Friday, January 13, 2012


Speaking of taking photographs, when I started building models ions ago (using those old send-your-prints-to-the-lab cameras) I took horrible photographs, in part because understanding a camera requires a great deal of math, and I am sure you've heard by now that old Doctor Cranky suffers from Dyscalculia (a fancy word for math impaired!).  Along came the digital camera and revolutionized the way we take photographs.  These point and shoot cameras are perfect.  They have also gone down in price considerably, so these days I use my Canon Powershot 10SXIS and get excellent results.  Of course, I have read up everything I can about taking better table top photos, etc . . . but it's been a very pleasant (and sometimes frustrating) journey.  Along the way, also I sought and received help from some of my model building heroes.  My pictures have come a long ways, and I guarantee that my addiction to styrene is matched only by my addiction for taking photographs, or "playing" with the eye candy, as EYEGORE calls it.

 So you read up, inform yourself as much as possible, but nothing teaches you more than hands-on.  Making mistakes and getting frustrated are part of the process, the journey on the way to taking better pictures.  My set up has stayed simple in the last five years or so.  A shadowbox above on a boom, two lights on each side and a sweep, which is normally all you need.  Light is important, and to understand light math is necessary, but you can also adapt and adjust by playing with the camera.  I still don't know anything about how cameras work.  For me, it's a magical act, but when you end up writing how-to and step-by-step articles, good quality pictures are necessary.  You want to show your work in the best light possible.  You want to produce consistent good quality images time and again.  Sometimes I get lazy and end up using my iPhone 4 camera, then run the pictures through one of the many filter Apps, and get good results, but my digital camera is still the workhorse.

Model building--particularly if you are participating in sharing your work in the forums--is an art that truly depends on good quality images.  You've put so much time and energy into building a model that you are doing a great disservice to your craft if you don't at least try to improve your camera work.  Trial and error, it's an everyday reality.  Again, you have to enjoy the journey.  Try your best to stay up to date on the technology.  Improve your equipment when your budge can afford it.

Only when you get the combination of a project that really excites and energizes you and the right-looking images will you begin to feel like you are soaring, and it seems that SOARING is really the addiction between building a world in scale and making a record of it.

You get closer.  CLOSER!  You are entering that space of your imagination that normally only YOU can visualize.  Models and pictures illustrate that world for someone else.  The closer you get, the more the details come into the light.  Here's a photo back drop I built a couple of years ago in my constant search for creating interesting back drops for my models to be photographed against.  This time I wanted to build something that would scream "WORLD'S END!"  (You know how Doctor Cranky feels about the Post-Apocalypse and Zombies!) and so I built this base to play around with, large enough to fit a few models at a time or to maybe even make a Stop-Action animation (waiting for the figures to start).

Here's the formula for success with your photographs:  Inform yourself + Practice = Proficiency.  Proficiency   turns to dependable results.  Everyone wins.  You get closer, and closer.  Your eyes water not because they are tired but because you are liking what you see, it's affecting all of us at emotional and intellectual levels.  It takes time, patience, and your pictures, like your models, undoubtedly will get better.  Enjoy the journey.  Keep taking pictures.  Have fun.

EYEGORE says that if Doctor Cranky can do it, so can you.  Take pride in your work, stand by it!

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