Saturday, 13 July 2013

Backdrops and Scenery...


A few weeks ago a certain recently retired chappie from Bylong made a comment regarding the surface that I had chosen to photograph a piece of infrastructure on, being unflattering to the subject.  As much as this comment was tongue in cheek, it certainly got me thinking about the layout and backdrops etc.  To be believable a scene, diorama or layout does require the blending of rollingstock, infrastructure, scenery, lighting and backdrop to be in concert with one another to portray what we are all trying to achieve.... realism in "little" form.  There are certainly some modellers who appear to make it look simple to achieve the masterpieces that grace the blog sites and printed media that we can easily access...but for me it has and will be a long learning curve of trial and error until I am happy with the finished result. 

I have been studying backdrop methods for some time and my decision to end the procrastination and give it a go was made in the last few days and to begin I thought I would go out and take some landscape photos and just have a play.  As a fortunate aside we have large format digital printers as part of the business arsenal and I figured that this methodology of backdrop creation may as well be attempted first.  The attached photos show the results after printing a photo onto adhesive sign vinyl with the resulting print mounted on to some sheet substrate. The diorama was then placed in front of the backdrop and initial shots taken. 

So what have I learnt from this first attempt...

Firstly the chosen season would need to be mirrored in both the photo and the 3D modelled landscape so as hues, grass colours and general landscape items marry well.  The angle of the sun when taking the backdrop shots would need to be carefully selected to reflect the desired time of day of the layout if this is an important criteria.  It may be that shots need to be taken in flat light or on slightly overcast days so the shadowing is minimised.  The biggest problem I see in adopting this method for the whole of the layout is blending one shot into another to create a seemless backdrop over a large length of my case most likely around 9 metres between scenery breaks.  Of course there are computer programs that can stitch together several photos if taken in a careful method...but I wonder whether this would produce an optically curved finished result?.

I will continue to play around and see if most of the above issues can be solved adequately or it may be that the present method is good for diorama or infrastructure shots and painted backdrops may be utilised on the layout. I certainly have no artistic talent for painted it may end up that the job is "subcontracted".  Then again if I look at the present layout progress speed...backdrops may just be a job I can leave to the grandchildren...if I ever have any.

In finishing this post...just a note to the readers of this blog... I have an appointment with a surgeon ( who has promised to put everything back where they found it ) come Monday morning and I hope the next post will be sooner rather than later.  Thanks to you guys for your messages of support...They are greatly appreciated!!!




  1. Rod

    You are spot on about matching hues, grass colours, landscape, etc.
    One suggestion I would make is to reduce the saturation of the photo, fade it out as this gives a better impression of the hazy distance effect.
    With the right software, stitching photos together is relatively easy but the photos must be taken in the one plane, perhaps on a tripod if possible and they must also overlap by about a quarter of the shot to allow the program to align them.

    We will be thinking of you on Monday.

    Ray P

  2. Hi Rod,

    When you have it worked out could you send me five 2 metre x 1.2 metre sticky vinyl sheets to apply to my layout? Ha ha. No seriously can you.

    I hope all goes well on Monday. I will have to get my self to Goulburn soon and have a look at all these great new models your building!

    Take care,


  3. Rod

    I am very much a fan of the photographic backdrops over painted ones. I totally agree with what Ray has said regarding the overlapping of the photos for best result in getting the seams right also using a tripod,

    I have a couple of banner making software products, & they can be tricky, you may get a good neat join only to find the curved nature in some of them also a fair degree of cutting the top & bottoms off.

    Try out different weather conditions for to get photo's in, you have some good spots to do tests with not far from you out along Murrays flat. Also as Ray said with the saturation levels in the image processing does help as does a touch of bluring to create a haze affect.

    All the best for Monday.



  4. Hi Rod,

    Points that could help with the backdrop include:
    Taking your panoramas in portrait for stitching (use a tripod). This should create a more gradual effect.
    Take your photos with the sun behind you (seems obvious) particularly if you are useing a shadow box design.
    Autumn and Spring could be the best times to take the photos for depth of field as the sun is not too bright or dull respectively which will mean the shadows will have less contrast and you will see more background detail.
    If you are using software such as photoshop you can then reduce the transparency of the image which will create a more subtle effect as Ray has already outlined.

    Your images are already looking great.


  5. Beautiful work Rod, good luck for Monday.
    Like Linton, hope to catch up with you in the big G soon!


  6. I agree with that recently retired chappie about fading off the colours in the backscene, but heck it looks great as it is. I think that because of the sun-drenched location, you can get away with a bit more contrast anyway to give it a warmer look. I speak with some conviction since we are in the middle of a heatwave here in Porthmadog. Normally summer here consists of rain...rain...
    Your stock and the structure look great in the photos. Good luck with Monday and I hope you are back here pronto to entertain us with more quality stuff!

  7. Thankyou to all who have taken the time to leave a comment. All of the replies are more valuable than you can imagine and have given me plenty of scope to grow the idea of this type of backscene.

    I am looking forward to putting the tips into practice and I will post the results as I go along.

    Oh and to those brave enough to make the trek to the Big "G" would be most welcome!!! this a "stitch up" or did Iain Robinson actually leave a comment on my blog???.