Sunday, August 31, 2014

1 out of 2 children agree!

A magnet my wife bought me years ago.
My son told my I was the best Dad he ever had after I showed him the Dungeon Saga Kickstarter video teaser.

In the end I couldn't resist and jumped in with about 49 hours left. I believe it was at about $460,000 then. It closed at almost $1,058,000. Whoa!

I know I've got a lot of stuff I've promised you all. Maybe promise is too strong, but I do plan on finishing up the photography stuff and those 20mm fantasy sizing shots. I also need to get back to my conlang attempts as I need to come up with a name for my Orc leader in the Nemroth campaign. Nar is the leader of my orcs in Linlandia, my hibernating Mighty Empires campaign. My all time favorite, even if short lived, D&D character was Hagrak the Usurper. That has a nice ring to it. And then i input the Mighty Empires naming tables into inspiration pad pro and ran off 25 names, a few of which are promising. Ungolgag and Grimgar are good, followed by Zogrot, Ashslag and Thorlud. But as per usual I'm over thinking things. Perhaps a post on names with respect to conlanging. Hmm.

I better get to work.

Oh yeah, I've also got a bunch of Oldhammer stuff to share, especially after catching up on Realm of Chaos 80's.

Monday, August 25, 2014

This Week in Talomir- Brethren vs Treyine Update

Hi All,

Busy weekend, what with watching TMNT and doing some long overdue tidying of the house.

I did manage to clean and glue on washers a bunch of the figures I will need to fight my battle for Talomir Tales.

A mixture of figures.  Starting from the left. Miniart German Knights, the green are Airfix Robin Hood. Strelets Military Order Warriors, 3 Strelets Medieval Crossbow. all the way in the back 2 Slingers from Zvezda Medieval Peasant Army, another Strelets Military order  Warrior and Three Feudal Levy #2. The Six pink figures are Zvezda 100 Years War English.

I took all these on the auto portrait setting. The all look underexposed to me.
These two I have already painted as Treyine Infantry, so I was thinking about a weapon hand swap. You can see I accidentally cut the axe head off, thinking it was a bizarre piece of flash. I'm trying to think how I can remove and/or transfer the sword hilt from the back of the one to the other. I do have some insta mold, but I've never tried it.

Some Red Box Town and Country Levy plus two more Airfix Robin Hood to round out the Archers. Two Templars and one Crusader from the Italeri boxes. Three Strelets Military Order Sergeants.

I also have some Teutonic and Livonian knights, but I ended up wanting to go simple for the brethren in this battle. No crazy helmet horns.

I realize that I've fallen woefully behind on the 10 x 10 challenge, I'll try to get to that soon and I have a few more things to put together for the final (?) installment in the photography posts.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Photographing Miniatures Part 5 - Backgrounds

Hi All,

I'm sorry this took me so long to put out. Just the usual, got busy/distracted etc. What I want to do today is continue our discussion of camera settings and using backdrops with your figure. For this experiment I used regular pieces of 8.5" x 11" paper (Letter size in the States) as it is the kind of thing most of us have on hand. I just used some cheap 20Lb. (75g/m.sq.) For the white background. Some Parchment colored specialty paper that I used to use for printing out belt rank certificates and then 110Lb. (198.9g/m.sq.) card stock to print out some backgrounds I downloaded.

Camera and Settings

I chose to use my Nikon D5100 for this experiment. The things that remained constant were 18-55mm lens set at 55mm, Auto focus mode, VR stabilization on, A (Aperture Priority) Setting f16, Remote shutter control, on a tripod.

Backgrounds Used

As mentioned above I used Plain White paper (Brightness 92), Parchment (not actual animal hide, but paper) and the Backgrounds from Wirelizard and Massive Voodoo. In fact it was at Massive Voodoo that I found another guide to photography that I, somehow, hadn't seen before. It seems that I could have saved myself a lot of work and just linked you guys to this series. Part 1, part 2. It looks like part 3, on post processing was never done, or at least I can't find it. Anyway more advice from some guys who appear to know their shit (as the saying goes). Perhaps a little contradictory of my findings in places, but interesting none the less.

Figures used

I mainly used our old friend Nar. For the white background I also used Mr. Ouch, a Bretonnian man at arms I painted up for the challenge. I wish I had figures with a little more technique on them to show you, but I shipped those off to Curt. Let's pretend that the figures are world class painted and full of stunning detail. This experiment is more about the effects of the backgrounds on the image. To a lesser extent it is also about the camera settings.

Enough yakking, on to the pictures.

HTC One X, WB: Incandescent, EV+1
Just a shot from the cellphone to detail the setup. Similar as the last time but with a smaller piece of paper. One issue to be aware of is getting the paper to curve but also allow the miniature to sit flat. I did this with mixed success. I chose the incandescent White Balance setting as the Fluorescent looked way to yellow to me.

First experiment: Setting the White balance.

All the same white piece of paper for background.
On the left and the middle the WB setting was Cool Fluorescent. The only difference was that the flash went off on the picture on the left. On the right I changed the WB to Incandescent. I think it looks much better. I sort of feel like Auto WB may be sufficient for me. One thing that jumps out at me is that these all seem way too dark. My usual complaint with figures photoed on a white background. So I will show how the Exposure Value (EV) setting will help with that.

Second: Exposure Value Test

EV 0, +1, +1.3, +1.7, +2.0
The EV 0 picture is the same as the one above from the white balance test. I then stepped it up incrementally, skipping 0.3 and 0.7, to show the effect. I ended up choosing +1.7 as the EV I would use. I think it's a judgement call.

Third: Comparison with brighter colors.

Again EV 0, +1, +1.3, +1.7, +2.0
I just wanted to see what something with a little brighter color might look like. I probably should have spent a little more time on the composition, as the shadows are bugging me. Again +1.7 looks pretty good although +2.0 could work too.

Fourth: Tan backgrounds

White Paper, Parchment, Wirelizard Tan Gradient
All form now on are shot with the same settings. The EV has been left at +1.7. I'm not sure which is best, but I'm leaning towards the one on the right.

Fifth: Blues

Wirelizard Sea Blue, Blue and Blue Grey
Just to see what effect the color has. For this figure I think the Sea Blue doesn't work at all. For me it's a toss up between the Blue and the Blue Grey.

Sixth: Greys

Wirelizard Light Grey, Grey, Dark Grey, Black to Grey
I was beginning to have some issues positioning the figure back in the same spot on these. Maybe i did before but I didn't notice. I'm leaning towards the darker shades.

Seventh: Massive Voodoo Backgrounds

Massive Voodoo Warm: Bright, Medium, Dark
Massive Voodoo Neutral: Bright, Medium, Dark
Massive Voodoo Cold: Bright, Medium, Dark
I put the "bright" spot on all of these beneath the miniature. I tend to like the Dark version for Warm and Neutral, while I like the Medium for the Cold backdrop for this figure.

I also played around with putting the "bright" spot behind the figure.

Massive Voodoo Warm Bright Background upside down.
I thought it worked about as well as the gradient backgrounds had.

Final Note: Post processing.

On all of these pictures I scaled the original down to 20% of its full size and stitched them together. The resolution was reduced from the native 300dpi to 72dpi to help display them on the web a little easier. The last photo was reduced to 20%, but left at 300dpi.

So, what do you think? Have I exhausted this topic for you? Are you keen to look into more staged/ diorama type shots? Post processing, interviews with other hobbyists who take good pictures? There is always more I could do, but I don't want to bore you or fill your head with so much info that you are worse off than before. Goodbye for now.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

On the Workbench - I never learn

Still no photography post, but I have some rushed snapshots of the forces I'm trying to assemble for the next battle for Talomir Tales.

I drew the Invasion of Treyine by the renegade Brethren Mercenaries who are trying to re-establish a holy state in the North of Talomir. If you go back and read the beginning of the campaign the Bretheren were originally played as a faction that was defeated by Treyine.

You may recall I finished the majority of the Treyine force during the Anologue Hobbies painting challenge here and here. For this battle I am short four units (12 figures) of Archers, three units of Infantry (12 figures), 1 unit of Knights (3 figures) and the Wind Maiden and her three ships.

Ass you can see from the picture I need to paint up 3 MiniArt German Knight for the Knights, finish the Dark Dream Studio Landsknects for the Arquebusiers, and paint up the twelve remaining Strelets Military order Warriors to finish of the Infantry units. I could use the Airfix Robin Hood set to finish out the Archers, but I ordered some more figures that I think will be better. I also have a ton of Egyptian Archers should I be forced to proxy.

The Brethren have fewer figures, but I'm further behind.

I'm missing the Brother Knights and the Sergeants. I have a bunch of Crusader/ Templars on order and found a source for the Strelets Sergeants. I'll use the Zvezda 100 Years war English Halberds (in pink) for the heavy spear. I had thought to use the same Strelets Military order warriors as Treyine but decided against it. The Crossbows are Strelets as well, I have three based and primed. The Peasants are from the Zvezda Medieval Peasants and, at first, I cut out the slingers to use for the peasant archers. I then remembered good old Airfix Robin Hood so I cut out those two green figures next to the slingers to use instead. The Eskelin Knights are common mercenaries in Talomir, so I had three started already. You can see them on the left. Again, in a pinch, I have some units I can proxy if the shipments take to long, or my painting for that matter.

I have some 1:1 scale modelling to do. A little dry wall patching. Shouldn't take too long. You can't work in a Martial Arts school and not learn how to patch dry wall.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Photographing Miniatures Part 4 - Interlude

Hi All,

Things on the photography front have not gone apace here at the corner. Yesterday I tried to buy some inexpensive lights to use for back lighting a la Giovanni Azzara, but I didn't want to pay $20 per lamp and all of the $5 lamps had sold out due to the back to school sales.

What I did find this morning, however,  was another resource which I think is worth a look.

Table Top Studio's Product Photography Tips.

That page has an excellent explanation of Exposure Value (EV) and what settings to use to get pictures to not look so dark on a white background. They also give you the same tips that I've been giving you about lighting and tripods etc. And the "Hard/ Soft" Light test is genius. They are trying to sell you a light box and other equipment, but the advice is rock solid as far as I can see.

One other point they stress, know how to focus your camera. This is actually a very big deal, especially if you have auto focus. One of the common errors I see in photos of minis is people taking the time to set up the shot and then not paying attention where the focus point is. Maybe you really do want that tree behind you figure in focus instead of the figure, I don't know. Use the trick of pressing the shutter half way to set the focus and then position the camera for the shot.

And because it sort of came up in a comment from the last post, here is a scaled down version of the shot from the Fuji, instead of a close cropped version.

In and of itself, not bad. Just too far away. I doubt many of you are going to use a clunker like this one so it's really all academic.

And a welcome to two new followers:

Panzer Kaput of Panzerkaput's Painted Review. The very talented artist who did Loki's blog header and the Bloggers for Charity logo. He's also got some fantastic looking buildings for VBCW on the blog right now.

Mark G of The Repple Depple Clubhouse has some lovely hotspot markers for 20mm (1/72) games of Force on Force. Hopefully I'll have a chance to dig through his site in the future.

Gotta Run.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Photographing Miniatures Part 3 - Camera Comparison

This one was a little tougher than the last post. Aside from being busy over the weekend I had to try and figure out how to actually use these things without finding the manuals.

What follows is my attempt to take the same photo with four different cameras. In each case the set up was the same. I used three desk lamps with compact fluorescent bulbs. I don't remember their exact wattage, but I want to say that they were meant to replace 60W bulbs. The two frontal are supposedly daylight and the over head was regular, probably soft white.

I wrapped my baking parchment over the housing of each lamp and used my regular black construction paper background. I used metal book ends to support the back of the construction paper, and used mini wooden clothes pins to secure the construction and baking papers in place.

Taken with my cellphone, an HTC One X, 8MP camera, normal setting.

The figure I chose was my favorite Orc Character. I painted him for the analogue challenge and you can check out the photos I took there. Those were natural light I believe. This figure does not have a lot of technique, in fact it's pretty basic, so that is the only thing I don't have to show you detail photography. I'll keep on working on my painting technique.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Photographing Miniatures Part 2 - Online Tutorials

Online resources for photographing miniatures.

I figured that I would start where most of us start and look up “photographing miniatures” on the old Google machine. I'll provide a link and a short synopsis of the points I find useful.

[Sorry, this post is super dense verbiage without any pictures. Funny, since it's about photography. If you want to skip to the end, I would read #5 and #6 and the synopsis for the executive summary of what to take away from all this.]

1. LIGHT EM' UP! Tips for Photographing Minis Like a Pro

This article from Bell of Lost Souls is pretty straight forward. What I come away with from this is use lighting on your minis. Three lamps seems to be the magic number. Use “daylight” bulbs. I have some daylight fluorescents, I'm now seeing daylight LED bulbs as well. I'm not sure if one needs to go out and buy a daylight lamp, but if you've got one you should use it. You should also notice that none of the lights in the working example are shining directly on the figure. See my example from the other day that direct light is problematic. Other advice,  like use a backdrop etc. are a no brainer. For a competition shot you want no distraction, even for an ebay shot I bet a good picture leads to a better sale. The only thing I don't totally agree with is the white background makes for brighter/better color. To me most figures photographed against a white background don't look as vibrant. Perhaps they look more true in color, but I prefer a dark background.

Friday, August 8, 2014

What's on the bench.

Just a quick post, more to keep up my painting and blogging mojo more than anything else.

Here's a couple of shots from the other day of some 1/72 figures from the Caeser Fantasy Adventurer set.

Nikon D5100, 18-55mm lens, Macro (Flower Symbol) setting. Afternoon reflected sunlight.
I'll try to start captioning my photos with what I remember of the camera settings and conditions. These guys were all based and then primed gray. I wanted to try different things with the flesh so three of them have territorial beige (?) as a base flesh color while the odd one out has the yellow ochre to provide a base for Dwarf Flesh. Wartchemakalit (2nd from left) has also had her hair done in Camel I think. Nanoc (far right) has had bestial brown applied to the leathery bits, Botgun Metal on the sword, and some kind of brown (probably Burnt Umber) on the hair.

D5100, 18-55mm lens, Macro Setting, Afternoon sunlight, brighter day?
So I did a little work, apparently fixated on "Not Legolas" (or I guess by my naming convention, Salogel.) The figures with the darker base skin tone have all had Reaper 09045 Tanned Highlight painted on. Nanoc in particular looks a little like how Arnold was painted up in "camouflage" in the 80's Conan the Barbarian.

Well maybe not even. Anyway I ran through all of my new Rosemary & Co brushes and I want to say I did the edge detail on Salogel's tunic with the #1, although it might have been the #0. I got #2 down to #2/0 and they all hold a nice point.

Next up I brought out my oldhammer ball & chain fanatics and Goblin Shaman.

During the Anologue Hobbies painting challenge I painted their flesh in Hauser Light Green. What shocks me now is that a quick perusal of the internet shows nothing but Night Goblin Fanatics.  I personally found the Night Goblins to be a total cop out sculpting wise. For me a sea of robed figures is "BORING".

In the above picture I was trying to show the painting of the foot wraps. This is 9AM-ish sunlight through te blinds, directly down onto the table. Too many shadows etc.

Same time, blinds adjusted to be parallel with the sill causing no direct sunlight. Much better. The first of these three was taken in the afternoon. My window faces East, so more direct light in the morning. All of these were also with the Nikon D5100; 18-55mm lens; Macro setting.  One other thing I'll note is that in these last two pictures there is a little too much clutter around the figures. The Macro setting can be your friend, by having a short depth of field, but you need to take into account that even blurred out clutter can be distracting. Especially if it is a bright color.

Welcome to R.A.E. Gingerbhoy of Gingerbhoy's Painting Projects, a fine painter and figure converter.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Photographing Miniatures part 1 - My gear

I have been thinking about photography, among other things, again. While I was in the middle of thinking about this r.a.e. gingerbhoy of Gingerbhoy's Painting Projects was talking about how he felt he was losing painting competitions because his pictures weren't as good as his opponents. I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea. This is a big topic, and I don't pretend to have all the answers. But I do have some opinions.

I think I'll try to do a series and see what some of the answers are. But for this one I'll talk about what equipment I use. It's a bit narcissistic, but so is blogging in general.

I have been using a Nikon D5100 for the last couple of years for most of my photography and have been fairly pleased with the results. I bought it on sale at Costco ( a big warehouse store in the US) and it came with a camera bag, 18-55mm and 55-300mm lenses. You can see their current deals here. It's a lot of money, but I use the camera a lot now. Before I would carry around smaller digital cameras and never bring them out. With the big expensive camera I feel compelled to use it to justify its purchase. Although I still forget to break it out at family gatherings and social settings.

Now we could leave off there, but there are a few things that I've acquired since the initial purchase that I find useful. First, especially for shots of miniatures, you need a tripod. I have a standard one from years ago which works fine, but I recently bought a Gorilla Pod flexible tripod. I use it to set up on the game table. I'm still working with it. I think it could be very useful, but so far I haven't done that much with its unique features. I also have a monopod. I use it for photographing outdoor sports, it really helps to get better shots when the kids are running around and you don't have a lot of time to set up the shot. I can't remember if mine was this Dynex one, but I'm pretty sure I didn't pay a lot for it.

Second would be the flash diffuser. Lighting can always be an issue, and to be honest, I don't think I've gotten it licked yet. The diffuser I bought was recommended by Dave D here. (In fact I could have just skipped this whole post and just sent you to Dave's post. It is essentially how I take my pictures now. But I digress.) This gadget really helps dull the harshness of the flash. One day I'll try the other colors, but i use white. I got mine from Amazon here.

Third would be some kind of infrared remote. You can set the timer, but the remote is dead easy to use and takes away any nudging or vibration of the camera. I bought a generic one from Target here, and it works great. Just make sure that the camera has something to focus on. The first time I tried it I think I had the object inside the cameras focal length and it refused to take the picture.

Fourth item is a good camera bag. Now the camera I bought came with a bag, so you may be thinking, why does he need another bag? Well, although serviceable, the bag isn't all that comfortable or easy to get the camera out of when you are running around historical sites. So I bought a sling bag and it's been great. I got the Lowepro Slingshot 250W and it's been great. I will say that the single strap, although great for camera access, can be a little fatiguing when you are on a death march through the Louvre or trying to cram in a lot of site seeing in one day. One salient feature, that I haven't had to use yet, is an integral rain cover that pulls out. Great for sunny old England, although we had hardly any rain during our visit in March.

The last thing I bought, and it is totally unnecessary, was an 18-300mm lens. The stock lenses are very good, but I've been caught many times in sports or on vacation where I had the wrong lens for the job and missed the shot. My solution was a lens that could do a little of everything. I bought this one used, again from Amazon. It is not uncommon for a lens to cost more, sometimes multiples more, than the camera body itself. So you need to get over sticker shock and sort out your price range and what you want from the lens. My hope is that I can get the closeups on the football field and then take a portrait of the team, all without having to try and do a lens change with little time and a lot of dust and dirt flying around.

So there you have it. My fancy camera gear. Next I'll look into various resources for taking good pictures of your minis. I'll try to follow that up with some examples of a setup and try to show the difference between different kinds of cameras. Lastly I may try to look at some examples of miniature photography and see if I can get the photographer to share their process.

Happy picture taking. Or is that camera shopping at this point.


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