7/31 – The Good Kind of Stress – Photography and LEGOs

Thank you for all the wonderful people who have supported my art. Hobbies are meant to be stressful, because they’re your passion. And in doing what you love, you have no choice but to challenge yourself to become better than you were the day before.

In 2007-2008, when I made more money than I ever had, I bought 3 different cameras. A cheap Samsung that I lost, then a Nikon D60 and a Nikon D90. Over the years I’ve then invested about another $4,000+ in camera equipment. At first, I was taking pictures of everything, downloading the photos to my Macbook, and uploading them to Flickr. I’m a shy guy, so there’s not many photos of people. However, what was wonderful was to be able to spend time in my own tiny studio playing with lights and little plastic men and woman and monsters. I didn’t have to worry about running these little guys’ patience!

I had the opportunity to take photos of my friends, Sam and Amanda, over the years. I was there for their engagement shoot, their maternity photos, as well as their Hannah’s baby pictures. Those were nerve racking experiences, with hours behind the computer screen researching how to bring out their best.

Tsoi’s engagement shoot in 2008
Tsoi’s maternity photoshoot 2013 (?)

I also had the chance to take my parents’ 30th anniversary picture. Most of the time, Asians have these very posed and sterile images. I told my parents all I needed was 15 minutes of their time outside. It took a LOT of convincing to get them out there, and be happy. I wanted to capture their happiness since this would be the invitation they would send out to all the guests. I had them run and jump and skip and play and kiss and hug. Here’s a blooper image.

My father’s a goofball. I attribute my goofball-ness from him
I’ve personally never liked stoic overly posed photos. Case and point. 

Here’s the final image we chose to send. I think I told my mom to jump into my dad’s arms. He was all like, “This is gonna like stupid.” And I’m like, “No it’s going to look romantic!”


Most times, my photos are taken for a price (paid for in food).

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Most of you know me from my LEGO photography, though. I was heavily inspired by some many great photographers. There were not a large group of LEGO photographers in 2007, when Flickr first began to get really popular.

Gareth Payne (Shutter Skills) had a great 365 project that told a story told about a LEGO Boba Fett and Cookie, his incompetent but lovable stormtrooper. I tried several times to replicate what he did for a couple of years. I couldn’t.

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JD Hancock (Flickr) was one of the first people I followed as well. I especially learned a lot from his simple set up and backgrounds for his toys. Note the Post-It Notes.

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Mike Stimpson (Balakov, Flickr) was a photographer that had very powerful and simple stories in a single frame. You’ll see many of my LEGO photos inspired by  his images.

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Chris McVeigh (Flickr) is now world famous, but started off doing what he loved. I once told Megan I wish I continued to take photos and developed my skills, and regret not investing the time to do so.

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I love taking pictures. Some photos, from start to finish it could takes over 8 hours to create, especially the ones that seem to be the most simple. Some of these were from the first days of doing this in 2008, and some were done a few months ago. They were a lot of fun to take, and also so very stressful. This was especially so when I was doing a 365. Every picture was always better than the previous, and I had it in my to try to outdo myself. And sometimes I would throw myself into a frenzy or depression when I couldn’t accomplish that. Every tiny position mattered, and every turn of the aperture or shutter dial changed the tone. I obsessed over the details in the background, and every shadow  and fall of light. My eyes would hurt, my back would hurt, my knees would be sore, and I would see the sun rise before I was finished. But boy, I loved it. And I miss it, too. Just wished I had the time and space to continue it again.

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