…. the limit of where the layout stops being believable and becomes a model.
My layout is multi-decked, meaning that it is built on three levels one above another. There are about sixteen inches or so of clearance from the top of the one deck to the bottom of the next deck. Sixteen inches is about 116 feet in HO scale. The residents of my miniature towns must look up and think that the sky is falling.
Of course, it gets worse. If they could loosen the glue bonds that hold them down (“Look! I’m being oppressed!”) and move their plastic legs, those same HO scale residents would quickly realize that the world isn’t round, it’s flat. And narrow. With a really big first step off the edge…
What does any of this have to do with layout design and building? Well, not too much, except that it may be important to provide a little information ahead of time some of the images that appear both here and elsewhere of my layout.
“It sure looks bigger in the photos…”
- Mike Rose on a layout visit some years ago. At least, I’m blaming him for that line….
For several years one of my side interests has been model photography, with a goal to create as realistic a final image as possible. I’ve been able to use this interest over the years to create a number of images both for commercial and personal purposes. Here are just a few examples:
Of course, these were fairly easy to take since most were taken on portable dioramas outdoors under natural sunshine with real trees and sky in the background. This example showing one of Mal Houck’s dioramas on one of our joint photo shoots shows what a typical set up might look like:
An indoor multi-deck layout like mine becomes a real challenge to photograph realistically precisely because the limited vertical space confines limit both the available angles and the vertical field of view. When I started taking photos of the layout I was disappointed by the end results. The upper deck and/or open aisles ruined the effect that I was trying to achieve. This became especially apparent back in 2005 when Mal and I were staging photos for what would become the 2006 O&W Historical Society calendar.
“CHEAT!!! LIAR!!!! FRAUD!!!
THAT’S NOT REAL MODELING!!!”
THAT’S NOT REAL MODELING!!!”
There, got that bit out of the way.
It still seems that at least some modelers get quite upset about digital manipulation of photos. My counter argument is that when you view the layout in person you are hopefully drawn into the scene and your mind’s eye blocks out or at least ignores those peripheral areas that the camera just can’t ignore. As a result, I really have no qualms about using photo editing software to add in sky or background hills if they help the photo better capture what I am trying to portray. The final image to me is as much a model as the three dimensional items on the layout. Notice though that all of the actual 1/87 modeling that you see in any of my photographs is real, only some of the backgrounds are altered.
To give an example of what I am rambling on about, here is the raw image that is used for my background on this blog.
Now here is what it looks like after the background hills and sky are added (with a dab of exhaust):
If it makes anybody feel better, those are actual Catskill Mountains in the background...
Note that the background hills are indeed on the layout, they are photos of the hills near Roscoe that were taken on a past trip to the area by Mal Houck. I blended them in Photoshop to blend some of the seams, then printed them out and taped them to the wall “temporarily” to see how they would look. They've been there a few years now! I was so pleased with the results that I incorporated similar backdrops around most of the perimeter of the layout.
My intent in adding these backgrounds is more to focus the interest back onto the foreground modeling than to deceive the viewer into thinking that I have actually managed to get the Catskills into a 14’ x 12’ room. I won’t go into a “How-to” discussion right now, but maybe will cover this sometime down the road, perhaps along with a discussion of adding smoke and atmospheric effects, something that probably bends the boundary between real and electronic modeling that I’m trying to define here! Instead, I’ll present just a couple of more examples of how a little simple Photoshop work can (in my opinion at least) enhance your model photos without detracting from the model work.