My favorite places to shoot toys are National Parks. Last year, on my birthday weekend, my wife and I went to Arches National Park in Southern Utah, and I brought a handful of figures to shoot. This is where my background experience in landscape and nature photography meets with my toy photography, and it usually produces some of my favorite images.
I am blessed to live in a State that has so many National Parks that are only a few hours drive from my home. Southern Utah is known for its red rocks and desert, which can look and feel like a world in Star Wars. Last year in Arches, there were a lot more people in the park, so I got used to awkward stares and people looking at me, but I didn’t care, I just wanted to get the perfect shot.
This last weekend in Capitol Reef was amazing. It was really cold, still had lots of snow on the ground, but that made the landscape just breathtaking. I loved seeing the red rocks with the snow. There were not as many people visiting the park, so I didn’t get as many stares.
This trip I really took notice to my camera settings, especially my aperture. The lens aperture is how open the lens is. A low number, means the lens is really open and lets in light fast, which means you have to have a quick shutter speed to not over expose. This leads to blurry backgrounds. The lower the f-stop, the faster the blur. Typically when I do toy photography, I like to have a fast blur, but since I was in a national park with beautiful surroundings, I wanted the background to get more detail, so I took shots with a higher aperture. That means the lens is smaller, so you need a slower shutter speed. This allows for more detail in the photo. I like to have these settings, especially with 1/6 scale. This allows for the entire figure to have detail, and more of the background. With 1/12 scale, since they are smaller, you tend to want to blur the background faster, so as to not make the figure look so out of scale.
I took one photo in particular that has become one of my favorites, and the small Instagram screen doesn’t give it justice. I love my 1/6 Hot Toys Sandtrooper. He looks so real, and putting him in the natural desert landscape makes him look even better.
Thanks for reading about my adventure in Capitol Reef National Park. I highly recommend you go outside and shoot your toys in a National Park!
– Spencer Witt
Salt Lake City based toy photographer.
Last modified: February 3, 2017