooth enough for their tires to be able to deal with it. Half hour earlier the sky had the most unique display of clouds, it would have been a perfect addition to the scene!
On a separate occasion, we scrambled up granite boulders so Kurt could document a miniature climber in action.
Yesterday, Kurt got an early Christmas gift: a visit to Old Tucson studios where western movies like Tombstone, Three Amigos and Rio Bravo were shot. We knew it was going to be good we just didn't expect it to be this good!
Prior to our visit, Kurt worked on transforming one of his miniature figures (an auto mechanic) into a outlaw by painting and gluing parts from other figures. The holster and the gun came from a policeman, the hat from a gardener. The auto mechanic clothes were painted over and patterns added to the side of the pants. The miniature sheriff was stock.
The temperature was cool and comfortable. We roamed the old western village so Kurt could look for angles and perspectives. The sun was a challenge at times but Kurt loved the drama added to the scenes by the harsh shadows. Think Old West, it's hot, it's dry, it's dusty and Old Tucson was all of that and then some.
Kurt had more ideas than we had time. We had a lot of fun and never a dull moment. The Old Tucson actors were very talented and skilled. Those guys were not your typical weekend warriors. They played serious roles, humorous ones, perform their own stunts, fell off buildings, these guys were impressive! At the end of the day, Kurt's comment was "I don't wanna go!" I think it's safe to say he loved his Christmas gift.
We spent time in Saguaro National Park to try and capture the saguaro cactus. Pairing the miniatures with saguaros was another one of Kurt's wish for this trip. To him (and to me) the idea of the American West was a mix of saguaros, Monument Valley and friendly road runners. We learned that 1. Road runners are mean 2. Saguaros grow only in the Sonoran Desert 3. Monument Valley is miles away from the Sonoran Desert.
Making Of Un Petit Monde App
For this project, Kurt was originally looking to capture an orange-sand-blue-sky desert look, similar to the look of the scenes he photographed in Utah back in March 2013. We were set and ready to go to Utah when the weather threw a wrench in our plans. In Moab, the daily temperature highs were in the 50s and the nights in the teens which would make the project very challenging.
So, we looked at our options further south within a 2-day drive from Minneapolis, with reasonable temperatures and striking desert looks. We remembered White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. White sands, blue sky, beautiful weather. We spent 8 days in the dunes so Kurt could capture the different times of day.
The result is a set of still images, including a few stop motion animations to illustrate a day on the dunes. Here are a few behind-the-scene images:
Working Hard or Hardly Working
We are stationed on the North Shore of Minnesota for the summer. We have been taking advantage of our proximity to Lake Superior to document the miniatures. In June, the lake was so cold that almost everyday we were treated to some type of fog.
Although our stay on the North Shore feels like a vacation, we are working hard to grow our library of photos. By mid-June, Kurt started to complain that his back was aching. I think that laying sideways on the lava flow (irregular rocks) doesn't help his situation. Some terrains are easier on the body than others! Anyway, Kurt is growing our collection of images with real enthusiasm! I have been documenting Kurt in his process and plan on making a short documentary about him and his work.
Roaming the Ancient City...
of St. Augustine in Florida...Situated on the East Coast of Florida and founded in 1565, it's the nation's oldest city. We knew we wanted to visit it with the miniatures before we leave the area. Kurt was so inspired by St. Augustine that he's thinking about creating a separate gallery of images revolving around it!
On our first day, we decided to walk everywhere. After spending the early morning at the Castillo De San Marcos, we crossed over the Bridge of Lions to get to the Lighthouse.
The Lighthouse of St. Augustine is very photogenic with its black and white stripes and its red top. We didn't expect to find it inland, away from the water.
We scoped a good vantage point and Kurt tried different angles for about half an hour. As it turns out the best angle was outside the lighthouse premises, between two private properties, underneath tree branches.
Light was a struggle. The sun was illuminating the lighthouse, leaving the foreground in the shadows. We waited a while for the right light.
For this scene, Kurt kept the storyline simple: the lighthouse keeper was out for a bike ride and he ran into an old friend.
The Castillo De San Marcos was built in 1672. We went early in the morning for the best light and to avoid the crowds. We walked half-way around the fort and Kurt found a spot he thought he could work with.
We had a lot of fun at the Old Drugstore. The drugstore was abandoned in the 60's with all its inventory inside, dusty but intact! The best of it is on display and the girl at the front was kind enough to slide the glass door open and let our miniature inspect the different potions.
Towards the end of the day, we roamed through narrow streets and looked at old houses. Kurt stopped in front of Murat House - ca. 1790. The late afternoon light was reflecting back on the walls. Kurt pulled out the old man with his cane and after a few tries thought that he needed company so he added the old woman and dedicated the scene to me :)
Kurt and I took a walk on the Royal Palm Hammock Trail in Collier Seminole State Park. We were looking for opportunities and angles to photograph the miniatures. Kurt found just the right tree to photograph the climber.