Ladies and gentlemen, since the beginning of July, we’ve been having interviews with AFOLs of different kinds. On September 18th, we took a break from our regular interviews, and started something different: Meet the team of the FireStar Toys blog. As you may have noticed, there is a great variety within our team, and we are all more than happy to tell you more about ourselves.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hey Jack – thanks for taking the time out to talk to me!
My name is Tom, I am twenty-one years old and I am absolutely mad about Dinosaurs and LEGO, too! I’m a big fan of building block products and love the sense of relaxation I feel when it is just me, some music and a LEGO set to build! I am a writer on both the FST and Minifigures.com blogs, and also produce a lot of Jurassic content in my spare time – including video game content, product reviews and much, much more.
I also work in Community Engagement as a nine-five job, so it is safe to say I lead a busy lifestyle!
How did your journey with LEGO begin?
Ironically enough my journey began a long time ago – back in 2009 with 8014 Clone Walker Battle Pack. I was a big fan of Star Wars the Clone Wars growing up, so this pack was the ideal pack for me and was one which I was incredibly happy to get my hands on as a kid!
I had always wanted to get my hands on more of the LEGO Star Wars stuff, but was collecting a lot of the Hasbro toys at the time, so was never able to get much more. Fast forward a few years, and now I am working I have been able to fund more LEGO purchases. I haven’t really looked back since – but I think my wallet isn’t my biggest fan at times!
What about your journey with the Jurassic World franchise?
My journey with Jurassic is a much more interesting one!
I grew up with a British Science-Fiction show called Primeval, which introduces Dinosaurs into the modern world through rips in time known as ‘anomalies’. This show was my first introduction to dinosaurs on the small screen, and really captured my imagination. I can remember being fully invested in the CGI at the time, and can remember it really fueled an interest in learning more about these prehistoric animals.
When the show was cancelled, around 2014, it left a void in my life – and luckily for me, Jurassic World was set to release the year after, in 2015. I hadn’t heard much about the Jurassic franchise before this point, but decided to go back and watch the first three films, which ended up being arguably the best decision I have made!
Now I have the privilege of talking about these films online with thousands of other fans every single day!
How long have you been collecting LEGO? What made you start?
As I mentioned – my first real memory with LEGO is 2009, but I know that I had odd bits and pieces before then. I can remember I had one of the smaller Jabba’s Palace set pieces (the gate with the eye) back when the older Star Wars line was out. I had always dabbled in LEGO as a child, but it finally gripped me in the early 2010s, when I was a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and wanted to get my hands on my own small part of that universe to keep forever.
What do you collect? Sets? Minifigures? Rare parts?
I used to be more of a set kind of guy. I always loved starting with a box of bricks, and ending up with some kind of cool model, as I always felt like that was a very rewarding feeling as a builder.
Since writing for FST, however, I’ve fallen down the hole of third party accessories – as a lot of the photos I’ve provided for this will show! I love making SUPER detailed military figures with lots of accessories and details, and the third party pieces make this possible. They’ve really helped to get me more invested in the minifigure side of collecting – which is more where I tend to find myself today.
You also collect Jurassic World toys – can you tell us about your dinosaur collection?
I think collection is an understatement at this point – I find Dinosaurs EVERYWHERE in my home!
I’m lucky enough to co-own a YouTube channel called Jurassic Collectables, where we review an assortment of Jurassic Park merchandise, so I am constantly acquiring new dinosaurs to highlight on that channel.
Of course, I own a lot of the LEGO Dinosaurs – but I also collect the Mattel Jurassic World line, and have everything from Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor to more unique dinosaurs like Edmontosaurus and Irritator. I appreciate those names won’t mean much to many of our readers, so to clarify – I have a TON of dinosaurs.
I love taking them out and about to photograph, and have a lot of fun reviewing them, so I have a feeling that this collection is only going to continue to grow and expand in coming years!
What photography gear do you use?
Photography is one of my favorite hobbies, so I’ve invested a lot of time and money into the kit I use over the years. I currently shoot with a Nikon D7100 – a DSLR, with a 18-55mm lens on it.
I bought this lens by chance on an Amazon Day Sale a couple of years back, and have been overwhelmed by the quality of it. It lets me get a really good level of depth of field in my photographs – allowing me to make the focus of my shots really ‘pop’ whilst the background is blurred and out of focus.
If I am honest, a lot of my gear has been trial and error. I’ll buy something cheap, see if it works, and if it does, I may upgrade it to a more professional level. There is no set way of doing photography, so the gear you have at your fingertips doesn’t really matter too much, as long as you are willing to get a little creative now and then!
Would you say you’re more of an indoor or outdoor kinda person when it comes to photography?
Outdoor lighting makes things like shadows and highlights feel a lot more natural, and helps to add a lot of ambience to photographs. If you’re shooting something deliberately dark with a fixed highlight then it can be better to shoot in a controlled environment, but generally speaking, toys shine best when they are in natural light which lets all their details stand out.
What kind of preparations do you make before taking a picture?
To be honest with you, not as much as most people would probably expect! I check my battery in my camera, make sure my SD card is in (there have been some embarrassing moments in the past…) and then I choose what figures I want to shoot, and take them outside!
I do a lot of my work in our garden, and I have a mental map of where different areas for photos are, so I’ll always have a loose idea of what I want to get out of a shoot, but I leave it pretty loose for me to experiment with – as that is part of the fun!
What is your biggest challenge when photographing?
Probably sunlight. Whilst outdoor lighting is fantastic, direct sunlight can really wash out a photograph and can ruin the appearance of a certain figure or scene. Finding areas which are in shadow or out of direct sunlight has become a crucial part of getting good photographs.
Heat can also be an interesting thing too – I often get so focused on photos that I forgot to put sun cream on, and even photographers burn!
Where do you get your ideas?
A lot of my ideas are inspired by other things I see online, as well as by the video games or films I get to experience. Sometimes, I’ll want to remake something how it appears on screen. Otherwise, I might see somebody else do something cool and it’ll inspire me to put my own take on it. I always say to not be scared of taking inspiration from others. Online communities are all about inspiring each other so we can get ideas for our own work!
Does photographing LEGO present any challenges that other action figures and Jurassic World toys don’t?
Absolutely! My Jurassic World figures are much bigger than LEGO figures so can only be photographed in certain environments. When it comes to LEGO, those large-scale environments don’t work as well, so I have to get a little more creative with the backgrounds I am using to ensure that they work with LEGO-scale photographs too.
It can be a challenge, but I like that, because shooting at different scales encourages more creative thinking in terms of how you achieve a shot.
Tell us about collectjurassic.com – how long have you been blogging for them? And what got you started?
Collect Jurassic is a site themed around Jurassic Collecting. It covers everything – from LEGO sets, to Mattel figures, clothing, and much, much more.
I’ve been writing for them for around a year at this point, perhaps a little more.
I got started when Tim, the owner, first started to push content out through his platform. We quickly became good friends, and slowly, over time, he asked me to start writing for his website. I already wrote for The Jurassic Park Podcast so I didn’t see any harm in it, and decided to start writing.
It has been a lot of fun – there is a lot of excitement when you are the first person to get involved in a new story!
How did you start blogging about LEGO? Tell us about your time blogging for Firestar Toys.
I remember we received an e-mail from the team asking us if we wanted to get involved, and I decided to take the plunge and do so!
I buy a lot of LEGO and it sits on shelves in my room for most of the time, so it made sense to get something else out of it.
Blogging for the site has been a ton of fun! There is a lot of flexibility with the topics we write about, and every now and then I get to use my marketing background to provide extra insight and commentary on certain topics, which is nice. It is also nice to think that our work may help to inform others – making sure they buy sets or other products which they are likely to enjoy.
I’ve also had the chance to meet a lot of awesome people through it – providing insight into just how many awesome fans of LEGO there are out there!
You’re also on The Bricks King Podcast from time to time – can you tell us a bit about it? And how you got involved?
Yeah, Matt is an awesome guy, and I have been incredibly lucky to get involved in his show!
We got talking through my Tom Jurassic account about LEGO Jurassic World on Twitter, and the more we spoke, the more it made sense for us to come together and talk about LEGO Jurassic. I can’t remember who suggested it, but it has been a blast, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share my passion for Jurassic with so many LEGO fans.
I actually did an interview with him for our blog recently, which you can read here.
What would you say to those who want to blog?
If you want to blog, I’d say go for it. The beautiful thing about the internet is that there are so many different platforms out there that you are likely to find somewhere where you can share your opinions with people who will engage really well. Like with anything, there are some negatives out there, but generally speaking blogging is a great opportunity to share your opinions with like-minded people.
You never know what may come off of the back of your blogging, too, so it is a great way to connect with new fans and also form relationships which will last for life.
If you’re nervous, my biggest tip would be to just jump straight in! Like with anything, you ease into it and it will become natural in no time.
Sum up your blogging career in three words!
Fun talking toys!
If people want to see more of your work, where can they find you? (social media handles/websites)
And that’s it for today’s Meet the Team interview. Thank you, Tom, for taking the time to answer my questions. As for the rest of you, don’t forget to check out the links Tom provided above!