Thursday, February 28, 2008

The instant way to take better photos of your layout

This also applies to indoor photography in general: stop using flash.

A layout with marvelous scenicing, detailing, and weathering turns to instant messy cartoon look under the harsh glare of a flash. Set your camera so the flash is forcibly turned off.

If you can, get your layout close to a window and use the natural outdoor light to illuminate it ... or if it's small and lightweight enough, just take it outside! I've actually found that bright overcast days give better results than sunshine, because there are fewer harsh shadows.

If there's no way to get natural outdoor light near your layout, the next best method is to find a powerful incandescent light and get it close. Make sure the white balance on your camera is set to incandescent. Observe the shadows and the "tone" of the light very closely and feel free to adjust the light position before you press the shutter.

Finally, either in your camera or using photo software, experiment both with increasing the contrast and decreasing the color saturation. A little of each goes a long way.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ridiculously simple and good-looking roads, lots, and pavement

For roads, lots, and pavement, sandpaper is your friend. You can easily trim it to any size and shape you want, from narrow road to large lot. You can cut it to fit between the rails for street running or grade crossings.

Start by selecting a grade of sandpaper suitable to what you're modeling. Fine is good for sidewalks and parking lots, while coarse is better for streets and roads. The extra thickness and height of the coarse paper also looks good at grade crossings.

If you're simulating a dirt road, the sandpaper is probably already the proper color. Otherwise, you'll want to paint the sandpaper with two coats of cheap craft store acrylic paint. For pavement or asphalt try shades of gray to dark gray. For concrete, use your eyes when selecting the paint. I use a shade called Bamboo.

After your painted sandpaper has been installed (cut and glued down), get creative with weathering. A technique I like is drydabbing. Like drybrushing, your paint brush has been wiped almost totally dry, with just a tiny amount of paint left, but instead of stroking use quick stabs and dabs. Drydab with colors just a shade or two removed from your pavement/concrete color.

I also like to use Bragdon weathering powders to simulate the soft streaks left on roads by tires and spills.

Finally, use a fine-tipped permanent marker to add cracks and tar patches.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Enough already with the Flickr pools

I promise this is the last one, but I had to include it because it may be the best of the bunch:

Friday, February 22, 2008

Why I Love Trains and Modeling

Our hobby is multi-faceted. Ask 100 enthusiasts what they love about it and you're likely to get 100 answers. Here are the hobby's two biggest highlights for me:

1.) It requires several disciplines, which appeals to my sometimes short attention span and desire to learn new things. I came to the hobby most interested (and experienced) in electronics, and am now captivated with track planning and scenery. In model railroading, you draw, assemble, paint, sculpt, build, and "hack," and you have to do at least some of these things well.

2.) The focus in our hobby is on modeling times past, which has a powerful sentimental pull for me. Frankly, I'm one of those people who was born in the wrong decade. 100 years ago, America was en route to being on top of the world. The overall societal tenor was of enthusiasm and looking to the future. Most of us didn't specialize, but knew how to do different things in addition to our chosen profession. Our money system was pre-fiat and based on tangible value, as were our attitudes toward children, neighbors, and self. I think about these things extensively when I watch the trains run.

Friday, February 15, 2008

One more cool pool for us on Flickr

This was added since my last post about Flickr, and I couldn't have put together a more appropriate photo pool for model railroaders if I designed it myself. 'Nuff said, just take a look and let the scenery ideas flow:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The ever-versatile continuous loop

When designing small or micro layouts, you can cut down quite a bit of space by getting rid of continuous running and doing, for example, a simple terminus or very small yard. However, consider how versatile the loop is, and how much is sacrificed by its removal.

For starters, it's probably our mainline. Trains will usually take a few laps around the loop going from "here" to "there".

Secondly, the loop can easily also be our runaround, when we have stubs pointing in different directions and no passing sidings. This isn't prototypical, of course, but then neither is the loop itself!

Finally, the loop is for continuous running, when we want to showcase our layout or just watch the trains run.

When you remove the loop, you're removing quite a lot.