Friday, August 19, 2016

What a difference 19 years makes

Lead photo in the Melbridge Dock article in the current BRM is this shot by Andy York showing the Y7 shunting behind Dougie and a seagull. 

Back in 1997, Tony  Wright took a very similar photo.

Andy's pic was taken on a digital camera. He's post-processed it to make sure everything is in focus and then delivered it to the editor via the Internet. 

Tony took his on a medium format camera which had an adjustable back to improve the depth of field - the first model railway photographer to use this sort of kit. Photos were taken on transparency, 72 by 60mm. He would take three of each shot - one for the mag, one for his records and the third for the layout owner. Transparencies had to be scanned in for use. All the work had to be done "in camera".

Andy does take more than one shot, or at least his camera does. Most photos are now made up of multiple images taken with different focus points - and staked to produce the infinite depth of field required by today's mags. Fiddling with images to remove dust or unwanted backgrounds is standard practise.

Digital has certainly accelerated the work though. Tony produced 12 images in half a day at my house. Andy shot 34 in about an hour at the show.

I wonder how things will change in the next 19 years?


Ian Cooper said...

Interesting the comparison - especially the depth of field. To me I prefer the MF version with the background dropping out of focus slightly, it keeps attention on the loco in the foreground and gives a sense of depth. All the foreground detail is realistically sharp.

If you take a 'full size' photo on a medium format camera then you naturally get a similar sort of effect, where the background is often slightly softer than the main subject as well.

It's all a matter of taste, and whilst there isn't anything wrong with the more recent digital photo, the infinate depth of field putting everything in sharp focus does leave it a bit flat for me.

...of course taken to the other extreme nothing shouts "miniature" more than having the front corner of the buffer beam in focus and everything else blurred! Lol.

James said...

I prefer Tony Wright's photo too - the film has a nicer feel whereas the over processed digital image feels rather false and flat. TW's composition is much more dramatic too, the low angle looks great. Infinite depth of field can feel very false I find, with decent lenses which allow very small apertures a much better and natural result can had.

I have a DSLR but recently have been using film in my old 35mm SLR and it's interesting to compare film and digital - film still has to uses and advantages sometimes!

Personally if it's possible I think layouts look best in natural daylight, regardless of the medium.

Phil Parker said...

On the page, the two photos look closer I feel, I just wasn't going to scan in an old BRM as the picture of the transparency looks more interesting.

Shooting in daylight isn't going to happen because you need control. It's fine on a bright but overcast day but if the light is strong then you get terrible shadows. Yes there is kit to sort this out but all magazine shoots are very low budget. You'd get an entire issue for less than the price of one photo in a fashion magazine.

James said...

The first image is very dull in terms of colour I feel - maybe it's more the photographer than the equipment though?

I have to disagree about light - models can look great in natural sunlight. We saw Hope-under-Dinmore at York, positioned right by those massive windows at the rear of the stand and when the sun shone, it looked stunning! There's a degree of luck with weather in the UK but with smaller, portable layouts there's no reason why they couldn't be photographed in natural light. You just need a contingency plan in case it rains!

Phil Parker said...

Natural light for layouts looks good in very, very, limited conditions. Too bright and the shadows ruin the effect. Too dull and you can't see anything.

I was at a show once where the bright light coming through the classroom windows completely defeated the extensive lighting rig set up by the owner, and the layout looked terrible. Many modellers now put effort into thier lighting and want to show the model off to its best advantage - in thier opinion.

Practically, I doubt you could do many layout shoots in the UK outside. You need at least a couple of hours for set up, another for knockdown and then 2-3 for the shoot. Those middle ones need to be bright but overcast and all must be rain free and somewhere close to room temperature and have no wind. That's going to limit the time available for photography to less than half the year. You'll also need a flat area to set the model up as normally the photographer travels to the layout, not the other way around. Most houses don't have even a 12ft by ft area of perfectly flat space, the least you'd need for a 8ft model to provide space for the tripod around all sides.

Admitedly, it would be possible to throw money at a photographic setup to solve some of these but as I've said, the cost would be prohibitive for UK model mags.

Colours on the two images are much closer to each other on the page. The second photo is a picture of the transparency and not that representative of the final result. I suspect though that if I'd not named either photographer, the opinions might have been different.

Huw Griffiths said...

The changes in photography - camera / image processing gear - and how they're used - are interesting.

Have there also been equivalent changes in how you go about building layouts - and the stuff that runs on them - in the same time?

Assuming there have been changes, I wonder how many of these have been due to experience you've gained over the years - and how many have been due to having to document / photograph everything for inclusion in magazines etc..

Phil Parker said...

Interesting. I suppose new materials have impacted on my layout building but my methods aren't that different on latest projects to those used on Melbridge Dock.

I'm an anomoly though. For many, the ability to buy everything ready to use has changed how they "model" dramatically. When we built the dock, the idea of running a layout like this with RTR would have been a dream, now you could almost do it.

Buildings could be resin ready builts too, although there is nothing much of the scale we used, I suspect most people would alter their plans to fit manufacturers output rather than building what they want as we did.

Ian Cooper said...

Sorry to show my ignorance, but I haven't heard of either photographer's name before - so I can safely say that plays no part in my preferences. :o)

Lighting obviously has a massive effect on how a photo looks, but whether you set up outside and use reflectors and scrims to control harsh sunlight, or go indoors (away from the wind!) to use a softbox and flash, the results can be similar and neither has to cost a fortune if you're prepared to do a bit of DIY rather than rush out to buy branded photo gear.

Phil Parker said...

Nowadays it's not equipment that costs money, it's photographer time. Most model railway people work with very limited equipment - often even without lights if the layout lighting is OK. No-one will use flash nowadays.

Post-processing takes the time with background removal around latice signals being the worst.

Final results are down to the magazine preferences. Some like the infinite depth of field, others a softer focus in places or a very sharp and contrasty result. It's part of making magazines look a bit different nowadays. Some mags even like fake smoke added to pictures.