By Chuck Woodbury
Some photographers specialize in portraits, others in sports or fashion. Still others spend their time in the great outdoors and capture stunning scenic shots; Ansel Adams is among the best known.
My favorite subjects are a bit more offbeat. Like the toy dinosaurs I photographed here with my iPhone in a Seattle area supermarket. They were the prizes in one of those games near the exit where you pay a dollar and then with a joystick that controls a metal “claw crane” try to snag a dinosaur for your very own. Of course, most of the time the dinosaurs — or whatever else is in the glass case, often plush dolls, encapsulated toys or even cheap jewelry — slip out of the claw leaving you a dollar poorer.
Not many adults play these games. But kids are suckers to play. The machines are programmed by their owners to control the claw strength and aperture and, ultimately, the expected payout.
I once came upon a claw crane in a Tampa area restaurant. Instead of toys, the prize was a live lobster in a tank in the display case. If you managed to snag a lobster, the restaurant would cook it and serve it to you. I invested a dollar, but, as I expected, the lobster lived to be clawed another day.
Perhaps the most controversial claw crane game was in China, where in 2017 an amusement park opened a claw machine that tempted players to scoop up kittens only a few weeks old. The public went crazy and the game was shut down.