Jun 2013

Planning the Village II

Eighteen months on from the first post on this topic, and the scenery in my Village area hasn’t really progressed, but I’ve turned my attention back to it, and am close to having a final layout of buildings. I think. From here, things should start to move. The overall design hasn’t changed: still a broad avenue with commercial buildings up the middle, two typically-narrow side streets, with businesses mixed with residences on one side. The exact selection of buildings, and their placement, has evolved though.

To get here, I finally mapped out the ground I had to work with and put that into a drawing program, then I created outlines of the footprints of each of my candidate buildings, and set to work trying different arrangements by dragging the outlines around on a second layer above the drawing. Layered object drawing programs are so useful for exercises like this; I used Omnigraffle on the Mac, but anything with basic shapes and layers should work similarly.

Along the way I finally decided that the Tomix gas station, as much as I liked the model, really wasn’t going to fit. I’d somewhat realized that last year, which is one reason work on that structure had halted last summer. I may reuse parts of it, although I anticipate scratchbuilding most of the new gas station, which will be sized to fit a spare corner. I also had to abandon plans to use one of the more traditional brown wooden residence/business buildings made by Kato, as they just didn’t fit anywhere.

I also decided, based on purusing Google Earth views of the banks of the lower Sumida River, that some of the oddly-shaped corners could be used as small parks with trees, and perhaps recreational equipment for children, as that’s how such gaps are used in the real world.

Model Railroad Photography IIIb - The Camera

Well, that didn’t take long. After my post a couple of weeks ago about the advantages of cameras with smaller sensors, I continued looking at what was available, and quickly discovered that RAW-capable point-and-shoot cameras were much more common now than they had been even two years ago. At the same time, cameras with tilt-and-swivel rear LCDs were rather rare. And then I stumbled across the Samsung EX2F. And what I found was compelling enough to get me to buy one (it helped that they’re on sale at present, significantly marked down perhaps in advance of a new model).

Now Samsung isn’t a name that comes to mind when you think about cameras, or at least not when I do. They’re a big company with a lot of different lines of business, but I think of them (outside of major appliances) as a smartphone company. And many of their point-and-shoot cameras are smartphones-without-the-phone with better lenses.

But the EX2F is something different, although it clearly shares that genealogy. It has a number of features aimed at “enthusiast” photographers, and its performance (in RAW anyway) has been rated very highly by professional photographer reviewers (like this one). Nothing is perfect, particularly in a device that’s as much of a compromise as any small-sensor enthusiast-oriented camera has to be. The camera has both good and bad. I think the good parts outweigh the problems or I wouldn’t have put down close to US$350 for the camera, memory card and accessories.

Hilltop Backdrop

It occurs to me that I haven’t said much about my plans for the hilltop scene. In fact the page I created to describe it is essentially blank. That’s mainly because I don’t have anything there yet to photograph, although I ought to add something showing the current appearance, if only as a “before” image. I do have a Construction page describing my plans and the current extent of work. he idea is that this is a removable “cap” that sits above the location of the future helix down to staging tracks.

Model Railroad Photography III - Cameras

Once upon a time, I thought I understood layout photography. Throw a bunch of light, point the camera, and take a picture. I seem to know less now than I did then. And while that’s probably a good sign that I’m learning, I do feel like I’m going backwards.

My current concern is depth of field. Without getting into the technical definition, that’s the extent of the region in a photograph that appears to be acceptably in focus. While it would be nice to have the entire image in focus, typically either the nearest or furthest-away portions will be somewhat out of focus. In the photo above, the wooden ruler close to the camera is out of focus, as is the far end of the red ruler, so my depth of field here is somewhat less than 12” (30 cm). And that’s viewed from a distance as a ~660 pixel-wide image. Seen in larger form (e.g., the 800 pixel versions I post in my photo album), the depth of field should appear even more shallow.

May 2013 Monthly Status

Another month, and not much accomplished. Almost all of the layout work this month was related to playing with the tram controller project. And while that was fun, and will ultimately be useful, it does leave me feeling like I have neglected the layout.

The “mountaintop” scenery project continues to be on my mind, and I continue to procrastinate on actually getting going on it, in part because there are still a few problems I haven’t solved related to attaching the backdrop (which has no support directly below where it goes) and making the scenery transition from the low areas of the adjacent scenes to the lower level of the “mountain”, which is at least six inches (15 cm) higher. I have ideas, and what I really need to do is grab a knife and rasp and start shaping foam, to see if they work out. At worst I’ll waste one of the leftover chunks of foam that have been cluttering the basement for the past three years (I bought a couple of sheets more than I turned out to need).

While I’ve said this before, several times, I think this time the mountaintop scene really is going to be my project for the month of June.