Vesa Lehtimäki said he has no idea how much money he's dropped on LEGO toys — and he prefers to keep it that way. (It's a lot, according to the Finnish photographer and father.)
He began shooting his kid's toys in 2009, reigniting his love of the "Star Wars" franchise.
Eventually, Lehtimäki started buying duplicate sets of the "Star Wars" ships and fighter aircrafts so he wouldn't have to rebuild them after playtime.
"I like the limitations of LEGO," Lehtimäki told Business Insider. "Seven points of articulation on a mini-figure is not a lot to work with."
His most photographed figurine is the Snowtrooper, which only has six points of articulation. "Its head doesn't turn because of the helmet," Lehtimäki said. "I compare that figure to the deadpan character of Buster Keaton."
When it comes to choosing a scene to recreate, Lehtimäki goes with his gut. "Sometimes an idea just pops into my head and I go after it with the camera," he said.
Here, a Jawa encounters a bot on his native planet of Tatooine. The Sandcrawler behind him looks just like the one in "Star Wars: A New Hope."
And in this photo, a band of Ewoks holds a jam session with the Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes, the alien group that plays in the famous cantina scene.
Lehtimäki photographs LEGO toys in his basement or on the living room table during the dark winter months. The daylight is too harsh in his photos.
Many of Lehtimäki's photographs are set in a snowy landscape, reminiscent of the fictional ice planet Hoth.
He substitutes baking powder for real snow and uses figurines to make tracks in the snow so it looks realistic.
"With the snow photos, I'm not only photographing them, in a way, I get to be a member of the audience," he said. He sets up the shot so that "snow" falls when the camera shutters.
"But when I upload the images to my computer, I briefly switch from being a photographer to looking at the shoot with fresh eyes," he said. "It's often very exciting to find the minutiae of details that make one frame stand out."
One of the best tricks in his bag is manipulating the air with smoke, a technique used in movies to make actors pop off the background. He often burns paper.
His photos look so realistic, in fact, that one of the production companies behind "The Lego Movie" contacted him for advice during pre-production of the 2014 animated movie.
"LEGO is something a great number of people are familiar with. It's interesting to work with something so many people know inside out," Lehtimäki said.
"I think when you have the mini-figure in your hand and you look at a photograph of one, you see the photograph differently," he said. "It connects in a unique way and, to me, that's one of the sweet spots in all of all this."