Lenny Raptor – Red Explosion

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Ferocious peddling… heart pounding… blood surging… Lenny is not an MEM (Mindless Eating Machine).

I was out helping a friend of mine build his house and afterwards i decided to head out to the small desert town of Lund, UT.   I really needed to get out there and since his house was pretty much half way there I decided to drive the rest.

When you get through the small foot hills west of Three Peaks Recreation Area, there is a turn in the dirt road and an excellent view for a nice vanishing point.  Lund is located on the other side of the valley and has a population of about two.  Train tracks cut through near the abandoned houses and homesteads.  Back in the day Lund was a pivotal point in the railroads progress where they switched out cars and kept the rails rolling.

The valley leading up to Lund is somewhat open range and the cows dot the landscape.  I have hiked out to some abandoned buildings that are now used as shade structures for the cows and it is interesting to find their paths carved into the desert sagebrush and soils.  Each path goes out as a spoke from the shade and has been trodden so well that they are dug into the soil by about 4-6 inches.  There are scattered cow pies and any grass has been nibbled to a stubble.

I initially traveled out this way to get a shot of the vanishing point road but it didn’t show up well with the focal lengths I brought and with being so close to the ground.  It was cold and my hands were frozen with beating wind.  I decided to head down a off-shoot dirt road that was not used very often.  This road led me to a small shooting range that was filled with various bullet shells and random broken things.  I went exploring for a small scene and found an exploded red paint can.  The red paint was splattered all over the rocks and if the can had not been there, I wouldve thought that I had stumbled upon some gristly murder scene.  I am glad the paint can was still easily recognizable.

This paint can was the perfect place to setup a bike ride for Lenny.  The red offset his green appearance and matched his iconic red bike.  I set him up with his tail catching the edge of the metal so it could help prop him up.  The wind was still there and frigid – but with this find I barely noticed.  The background was a bit rocky and distracting so I used a technique to blur it in a motion sense.  It is rather easy to create the effect by placing my fingers in front of the lens when the aperture is wide open.  It creates a motion effect in the bokeh by applying the lines of light that come through the cracks in my fingers.

I thought the image turned out quite well although I still think its a bit to busy.

Father and Son Stranded Adventure

homer and bart simpson broke down
Father and Son brokedown

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Father and son adventure; it’s always interesting when there’s car trouble out in the middle of nowhere…

This is the image I wasn’t quite satisfied with because the endless road in the background was not really as visible as I wanted it to be.  This dirt road is called Lund Highway and leads to the small almost ghost town of Lund, UT.  I believe it has a population of two.  Not sure if that is two households or two hermits, but either way there are lots of empty and abandoned buildings.

I had many experiences as a kid with exploring the deserts of southern Utah.  As part of this exploration processes there were always many predicaments we got ourselves into.   One such experience was driving a “shortcut” because we were almost out of gas, then finding the hard way that the shortcut was blocked off by a new lake from recent rains.  This particular predicament was with my brother and a good friend of mine, Zack Fitzwater.  We could not turn around because we didn’t have enough gas to go back.  Just forward.  My friend Zack came up with the brilliant idea of hydroplaning the small truck across the massive puddle.  We didn’t know how deep it was, so we made sure he got a good running start.  He got up to about 60mph before he created one of the largest splashes I have ever seen, slamming into the puddle.  The water engulfed the truck and he just kept gunning it.  The truck skidded across the puddle and came out the other side – completely dead.  The engine wouldn’t turn over.  It just clicked.  So now we were stranded.  It was about fifteen miles to the nearest help and this was before cell phones.  So we just sat there.  Waited… waited some more.  after what seemed like forever we tried to start it and VROOM! it started up.  We rocked the truck on fumes till we arrived at my friends house.  We siphoned gas from his truck and then we were back in business.

I can guarantee that if we hadn’t had the bad experience of getting stranded I would not have remembered so much.  I look back at these times with fondness and they inspired my toy photography today.

Lightrays break the dreariness

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The morning had been cold and murky like the frothy, muckiness of a stagnant pond.  We drove out early in an old long bed Chevrolet, pulling our diamond plated two axle trailer.  We were finally picking up a load of our new premium Earthtone Brown Alabaster.  We would be loading the stone and sending my brother Nathan Cowlishaw on the road in the morning.  It was bitterly cold with a wind chill of about 10 degree F.  The wind was picking up and the forecast was snow.  As we neared our destination the sun cut through the dreariness and lit up the valley in patches of warm light.

We stopped, even in a hurry – and captured some of the beauty.  It really adds to my day when I get to not only experience and notice the beauty around me but also get to capture it to share with others.

I hope that this image finds you in a time when you may feel like life is a muddled pond;  just know that the light always breaks through and there is always beauty in our times of trial.

We got our truck loaded in the anticipated snowstorm.  The blizzard rushed in like someone had torn open a large beanbag chair.  The snow was little spherical icy balls that matched the Styrofoam innards perfectly.  It was a dry-cold snow that bounced off everything and everyone and quickly blanketed the ground.  We pulled out with our loaded and traversed the windy mountain pass on a meandering snow-packed highway.  The headlights almost made it more difficult to see and we had the opportunity to break the path as we had beat the snowplows to the area.

Our Chevy handled the load well and we arrived safely at a good steady pace.  New Mexico – here comes our new stone!  I hope you enjoy the work we put in to get this premium sculpting stone into your hands.

Lenny Raptor – Puncture Proof

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Lenny’s bike is so small he doesn’t have to worry about nails!???

You really never know when the right time is to take a toy photograph.  I always carry my gear with me which consists of a clik camera bag and the Olympus EM5 along with several legacy glass lenses and of course my Lego and other toys.  The lens I prefer and use most often is the Minolta Rokkor 55 mm 1.4f.  It is the perfect lens for a good balance in detail and excellent bokeh backgournds.  I also have a Sigma 60mm AF lens and my old trusty Russian lens the Helios 44mm.  That Russian lens is built like a tank!  and it brings in some nice light leak details that add a bit of glow to the shot.

Anyway, I was on my way out to get a load of worked up Alabaster sculpting stone and we stopped to fuel up and get some breakfast.  Actually it was so my brother could get some breakfast.  I had eaten something on my way out so I used this opportunity to jump out and grab a few shots with my Lego.

We were at the Maverik gas station (Adventures First Stop) on the west side of Cedar City and I noticed a small broken down pioneer house right next door.  The ceiling had caved in long ago and it looked as if the stone walls and foundation had either sunk several feet – or maybe it was built that way as sort of a fruit cellar…  either way it was sunken and sad looking.  The wood was rotted and had deep grooves throughout.  The grooves matched the size of the tires on Lenny’s bike so it was the perfect setting to get a quick shot.  I setup Lenny and got a few great shots in before my brother was back in the truck honking for me.  I raced over – repacked my bag and jumped in.  Off to load the stone!

Batman’s Lobster is Alive!?

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Wha…!? It’s still alive!? I nuked it for like 3 minutes!??

I got this idea from the fact that the little Lego lobster from the new Batman Movie CMF Series has cute little eyes.  How could he eat something so cute?  I took this shot inside.  I don’t often take pictures inside because the lighting is so much more difficult than natural outside lighting.  I find I have to turn off all the lights to get rid of all the unwanted reflection on the plastic.  I especially dislike it if it puts a glare on details like the face and eyes.

I wanted this shot to look like early morning in the batcave.  So I used a large chunk of selenite I had mined from a glitter pit in Saint George, UT.  I though it made for a good natural rocky wall that let the light filter in from the window.  The floor is a sample piece of Tritan from the Eastman Chemical Company.  I got this sample a while back when I was choosing a material for my Tritan Wowflute pocket ocarina.  The clarity it offers is fantastic and it made for a good translucent blue floor for batman to stand on.

I used a piece of wadded up paper (spit wad), and rolled it to fit into the lobsters bottom connector piece.  This way I could prop up the lobster to see more of the excellent detail while it still facing the camera.

The idea was this lobster is still alive and kicking!?  Alfred should’ve cooked it longer…  I had a similar experience as a kid but instead of sea crustaceans it was ants.  I am not sure what I was thinking but there was a phase in my early childhood where I experimented at the demise of small insects.  My dogs bowl of dogfood was out in the garage and had been discovered by a lone ant.  This slowly turned into a steady stream of ants which then covered the entire contents of the bowl.  My dog was disgusted for obvious reasons and I decided the easiest way to get rid of the ants would be to microwave them.

This was a disaster.

The ants didn’t seem to affected adversly from the microwaves.  Either they were too small or just have some kind of super power like ant-man to avoid radiation or something?  Well, the microwave was crawing with ants everywhere.  The microwaves had cooked the dry dogfood and made it hot which made the ants want to climb off.  It was a mess  to clean up but I learned that nuking something alive may not actually make it not alive.

Hence, batman discovers that simply nuking a lobster for three minutes in the microwave doesn’t always work…


Calm Breeze

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My little girl looked so peaceful and silly with her hair blowing in the wind!

Just relaxing in my living room and my daughter comes up to the window.  My boy lifted the blinds so she could look out and a snapped this shot with my iPhone.  I just loved the calm serenity look on her face.  So peaceful and innocent.  Enjoying the beauty and subtle feeling of a slight breeze.  It lifted her hair a bit but I think the static electricity from the blinds also helped here.

I sometimes wonder why we as adults lose the simple pleasures of life that are so easily enjoyed by children?  Like playing in the mud and getting filthy…  Or picking up random bugs and examining them close to the nose…  Or the excitement of a snowy morning… Or a summer breeze in your face.

Maybe it is because we have lost the ability to live in the moment?  All these magical moments are just that – moments.  Are we so busy that we lose sight of the beauty in these moments?  Are we so worried about getting dirty that we would rather just avoid the muddy moment all together?  Are we rushing so often that we do not pause for that clean breath of fresh air in the summer breeze?  Do we even notice the small bug, and the intricacies of it’s creation?  Are we so scared to drive in the snow that we despise that bright white morning?

Questions like these get me pondering.  Maybe these questions are why I take the moment and strive to lengthen it.  I find that toy photography also helps me to slow down and enjoy these moments.  Sometimes I take it a bit to far and propbably am more concerned about getting the perfect Lego shot rather than enjoying the moment around me, but I think it is more detrimental to only rush around and be distracted by all the distracting things.

Life is short.  Enjoy the moment.  It is in the moment that we can feel and find peace.

Lenny Rides in the Crisp morning Light

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Up bright and early before the sun hits the valley – that’s how Lenny rolls.

Early mornings are a great time to do toy photography.  I find that my mind is wide awake and ready for the day.

I took this shot while traveling down to my newly opened stone quarry.  I was traveling down the black ridge on Interstate 15 from Cedar City to St. George and the morning light was barely lighting the sky.  I decided to take an early exit near Pinto, UT and head towards the Pine Valley Mountain Range.  The  snow capped mountains lit up pink in the sunrise and the valley below was still in the shade of the black ridge.  I hurried up a dirt road and parked.  The light was changing every minute and I was striving to get a few shots all along those changes.

The hood of the truck turned out to be a nice clean setup for a shot and the reflection of blue hid the fact that this old chevy had a dark green faded and rubbing off paint job.  The bright mountain range behind Lenny’s head was a great contrast which brought your eyes to his.  I made a rather steep angle with my camera because I wanted it to look like Lenny  was on the verge of a very steep ridge.  I liked the blues that the early morning shadows gave so I decided not to bother with the exposure at all.

Icy Sauna for Wampa

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Such a relaxing icy sauna for wampa… Even wampa deserves a day off.

I took my boys to school this morning and it was frigid!  And I mean frigid… It was 6 degrees F.  Bitterly cold.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I don’t know why I thought it would be a good time to stop and take pictures.  I liked the thick frost that had formed on everything during the night and the snow piling on the long june grass made for some excellent little pockets of glowing caves.

I guess that is what made me get out.  Within seconds my fingers were no longer there.  They had become numb, and still I strived for a shot.  The snow turned out to be very hard to work with because it was not packed down at all.  It was so cold that the snow flakes had come to rest in a stillness that left tons of air between each flake.  I could literally blow the snow with one little puff through 8 inches and clear it to the ground below.  This was not ideal for my wampa figure.  I set him down ready to position him and he disappeared instantaneously.  I hadn’t been smart enough to bring gloves so reaching through the puffy snow seemed to cut my hands with coldness.  I could actually feel the sharp edges of the flakes as I brushed them aside.

I worked with what I had and added snow to the cave to compact it.  I had to add like four times the snow to compact it enough to hold my Wampa.  It worked though and the lighting had the glow I was looking for.  I wanted a warmth to the shot even though Hoth is far from warm.  I wanted the wampa to seem comfortable as he relaxed in a cave of fresh deep snow.  I think I succeeded here but I still think something is missing from this shot and I am not sure what it is?

A Break in the Blizzard

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A break in the blizzard, New Castle, Iron County, UT.

Nabbed this shot out the window of the passenger side while driving at around 55 mph.  It had a nice dreamy feel to it.  The morning was cloudy and a slight snow flurry had been upon us until we crested the valley and dropped out of the small mountain range.  When we approached New Castle, UT, the sun broke through and the clouds parted into deep blue sky above.  It was just a small opening, about the size of the town but much smaller than the surrounding valley.  The blizzard raged on all around us – but we were in a split second haven from the storm.

I snapped this shot with my olympus EM5 out the window.  I used one of the artistic built in filters for a high contrast black and white.  It just matched the scene perfectly – the contrast of billowing clouds and an opening in the storm while the ground was covered in a blur of flurries.

Plant Now. Harvest Later.

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Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later. – Og Mandino

Sometimes I feel like I am always panting seeds and never harvesting them.  I am an entrepreneur and it seems that all my little projects and endeavors always tend to take more time and pay much less than I anticipated.

I started out with my invention of a small pocket flute called the Wowflute.  It is based on the Native American Flute (pentatonic scale), but weighs in at only 1/2 ounce.  This makes it the perfect portable instrument – it’s smaller than a harmonica and has enough range to play lots of songs.  Sounds like a great idea right?  Well, it is.  I have made and sold over 40,000 of my handmade Wowflutes; but I feel I am the bottleneck.  Maybe I sell them too cheaply at only $10, or maybe I just haven’t figured out how to replace myself in the process. It  just seems like they take more effort to make than what I am compensated for them.

I started a UFO Fest with my brother Nathan Cowlishaw.  This is a huge undertaking.  We started a non-profit called Anomaly Conservatory to basically be the organization behind the festival and this was also a huge task.  Right now we are working on the second annual Festival to be held June 17, 2017 in Cedar City, UT.  The problem with a festival (especially an open to the public festival) is figuring out how to monetize it in such a way to benefit everyone and make it possible to keep doing what we are doing.

Last year I also started a mining company Earthtone Trading with my brother and some friends of mine.  This is probably my most lucrative endeavor but we are just in the process of planting seeds.  It will bear fruit in the future for us and all involved, especially artists / scultpors that have an amazing talent to work it into masterpieces.

Then there is this Toy Photography hobby of mine.  Some folks think I am wasting my time when I take pictures of toys.  Some folks think I am wasting all my time taking and posting the pictures, but the truth in the matter is my Toy Photography is only a small part of what I do.  I do not usually take very much time in creating and capturing my toy shots.  it is within my everyday activities.  I just take the time and bring along my equipment and toys so Ican take a shot with a bit of downtime.

I took this shot of the scarecrow last fall near my home.  We have a meadow that has an old sheep corral in it which is the site for family photography.  There seems to always be someone out there getting family portraits in any kind of weather.  It is a beautiful spot, as you can tell from this shot.

All of these different projects and businesses I am working on just do not seem to bring in what I need to provide for my seven body family.  I know it will in the future and I know that harvest time is coming soon – but sometimes it is difficult to see the growth occurring before the sprout comes up.