There are over 100 different Brickheadz characters from Lego now, and two of the newest came in a gift with purchase offer: Hagrid and Buckbeak from the Harry Potter line. Not knowing the source material very well, I fully expect to offend people with wildly inaccurate interpretations of character and plot in this review!
Here at Brickcentral we concentrate on the photographic possibilities of LEGO so I won’t review the build of the two characters except to say that there were no surprises in how they were constructed: Hagrid is a little taller than a normal Brickheadz build, and Buckbeak has four legs instead of the normal two.
I liked the construction of the crest on Buckbeak’s forehead but otherwise everything here was straightforward and the 270 pieces go together easily in the standard SNOT way for Brickheadz.
Both of these characters have a deep lore in the Harry Potter books: Hagrid is a big friendly giant (or BFG) who lives in a hut in the grounds of Hogwarts and shouts a lot, Buckbeak is a horse who is also a griffin. There’s probably more to it than that to be honest – please feel free to correct me in the comments section.
One of the barriers to overcome in a photographic review of these LEGO characters is their inability to emote: there’s no alt-expression on the other side of their heads, and they can’t even turn their heads – cos they’re made of bricks, obvs.
So I decided to take a couple of shots of them in their normal environment, on a shelf or coffee table where they will stand as evidence of your fandom:
Hagrid’s wild beard and hair is well modelled but prevents modification of the head to allow it to turn – he also has a very large forehead which catches a lot of light and creates reflections. His accessories of a lantern and umbrella are wildly out of scale here, but I think that adds to the charm, and is anyway true of all Brickheadz figures that carry something.
It might have been nice to get a printed part or two in the set, Hagrid’s belt buckle or some wing detail on Buckbeak for example. As it is the models are representative of the subjects, but a little bland – a brown coat is accurate for Hagrid, but uninspiring.
I quite like the Brickheadz theme in general: the way the figures achieve a chibi/anime look and their the digital-cute eyes. It gives them a dreamy expression, handy for wistful gazing to the sides of the frame. They work well for licensed IP, a LEGO equivalent to bobble-heads and Funko Pop! figures.
The challenge for me was to try to breathe some life into the plastic figures and create emotion where none resides. So I decided to break out the moss and sticks, let loose the god of bokeh and take my toys out into the (semi) sunshine.
In my Googling to find out exactly who Buckbeak was (he was arrested for something apparently), he appears to hang out in woods quite a lot – as does Hagrid. So a mossy glade with a background of trees and mottled bokeh seemed appropriate for my shoot. I have a wide, shallow planter that I use for this kind of stage, and scrounge the moss from the pavements and trees around my house, same with the sticks that I used for the nearer tree trunks.
However my back garden is enclosed by a brick wall on one side and a high fence on the other so I had to get creative to ensure the far-background looked right: enter the step-ladders.
Luckily this part of my garden doesn’t overlook a neighbour, the other side of the wall is some overgrown waste ground, with trees and shrubs that give a lovely soft-focus bokeh effect.
It strikes me now that I should provide a health and safety warning here – Brickcentral does not suggest that everyone takes shots from the top of ladders, and you should only do so in the presence of adult supervision (my wife was close by, so I was fine). Be careful up ladders. And don’t drop your camera.
I shot with my Nikon D800, which is far too heavy to be up a ladder with, and my Tamron 90mm macro lens. I used f8 with ISO 400 (as I was partially shaded where the set up was) and a shutter speed of 1/100. My precarious position atop the ladder meant I was shooting hand-held so I needed to guard against any camera shake with a fast enough shutter speed to hide it.
I was using natural light on these outdoor shots, no flash or cointinuous lighting at all. It helped that I was in partial shade but on a sunny day, so the light was nice and diffused and created very little in the way of glaring reflections.
I added a small amount of atmosphere with a facial mister I got from Amazon for a couple of quid – it’s not easy to control where that mist goes when you’re outside on a gusty day! I also wired in a small light to Hagrid’s lantern for a couple of shots. I use a battery powered led string light, where the wire is bare and easily bendable.
A bit of blu-tac to keep it in position in the lamp, a bit more to cover the next closest lights on the string – play the wire out behind the subject until you can lay the battery pack on the top of the wall, and you’re good:
Even with the dreamy eyes of a Totoro-like implacable forest dweller, I thought the shots lacked a little action with just the Brickheadz figures. So I fetched out two of the other Harry Potter LEGO figures I own – I bought a few of the first CMF series – to add a bit of expression and movement.
I enjoyed the challenge of trying to get more life out of shots of non-posable, expressionless Brickheadz. Treating them as large brick-built versions of the characters and mixing them with minifigs works quite well for these two I think. Even so I do think that they resemble Easter Island statues, with the action happening around them instead of involving them.
I chose to imbue my shots of them with (I like to think) an enigmatic stoicism, or a wistful dreaminess – It would be interesting to see if other photographers could get a different range of emotions out of the same faces, perhaps with dramatic lighting or extreme camera angles. Give it a try and post some links to your shots in the comments!
The set was a gift-with-purchase in most parts of the world, though I see it is available for sale on some LEGO Shop regions still (the Australian site still lists it). It went out of stock pretty quickly as a GWP and so collectors will probably have to scour the secondary markets if they want to pick these two figures up.