From my early days of photographing Lego I have followed a guideline of not altering the photograph after I shoot it. I set this rule to me myself because otherwise I felt this would be more like a photoillustration thing than a photography project. Allowed was removing wires or supports, adjusting colours, contrasts and such, even cropping. The snow in my photographs doesn’t always flow quite like I’d like it to and I have used patches from other exposures to fix that at times. But this is the extreme. I have always avoided any altering of the image in a way that could be considered constructing it as it was a puzzle. That is to say, the subjects are all there as they were when photographed, not added, removed or rearranged in post.

This simple principle is an ideal, something to go for but not necessarily get overly hung up with. Sometimes I don’t even think about it, sometimes some extra effort is needed. The moons of the planet Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back setups are a good case in point.

With the early snowy photographs on the reimagined planet Hoth in 2010 I quickly realised the sky was a problem. It looked flat. I figured the skies needed something to make the whole image look more interesting. The three moons of Hoth are never seen from the planet surface in the movie but in MY Hoth they turned out to be essential. Only, the moons would have to be ”real”, as in not photoshopped in later. I was a bit fussy with the no-altering rule those days. I dusted my old Reflecta Diamator slide projector and made some custom slides. 

The slides I’ve used for throwing the moons or the sun to the tabletop skies. I’ve used this outside the Hoth setup only a couple of times, so it's very much an idea for Hoth only. 

The header photograph, Moonlight Shadow, 2011 (Alt. 2024 Edit), is a prime example of how the projector moon works. This is also not the one I posted originally in 2011. I like to dive into the archives and find alternates, it is fun even after all these years.

The bright moons on the background projected on white or dark blue cardboard sheets sometimes needed tidying. Removing errors in my slide mask handiwork in Photoshop is a thing I can easily live with. Punching perfect round holes through aluminium tape is difficult you see, there are almost always some imperfections here and there and they look huge when projected to the background in big size.

In total I’ve used this with thirty photographs, give or take.

The bottom line for this look is that the heavenly bodies are there, the moons and the suns, photographed for real. Until they weren’t.

With the more recent photographs I have sometimes just photoshopped the moon/sun effect to the sky. But only when I knew I COULD set the slide projector up and it would have looked exactly the same. I mean, my rules, I can bend them if I want to. The look was established with the real thing and I want to keep it looking like that. These days I’m photographing in a space that is much wider and roomier than I used to have but unfortunately it has less depth. There is enough for the camera but not for the slide projector, it makes rigging it a nuisance. So, I cheat.

I have talked about this technique also in my book Small Scenes From a Big Galaxy (DK Children 2015).