The giant image of a squad of stormtroopers getting ready for battle catches the eye of Star Wars fans as they wander around San Diego’s Comic Con.
Little do they know the photograph was not a still from The Force Awakens, but actually a clever snap of a group of six inch tall action figures set up by a Polmont man who has never had a single lesson in photography in his entire 43 years on the planet.
Stuart Robertson works in a factory in Bathgate, but his spare time is taken up scouting locations in Muiravonside or Beecraigs country parks, setting up his action figures in suitable settings to create some epic photographs.
Stuart said: “I always quite enjoyed taking photographs, but until the last few weeks I never even had a proper camera. I’m actually quite lucky with what I have got all around me.
“A lot of people from the USA I talk to online mention the beautiful locations here like Muiravonside and Beecraigs. Those are my favourite locations. I also took a few photographs of stormtroopers on the beach at Kinghorn when we went up there for a caravan holiday.
“It’s like scouting locations for a film, except I look at everything through six inch tall eyes. It makes me feel like an eight-year-old again when I used to play with the original figures.
“You do get some funny looks sometimes when people pass by watching you photographing toys.”
Stuart’s unlikely journey to Comic Con glory began a couple of years ago when he joined Instagram to try and keep in touch with an old school pal.
He said: “Being a Star Wars fan I searched the site for images and came across some quite amazing photographs and they inspired me to give it a go myself. It started with me taking fun photographs for my son.”
Stuart would borrow nine-year-old James’s Star Wars figures and start taking pictures on his phone.
“It was just a giggle at first, making up your own scenes. Stormtroopers doing something stupid in my daughter’s dolls’ house. It was just something fun we could do together to help develop James’s imagination and creativity.”
Stuart starting taking things a bit more seriously when he posted the pictures on Instagram and the online toy photography community heaped praise upon them, supporting his efforts and welcoming him into the fold.
“They are a really good, positive group on Instagram and after that I knew I had found a new hobby. I had no training or knowledge and learned about things like depth of field as I went.”
There are few “trade secrets” between Instagrammers, with the online community sharing many hints and tips with each other about how to take the best photos. Stuart admits he is old school when it comes to effects and steers clear of photoshop and similar technology.
“The smoke in some of my photos is actual party smoke – it just helps keep it as real as possible.”
Through his online friends, Stuart learned about this year’s San Diego Comic Con Hasbro Toy Photograph Challenge and decided to enter it.
“I have been Star Wars daft for over 35 years and taking photos like this is, more than anything else, a whole lot of fun. I knew what I had to do – recreate the very first scene from The Force Awakens.
“I remember I had goosebumps when I saw it in the cinema.”
However, Stuart needed to recruit nine more Stormtroopers to create the photograph and the action figures arrived just a few days before the competition deadline.
Obviously someone who works well under pressure, Stuart created a photograph in the time he had remaining that turned out to be the only one from the UK which was given pride of place in a display at Comic Con.
“It was a real honour and privilege to have my photo on display. Hasbro is going to send me the enlarged version of my photo.”
Stuart can always count on his family, James, daughter Kayleigh (5) and wife Lisa (33) to support his fun, but sometimes time consuming, hobby.
“It’s something we are all involved in to an extent. The children love seeing the finished photographs and I love seeing their faces when they see it. They are also my harshest critics who get the final say on what goes on Instagram.
“I’m quite proud of my photographs but I don’t see myself as an artist or anything like that. Some people comment on the photos saying they must have taken some skill, but I take it all a bit tongue in cheek.
Stuart has splashed out on some superhero figures, including Ant Man, to expand his online portfolio, but Star Wars, with new film Rogue One coming out later this year, will always feature strongly.
He said: “It’s an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan that’s for sure.”
Visit www.instagram.com/non_1072 to see some more examples of Stuart’s amazing photography.