Since the pandemic landed, three years ago, I’ve watched more TV at home than I had in the previous 65 years. I watched and re-watched every Star Wars-related movie, animated cartoon and TV show I could find on Disney+.
At first, I watched them for entertainment but then again for inspiration. Then, I started thinking about making images like this after watching “The Clone Wars,” “The Book of Boba Fett” and “The Mandalorian.”
I have purchased some inexpensive toy models from the Star Wars saga and I’ve been trying to construct scenes where they fit in. I have made some stuff I am really proud of. Some of it worked better than others. Some of it came to me easier than others, but it’s all part of my toy photography journey.
One of my first attempts at photographing a toy model and integrating it with an AI Background.
For the photo featured below, I photographed a 1/64 scale AT-AT (Walker) against a blue screen. Then, I had to let my imagination run wild. This is where my love of AI Art took over.
I do not have the budgets they do at Lucasfilm nor do I have access to “The Volume.” (If you’re reading this and you can get me in there, please contact me immediately — even 10 minutes would do for me — just to see it). So, I have to let my imagination do the heavy lifting. Some of the practical sets I’ve built are cool but to be honest, I’m usually disappointed by what I have the time and the talent and the material to create.
So I’ve decided to get good at the AI Art thing — at least good in my own mind!
I created the backdrop for the AT-AT in the feature photo using a combination of Jasper and DALL-E. Next, I mashed up output from those two AI-Prompt-Driven programs and then I brought the result into Photoshop. I selected the AT-AT photo that I made against a blue screen and composited it into the AI Art piece. Then I created the sky using Photoshop’s “Sky Replacement” feature. I finished it all in my go-to, Boris FX OPTICS where I added more stars, a sun flare, some dust and a color grade, and this is where my lowly photo of a toy AT-AT ended up.
I wanted to make the setting an off-world planet, with a mountain range in the background. I wanted something like sand — but more like waves but with no water to be the foreground. I wanted a man-made monolith to be a prominent feature and for the AT-AT to be parked nearby as if it were investigating.
I learned how to do most of this over at Kelby One. They have classes in Photoshop. There, I learned how to composite. I also learned how to use Boris FX OPTICS at KelbyOne. OPTICS is probably the most important post-processing software in my arsenal. If you haven’t played with it, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
The AI Art stuff has been a little tougher to learn. I’ve been playing with it for at least six months and learned from a variety of YouTube videos, blog posts and by digging into the program documentation for DALL-E.
I find that no one AI Art program gives me what I need. So, I almost always mash that stuff up with either other photos I have access to. Or, I tweak them with the Particle Effects Generator or Render Engine in BorisFX OPTICS. It’s motion picture-grade so if you practice with it and get to the point where you understand it, you can do amazing things with it.
The end result is not exactly what I pictured in my mind when I started but frankly, it’s pretty close.
Now will anyone else like it? I have no idea. I take the same approach that Henri Cartier-Bresson did. It’s none of my business what other people think of my work. I just put it out there and move on to the next piece.
Do I hope other people like it? Sure. But I don’t worry about it. This new stuff I am doing is so very far from what people expect of me. My circumstances have left me here, so I accept them and make the most of them and it turns out I am enjoying myself. Toy photography (not surprisingly) is fun.
I am an old man playing with toys. I never expected that for the end of my life, but I have to say it’s a better epitaph than I thought I would have.
Now off to make the next toy photography creation — starting with something in my old, twisted brain.