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!
While driving down Tamiami trail (the route that connects Tampa Bay to Miami), We saw a name on a sign: Warm Mineral Springs. We wanted to capture the miniatures next to the Springs and learned that we couldn't get access because they were closed for renovations. Not far down the road, we discovered a beautiful, original motel built in 1958: the Warm Mineral Springs Motel. Tamiami trail: the Route 66 of Florida!
We like to look for the old Florida. Some businesses and attractions built in the 50's are still up and running. North of Fort Myers, we stopped and photographed an ice cream cone shaped building where ice cream is sold since the 80's. As we continued on our way to Port Charlotte, a dinosaur and a sign claiming the world's largest shell factory caught our attention :)
Yesterday, Kurt and I went out to find a toy tow truck to use in a scene he had in mind. Last night, Kurt researched tow trucks and photos of cars being rescued out of the ice to make the scene more authentic.
This afternoon, Kurt and I set out to the pond we scouted the day before. The first big job was to chisel through 4 inches thick of ice to get to the water. Kurt used a screw driver for the job which took him about 25 minutes.
Kurt carefully composed the scene that he had in mind. For the next 45 minutes, he went through several scenarios, repositioning the characters and vehicles.
I wanted to add to my St. Paul collection and thought that the Blair Arcade and W.A. Frost buildings at the Western & Selby intersection would make great backdrops. I tried a few different characters and scenarios but wasn't completely satisfied with the results.
I realized that the best angles were from the middle of the street. Obviously that is a problem due to the high volume of traffic during rush hour, which also happens to be the best time of the day for the type of light I want. Its an accident waiting to happen.
Then it occurred to me that I should create an accident scene. I didn't need to be in the middle of the street to get the shot, just a couple feet from the curb :)
Yesterday was my birthday and I received some new Preiser figures to play with. Edwige found the hazmat crew I had been wanting for months. I have a lot of ideas for photographing them, but my first thought was to bring them down to the old loading docks at Sibley and Wabasha in the lowertown area of St Paul.
The ceiling at the docks is always dripping some kind of liquid, I assume it's water. I thought it would make a great scene for my hazmat crew to investigate. While there, they discovered rusted barrels possibly containing toxic waste.
I realize that some of my photos do not give the viewer an understanding of just how small the figures are. So, in the second shot I placed my foot in the scene for reference.
Yesterday, I went shopping for a new creature to use in our Puddle Monsters series. I had this idea to have a fish head poking out of a puddle with a fisherman in the foreground.
I came across a catfish (just the head) at a local Asian grocery store. Man, this fish is ugly! I placed it in a rain puddle... You can see the results below.
One of the themes we have been working on this summer is Puddle Monsters. I use frozen seafood as props and place them in small puddles or ponds around St Paul. In the image below, Edwige photographs me shooting a fisherman with a crab-like creature emerging from the water.
A scene like this can take some time to set up. Although the boat I used in this scene actually floats, it will move out of position with the slightest current or breeze. As for the crab, I have inserted thin flexible wires into the arms to better hold their position. And without the use of a stone or tree branch, the claws would sink straight the bottom. Here, I used a branch under the surface to hold the creature up.
Because I never really know what the environment or light will be like before I stumble onto a scene, I like to compare it to documentary photography or photojournalism. Of course I manipulate the subjects I place into the scene, so technically it is neither one... But, the process is very similar.
I would have more control over the elements if I just built a diorama of the scene and lit it with artificial light instead of being in the real world environment. But shooting with available light and using nature as it is, is what draws me to photographing the minis. These scenes, like the real world, will never be perfect. That is their charm (in my opinion).
Below is the final image...
It is not always easy to get the perspective I am imagining. Back in March, Edwige and I were shooting in the Petrified Forest for our Route 66 postcard series. In order to get a (horizontal) miniature's eye view, I need to get as low as possible, sometimes even lower than the subject I'm photographing.
For this particular shot, I had to use a smaller camera body and focus through the view finder without the aid of my 2x right angle viewfinder (doesn't fit my smaller camera). The view finder magnifies the image so its easier to focus. Also, I have to be honest... the tumbleweed was too far out of the shot, so Edwige gave it a "nudge" so that it would be in the frame.
Something about this location that I didn't know... See those telephone poles in the background? They are no longer in use and indicate where the old Route 66 used to run. It is now grown over so the original road is no longer visible. If I had known this at the time of the shoot, I would have tried to include them in the photo. But I like the result even without them.