Posted in diorama, doll photography, Fashion dolls, Lily, miniature photography, Photography, toy photography

Attention to detail – creating a sense of a complete world

Attention to detail has never been my strong suit. It always seems to hinder my mad rush forward.

But a world without detail, even a very little world, starts to feel as if it’s floating in space – unanchored to time or place. So, I’m trying to force myself to slow down enough to get detail into scenes.

Here’s the evolution of one scene – the stranger reading the newspaper article that Frank and Rosie were looking at in her last episode.

The starting shot is my “just the facts, Mam” attempt. I take the pink coach from Daisy and Rosie’s living room, put it on top of the wood tiles from Rosie’s room, sit the stranger on the coach, and give her the newspaper:

It doesn’t get any more bare bones than this. it serves its purpose to convey the necessary info, but communicates absolutely nothing else.

So, I decide to at least give it some sense of place. I grab one of my Barbie dining sets, give her a cup of coffee (and, yes, that is real coffee in there), and a cookie from one of my Our Generation sets, and try again.

In my opinion, this is significantly better. I have some sense now of time (looks like it’s over breakfast) and place (probably some cafe). I could have added more detail by photoshopping it into a cafe scene, but I actually think that might have distracted from the important details.

I haven’t started my shoot of Lily and Daisy’s room – that’s on the schedule for today – but I do have their room set up. Here’s a picture of the setup:

I tried to put everything I’d used before in the shots, including Lily’s letters and photos, Daisy’s photo album, and the torn photography. I put Lily’s slippers under the bed, and gave them each something to look at. I gave Lily a cat and, although you can’t see them, I put Daisy’s suitcases from the last episode up on top of the wardrobe.

Lily’s room is still pretty barren – she seems like the kind of person who would have pictures on the wall and little things on the window sill. I may try to get those elements in for the final shot, just to fill out her character. Or I may get impatient and just start snapping photos 🙂

Some of this emphasis on detail comes from reading through graphic novels and noticing how complete some of the worlds are, but much of it comes from the sheer delight I’m finding in setting up the amazing detail of the Our Generation accessories. Here’s just a sample of what that world looks like:

In addition to the big new detail – hello, Aasta doll from Supiadollz – there’s just a ton of elements in here. Aasta has both a pot and a laddle. Amy has a guitar, as well as her notebook and pencils (maybe not visible in the shot :)), and Strawberry has one of those chemistry models and a stuffed elephant. In the background are a cookie jar (with cookies you can take out) and a bottle of soda. And there’s actually stuff in the refrigerator and under the sink (which you also can’t see in this shot). After a few days of setting up this stuff, any shot without details just seems really really empty.

This week I’ll be working on the stranger’s story, and what she can tell to help Daisy and Lily find Camellia.

Posted in diorama, doll photography, graphic novel, miniature photography, photo novel, Photography, toy photography

Ironing backdrops, or what I’ve done this week

Here’s what my to do list for this week looks like:

* Fix very front of hut for close-ups
* Add some items for inside the hut
* Iron out backdrop
* Rewatch citizen kane
* Work through next Photoshop chapter
* Read next Making Comics chapter

I haven’t gotten to the hut yet – what I want to do is weave some straw-like stuff into the structure to close up everything but the door – and I don’t think I’m going to end up adding elements to the inside – I may just hang some material over the door. I have both of those on schedule for today and tomorrow.

I switched Pyscho for Citizen Kane. I’m mainly looking at transitions and shots to see what I can learn. The overwhelming takeaway from Psycho, other than the wish that I could add sound to my comics, is that I’m not doing nearly enough with lighting. I play with it a bit during Camellia’s scenes, but the rest are pretty flat. That’s probably not something I’m going to fix right away, but it gives me another realm of learning to add to my list.

I talked about the Photoshop select and mask on Monday. The current chapter is text, which is another thing I haven’t added to my stories yet (except through captions). That dovetails nicely with the Making Comics chapter I just read, about the different roles that text and words can play. For some reason, I’ve really tried to stay away from words in the stories, other than to set the scene. I’m realizing that I’m going to need to get over that, and figure out how to merge them more gracefully into the story. That’s another learning for another day.

That leaves ironing the backdrop, which I did yesterday. I have vinyl-ish (and not muslin) backdrops, so I imagined that they’d melt it I put some steam on them. I followed the most protective instructions first, involving laying a damp towel over the top of them and ironing through the towel. But, I couldn’t see what I was doing, so eventually I took the towel off and just ironed directly on the damp backdrop. The first one I tried – the clouds in a blue sky that I use for Camellia’s scenes – weathered the ironing just fine.

Here’s the result:

A before shot

and an after

It’s still a little wrinkly, if you look at the whole thing

But it’s so much better than it was before.

And that’s my week. I still have two more shots to take – of the two women gathering the grasses and then weaving them into the hut – and then I’ll be ready for Friday’s episode.

Posted in Amy, BJD, diorama, doll photography, Iplehouse, miniature photography, toy photography

Cornucopia of fantastic doll accessories – things for an 18 inch doll

One of the very best things about having a 43 cm doll is that I can buy them 18-inch doll accessories.

I’ve been pining for American Girl-type accessories for ages, but they just loom over my 12 inch dolls. As soon as I got my first 43 cm (about 17 inch) dolls, I started shopping in earnest. Having now spent a few months searching under “18 doll accessories”, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what’s available.

Here’s the low-down:

* American girl accessories: If money is no object, start here. American girl hits a high point with some of their accessories (I’m looking at you, $400 Lea’s treehouse) that just cannot be matched by any other manufacturer. At their best, their accessories create a complete little working world. And it doesn’t always cost a fortune to buy a piece of that world. My sister got me an amazing little set, with a Secret Garden book, a little stuffed elephant, and a tiny yet completely functioning radio for around $25 on sale. It even had a few small posters to go on the wall. OTOH, if the set doesn’t have magic, you end up with extravagant prices for ordinary objects, like an $8 doll hairbrush. In general, I look at the pictures on the American Girl site, but I only buy if it’s right on target and under $30.

* Wellie Wishers: I always feel like I should love the Wellie Wishers stuff (same company as American Girl, but in a 14 inch size). It’s brightly colored and quirky, but nothing really feels like it’s part of a complete world. I feel like the company doesn’t have a good grasp on how these girls spend their days, and it really shows in their accessories.

There are three other major companies that all have their own brand of American Girl-type dolls:

* ToysRUs – Journey Girls
* Walmart – My life as a doll
* Target – Our generation

The ToysRUs Journey Girls line doesn’t really hit the mark, for me. If a set has the kinds of things I like – like a music room set with flute, violin, and guitar – then it’s rendered in such shoddy materials that it doesn’t seem fun. I like the idea behind them, and the cities-of-the-world themed set, but the execution just isn’t good enough. Some of their furniture looks nice, particularly a few of the beds, but they’re much more expensive than the other lower-tier brands and, from the reviews, suffer from the same shoddy execution as their other accessories.

Walmart’s My Life As is much closer to the mark. Although none of their play sets capture the American Girl magic, their furniture is cheap, cute, and seems sturdy. I’ve got my eye on a furry saucer chair, and may go with the bunk beds if it turns out my sister dolls like them. Decent, functional stuff.

Saving the best for last, Target’s Our Generation has some American Girl level magic at a budget price. I stumbled on them first when I needed some tree-building tools for the doll to create their tree house. For $6.99, I got a saw, hammer, jar ‘o nails, paint can, and tiny birdhouse, all fitting comfortably in my dolls hands. After a few more small purchases, I sprung for the big one – a rowboat, big enough for three (or maybe even four). It’s so evocative that it’s making me dream about Huck Finn-type adventures.

Amy steers the boat, while Strawberry and Bonnie ride in back.

So, for doll adventures, and all the accessories they need! 🙂

Posted in Camellia, diorama, doll adventure, doll photography, Fashion dolls, graphic novel, miniature adventure, miniature photography, photo novel, Photoshop, toy adventure, toy photography, Wildflower dolls

Episode 24: Camellia finds a friend

In our last episode, Camellia received a gift of clothing and food.

The next morning, she leaves the camp to gather fruit. The panther doesn’t follow and stays in camp.

Camellia leaves the camp to gather fruit
Camellia gathers fruit

When Camellia returns to camp, she sees the panther standing by a stranger . .

Camellia returns to camp to find the panther standing by a stranger

Together, they work on building a hut . . .

Until they’ve completed a rough structure

The stranger builds a fire . . .

. . . while Camellia starts to tell her story.



So, hey, who found the “render clouds” filter on Photoshop? 🙂

I ended up learning a lot about all of Photoshop’s filters. I also spent a long time standing in the dark in my workshop garage waiting for my camera to gather another light from the LED tea light to expose a photo. I’m really happy with the result – warm light, and I accidentally managed to make the whole crew one-eyed!

I’ve really enjoyed my backwards week – it’s given me a clear task to work on each day, and given me enough time to really work out some kinks before I post my story.

We’ll see how it works next week, when Rosie’s bird adventure continues.

Posted in Camellia, diorama, doll photography, Fashion dolls, graphic novel, photo novel, Photography, toy photography, Wildflower dolls

Fire in miniature photography, and a hut

On Monday I wrote about getting the right shots for the start of Camellia’s next episode. Today I’ll show you my experiments on bringing fire in miniature photography, and the makings of a hut. By Friday, I should have everything ready for her episode.

I’ve seen different suggestions for making a fire that looks like a fire but, as you know, I’m not much of a stickler for details (an anomaly in miniature photographers, I know.) What I really wanted was the glow on their faces. If I had to Photoshop a fire in afterwards, that was fine.

Fortunately, I got my effect on the third try. For the first try, I gathered together two types of led lights. One is a string of tiny, warm led lights, and the other is a 50 cent LED tea light from the dollar store.

So I put Camellia and Moana on my desk to experiment with the different lighting sources. Here’s the effect with some light in the room, and both types of light together.

Nice, but the fire light is overwhelmed by the room light. On the second try, I turn the room lights off.

Better, but three problems. One is that the light is now so bright adjusting for it throws the rest of the scene into total darkness – I want to be able to see the hut behind them. The second is that the light is so overpowering that it becomes the focus of the shot. And the third is that the white is too white – I want more of a warm glow. Although I can fix it in Photoshop, I’d prefer to get the actual image right.

So, I turn off the string of LED lights, and just leave the tea light, and I get exactly the effect I want – a warm glow cast on Camellia and Moana’s faces.

For another take on fire on miniature photography, here’s someone I follow on Instagram using a miniature Link and a matchstick to great effect


A post shared by Marcos (@justshotthis) on

I may borrow this idea for my Underfoot dolls.

The final problem was making a hut for Camellia. I’d been looking through images of primitive huts when I stumbled across what I think is a bird cage at Goodwill. Here it is with Moana perched on top.

I can’t locate a picture of how this looked before I modified it, but it had an attached rounded door where the opening now is. Unfortunately, it was a little too short for my dolls, so I had to remove it and just leave a rough space. I’m not sure why it has those extensions at the top – it made the whole thing look very odd – but I’ll just photograph it without that part for my story.

So, that’s the set up for this week’s episode. The one trick I have remaining is to somehow get the hut into the background of the fire shot. It’s too big to fit in the diorama space, and I don’t have any surface high enough to prop it up between the diorama and the backdrop, so I may photograph it and pin the photograph to the backdrop. Or, maybe I’ll figure out something else. Anyway, that’s tomorrow’s problem 🙂

Posted in Camellia, diorama, doll adventure, doll photography, Fashion dolls, graphic novel, photo novel, Photography, toy adventure, toy photography, Wildflower dolls

Set up for Camellia’s next episode

I’m flipping the schedule the week (and maybe for the following weeks as well, if it works out well.) So, instead of starting with the finished episode on Monday and talking about it the next couple of days, I’m going to write about doing the episode on Monday and Wednesday, and then share the finished version on Friday.

The upside, for me, is that it encourages me to slow down, take a few shots every day, and then wrap them up at the end. The downside is that you’ll know all of the surprises by the time the episode rolls around.

We’ll see how it works out.

So, when we left last week, someone had left a gift for Camellia and was watching from behind the bushes at the end. This week, they’ll meet and, by the end of the episode, Camellia will start telling her story. Backwards. One segment each episode, until she gets to the start.

Anyway, here are my raw shots and the parts of the story I worked on on Sunday.

It starts with Camellia leaving the camp. I took a ton of shots of this scene, and didn’t really end up loving any of them. I’ll share a few so you can see what I was trying to work out.

Here’s the first shot. I’m really just trying to get a sense of what the scene looks like and how I want to arrange things, at this point. What I learn from this shot is that she’s way too close to the rock – it makes the set look tiny.

For the next shot, I move her to the front of the set, farther away from the rock. I always like being closer in, so I try it zoomed in, but, of course, then I can’t see the dog.

So, I take the dog and put it on the rock. I actually kind of like this picture, as a picture, but it’s not really doing much for the story.

One of the points in the plot, here, is that she and the dog go, but the panther stays behind. (Because, as you’ll see in a bit, the panther has a bit of a relationship with the person who left the food in the last episode. I sort of hinted at that in that episode, when the panther came from the woods, and then the stranger was in the same spot the panther came from.) Anyway, not a huge point, but I do want to put a little panther tension in the shot. So, I run into the house, grab the panther, put him on the set, and take another shot.

Which is better, except, now the angle is too high to show the panther. I’m not going to put him on the rock too. (Also, at this point my fragile-dog has slipped off his rock perch, so I have to rest him facing against some shrubbery on the rock. Which, I now realize, has him pointing the wrong way.)

So, now I take a long shot to get everyone in

Add the raven, zoom in, and this is my final shot. I don’t love it, but if I pretty it up a bit in photoshop, it might work. At this point I’ve taken 21 shots just to get here, so, on to the next shot

In the next shot, Camellia gets some fruit from a tree. This is actually the best shot I took all day, and it’s the first shot I took. I played around with some other angles, but nothing was as good as the first one.

I’ll have to fix up the background – I just had her on my desk – but this is basically what it will look like in the episode. I’ve had a thing recently with Camellia’s episodes where I just show one eye. So, here’s another one-eyed shot of Camellia.

To get this shot, I had to stand her on a doll desk and then use a pipe cleaner to tie her onto the tree, like so. I only took 13 shots for this one, and none of them improved on the first one.

In the next shot, she returns to camp and finds the stranger working on the hut, with the panther by her side. I started again with a staging shot (spoiler alert! you’re about to see the stranger!)

But, I didn’t like her back being turned, and I wanted to see her more obviously from Camellia’s perspective, so I turned her around and shot from behind Camellia. Looking at this again, I think I’ll keep it (with a little photoshop cleanup) just for story continuity.

Then the shot where you can see her face (one-eyed!), and I’m out. Getting those two shots took me about 25 shots altogether. I was tinkering with Camellia’s arm, and getting the dog into the shot for most of the attempts. I’m going to have to fix up this shot, since I ran out of backdrop behind the panther.

Camellia shares some fruit with Moana, which I got in just 7 shots (mostly fiddling around with what I wanted to have in focus)

And finally the two of them work together on the hut, which only took me 9 shots, again figuring out what to focus on.

The one change I made in my set for these shots is that I pulled my bookcase about a foot away from the wall, which I think makes the backdrop look better in most of the shots (although it could still use a good ironing).

On Wednesday, I’ll show you my fire experiment, the hut, and then it’s on to Camellia’s story.

Posted in diorama, doll photography, Fashion dolls, Rosie, Wildflower dolls

My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad photo shoot

The good news: Everything turned out OK (but not great) in the end.
The bad news: I’ve never had more trouble doing a photo shoot

Last week’s shoot with Camellia gave me a ton of false confidence about my ability to just dash together a set. This week, with Rosie’s bird adventure, I learned that that opinion was based on anecdotal, and not scientific, evidence.

What went wrong:

The weather: When I planned for this photo shoot, I had the idea that I’d shoot in the park out behind my house. On the weekend, when I went to do my shoot, although it wasn’t actively raining, the grass was far too wet to do my setup outside. So, I had to move everything inside.

The backdrop: But, hey, no problem, I thought. I’ll just use that backdrop I put together for Lily’s set. I’m sure it will be just perfect. By itself, the backdrop seems fine:

Here it is, with it’s subtle blue and it’s fluffy clouds. You can probably see a hint of one of the problems, but let me show you one of the photo shoot shots so that you can see it more clearly.

If you look towards the right of the photo, where the light source is coming in, you can clearly see one of the black bars that the fabric is affixed to. A second one is visible above Rosie’s head. So, I couldn’t take any shot that included the areas with the black bars. Problem 1.

Problem 2 I’m not going to be able to show you, because I corrected for it before I took any shots. But, because the fabric is so close behind the set, if the light is shining directly on the tree, the tree casts a shadow on it. Not so good for a realistic sky.

Problem 3 Finally, and this was obvious in every shot I took, the sky is simply too close to the set. Even in the better shots, it just feels like the sky-fabric is smothering the world. It made me feel claustrophobic.

So, anyway, I went through the entire photo shoot before I realized the the whole night’s work was wasted. I couldn’t keep any of the shots, because I was going to reshoot under completely different lighting conditions. Which is too bad, because I had some pretty cute shots, like this one.

Anyway, the next day I tried again, same set but using the daylight and the sky from the window behind the set.

Balancing: Most of the shots involved a lot of balancing – the bird had to balance on the fence, Frank had to stand while holding up Rosie, the larger bird had to stand still. Mostly, by the time I got everything exactly how I wanted it, something fell over.

The tripod: I love my new(ish) DSLR camera, but it’s so heavy that I have to use a tripod for every shot in any but the very brightest lighting conditions. I’m used to my Canon Powershot, that I can move around freely and examine the scene from all angles. With the DSLR, every time I need to adjust height or angle, I have to fuss with the tripod.

Grass everywhere: I love the realistic look of the groundcover that I use in these shots, but it gets absolutely everywhere. So, as soon as something falls over (see “Balancing” above) you have to pluck all the ground cover off the object. At the end of the shoot I had ground cover all over my carpet:

on the bird’s feathers:

and in Rosie’s hair:

Aptly summing up my feelings about the whole shoot, here’s the (newly named) Frank in deep despair on the set