Monday 17 February 2014

Sprue Cutters #28: Distance, laziness and the warmth of home

How far are you willing to travel for this hobby?

That's what we want to know this week. For a change, my answer to this is pretty short.

A: not very far.

Okay, I'll elaborate.

Over the last 3 years, I've travelled from South London to Birmingham for GW's annual Games Day. It's not very far from London, but the trek does begin at 4am. The last event foreshadowed the corporations current situation - it was a glorified field trip with some show and tell, but no 'Games' as there were in previous years - so whether I stump up £40 to attend next September, just to show off my painting skills in Golden Demon is yet to be seen.

I nearly went to Forgeworld's Open Day in Nottingham last year - bought the tickets, finished a model, but my car broke down the day before, so I couldn't get there.

I've also considered taking part in Warhammer World's masterclass painting sessions from time to time, but at several hundred pounds, plus accommodation in Nottingham (which still isn't that far away), has put me off each and every time.

I know there are IPMS events in the UK, and even (not surprisingly) across the whole world, but I've never entertained the idea of going to one - not sure why - I'm certain I'd get something out of going.

Hopefully other Sprue Cutters are willing to travel a bit further afield, Let's see, shall we?

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Sprue Cutters Union #27: Make it snappy

Sprue Cutters #27: Show us your studio

In a recent post for the union, I wrote that one of my bugbears is poor blog photography. Of course, I'm just as guilty as anyone else for posting quick, rough, ugly phone images - but it doesn't mean I'm not annoyed by it (even by my own lack of bothering).

Phone w/flash - poor composition+harsh light = ugly pic

Jon's asked us this week to show off our photography space(s) so we can all find some inspiration on how to up our game, when it comes to showing off finished products. I'll probably also wander off on a tangent

A recent pic I'm happy with

I'm a videographer by day - horrible title (I don't do weddings or kids' football matches), and often work in a full-on studio environment. Lots of lights, scrims and diffuse gels, polyboards and dulling spray - just to get the cars we shoot to look decent.

Sometimes we hide small cars behind really big TVs

Taking this experience home and scaling it down, however, isn't always as easy. Sometimes there's room to set up something proper, and sometimes you have to adapt the natural environment to suit the time/space you don't have.

These were shot in my kitchen under the cooker hood

I do shoot with a DSLR camera - mine's a Nikon D5100, which also shoots video. I sadly traded in my D300 to buy this camera, because the D300 doesn't shoot movies - a regretful shame - the D300 shoots better snaps, and the D5100's video is mediocre at best. Oh well.

I have a cubelite popup tent, which is great when it works - it currently needs some maintenance, as it doesn't actually pop up any more. It needs a fair amount of room as well - you need to have at least one bright light shining through the diffuse material, and that light needs its own space. So does the camera/lens - and don't forget you take up space, too!

This 3ft popup actually needs about 6ft of working space

I also shoot a lot with my iPhone 5. All scorn aside, it really doesn't matter what the shooting medium is as long as you work correctly to get a decent result.

This means:


and that's it.

Your finished mini is your subject, so that's an easy win.

Backgrounds are a bit harder to achieve - one way is to buy a sheet of coloured/textured A1 paper, and set it up to curve underneath and behind your subject. In theory, your light will be more even, and you won't have a hard edge cutting across the model.

I'm still experimenting with backgrounds - my current favourite is a few sheets of black felt held together with blutack and sheer willpower. Yep - I'm still cutting corners.

Original shot, without crop

I tried a few shots with textured kitchen roll as background. These were not as successful as the felt.

Could have worked. Didn't work.

As for lights, I try and utilise sunlight as much as possible. That's a freebie light source - it's up in the sky, and sometimes can be seen through house windows. Then add a daylight-balanced LED lamp to fill light from the front. My new Manfrotto KLYP kit for the iPhone has a great LED attachment. I've also used a simple LED torch for spot light. Switch the phone flash off. It's not daylight balanced and it produces harsh shadows you can't control.

Dimmable daylight control. Brilliant. Better than flash!

This is how I shot the Sulaco pic below. The model was sat on the black felt (on top of my piano), and it was lit with a dimmed LED panel. I wanted the contrasty harshness to evoke the stark solitude of space. A piece of tissue paper over the LEDs would be diffuse enough to soften up lighting for a figure.
Bouncing the light off a reflector can give you more control, but you may need an assistant to help hold it.

iPhone picks up nice shallow DOF when you control the light

Depth of field (DOF) is an important part of photography to get a grip on. Simply put, it's the parts of the photo that are in/out of focus. With proper lenses and light, you can have good control over the depth of field - with phones and compact cameras, you get what you're given, although you can sometimes trick the camera into doing what you want.

I will always try and get the whole model in focus, unless I want you, the viewer, to only look at a portion of the picture.

Raised arm is slightly out of focus

So that's my setup - a bit like my painting and building space. Almost wherever and whenever, with whatever's available. Knowing how the light should behave, and guesstimating the result, is quite useful - but that comes from experience. The great thing about digital photography is that your only constraint is time - keep experimenting with lighting setups (plenty of tips online, too), and you'll find the best solution for your space.

One last thing - I'm not sure I've mentioned it, but switch your onboard flash off. You'll be a lot happier.

See how the others are snapping:

So far, there's only one union post to link to

Bill Weckel

and the Sprue Cutters Union hub, where links will also appear

Tuesday 4 February 2014

White Dwarf 2014. Need I say any more?

Maybe I should say more about the rebrand of Games Workshop's monthly publication. I have internet space, and I will use it... let's go back to 1977.

Many older readers harken back to the glory days of Jackson and Livingstone's White Dwarf: a hobby mag that ran interviews, reviewed other companies' products and had external advertising to help pay for it. It wasn't glossy. It wasn't corporate.

ah - back in the day... (50p)

There are those of us that remember nice features like Chapter Approved and occasional cover-mount freebies (even figures!), and when the now-glossy mag gave hobby tips about building scenery from household objects, rather than trying to sell the latest boxset of trees and hills.

free building! (£1.95)

The magazine has been heavily criticised for its overtly-corporate evolution. No longer are 3rd-party products advertised or reviewed, and the interviews are now only with GW staffers - from shop floor managers to Citadel heavyweights, like Jervis Johnson and John Blanche. There are battle reports and hobby tips, as well as previews of products and WIPs, but these all have a baseline sales angle to them, and, certainly for me, the painting tutorials are a bit dumbed-down. Fair enough - it's important to cater for younger painters (and older newbies), but without masterclasses and advanced tips, the magazine seeks to exclude veterans and young talent.

NO freebie (£4.50)

The 2012 rebrand felt nice - even glossier than before, and with more clear-cut sections for in-house advertising vs actual editorial content. Gate-fold pages and a new photographic house style, as well as the super-gloss overprint on the covers made for a premium-feel product to match the company's aspirational claim that they make 'the best toys soldiers in the world'.
I spoke with Senior Staff Writer, Adam Troke, at Games Day last September, and we discussed the imbalance between the three gaming systems from month-to-month. He agreed to an extent, but tried to justify the flaws in the publication, suggesting that they had to cater for the younger audience first. I sensed that he'd take the magazine in a more rounded direction if the jack-boot restrictions were lifted.

Free poster, at least (£5.50)

I continued my subscription despite the price hikes. The photos were better; the articles were more interesting, and the mag felt like it was heading out of the corporate mire.

And then came February 2014's issue.

Only £2.40! Every single week...

The publication has been split into a weekly White Dwarf and a monthly Warhammer: Visions
The first 1/3 of White Dwarf is themed advertising - the new release products, some apps and Black Library releases, and even a couple of pages dedicated to :Visions. Jervis's column is included, as is a beginners' guide to painting the new dwarves. Sprues and Glue shows those same beginners how to use GW plastic glue to stick their models together.
The back end of the mag is more readable, though - the usual Designers' Notes section is there, as is The Week in White Dwarf, which has been beefed up with a psuedo-Q&A, some margin fluff about alcohol, and some new Model-, Bit- and Weapon of the Week vignettes. Considering this mag in now a tenner each month, you'd think it would have some in-store vouchers or other incentive to hook you in.

What were they thinking?
The new monthly Warhammer: Visions comes in at £7.49. You get a thick Reader's Digest-sized picture booklet, filled with above-average printed photography with caption translations in English, French and German. John Blanche's Blanchitsu makes little contextual sense, as it's just captioned photos.
The Kit Bash section is improved in quantity, but would benefit from more technique/method, rather than finished steps.
The best use of the magazine is the Parade Ground, which is substantial. Shame that the photos are a little grainy, but there are lots of Games Day model pictures. This surely works better as a digital product?

I called the subscription line Saturday afternoon and cancelled my account. I may buy the occasional issue of White Dwarf, if the relevant hobby article comes up, but I really don't need an expensive, trilingual picture book.

Goodbye, White Dwarf, you've taken up enough shelf space. I'll get my hobby info online from now on.