Saturday, September 22, 2012

Taking to the skies

Here's a change of pace for this little diecast collector, and in both cases these planes came into my collection as a result of reading a great book.

This is the Westland Lysander, a remarkable plane whose exploits during
the Second World War won it countless admirers. No, it's not a fighter plane
nor a bomber or anything like that. I like to think of it as an early 'Stealth'
flying machine. What it excelled at was short take off and landing, and
where this was incredibly valuable was in ferrying men, women and
vital supplies to and from the French Resistance during World War Two.

The model itself is 1:72 by Corgi (formal name Westland Lysander MkIIIA (SD) – V9367, No 161 Squadron, February 1942). It's number 1355 in a limited run of 2010 models. The model also comes with a large, black torpedo-shaped container for carrying deliveries (the usual stuff for the French resistance – weapons, explosives, radios) which is slung under the plane, but as it does nothing for the plane's looks I have left that black lump in the box. The rear canopy (over the rear-facing machine-gunner) also comes off, but the gunner looked cold with it off.

And the book which inspired this little purchase was 'Resistance' by Matthew Cobb. Recommended!

The second plane which arrived in the mail just yesterday came via a much more conventional biography, that of pioneer Australian aviator Bert Hinkler, by Grantlee Kieza. Bert flew many different planes, but almost all of them are unavailable as already made diecast model planes, and in fact almost all of them aren't available as kits, either. But one is available as a kit, the Sopwith Camel, the World War One British fighter.

Ready-made 1:72 Sopwith Camels are not common but I did find this one
built from a kit and sold cheaply enough on eBay. It's a bit rough around
the edges but infinitely better than anything I could build. It depicts the
Sopwith Camel flown by Canadian fighter ace, Roy Brown.

Now, "who's Bert Hinkler?" I hear you ask. An Australian of German descent, he was an aviation-mad Aussie schoolboy when the Wright Brothers first flew, and by the age of 19 he (in 1911) had managed to build a glider which flew successfully several times. He started off as an airplane mechanic and stayed one for the next 7 years. He was in the UK when World War I started in August 1914, so he joined the fledgling airforce as a mechanic and gunner and spent the next three years doing that. By late 1917 he had made it to Leiutenant and finally became a pilot. His first combat aircraft, flown in combat over Italy in 1918, was this plane, the tricky-to-fly but quite effective Sopwith Camel. The combination of its stubby wings and big radial engine made it an unstable but highly manoeuvrable thing, but Hinkler thrived it in as a pilot.

After the war he set countless solo long-distance records, the pinnacle of his achievements being the first to fly solo from England to Australia (in 15 days, in 1928). He was also the first to flow solo from Brazil to Senegal in Africa, crossing the South Atlantic alone, non-stop. A national hero in Australia, he kept on flying in Europe and the US until he crashed and died over Italy while flying a Puss Moth, in 1933.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Photographing the whole collection

Over the last month or so I have been slowly chipping away at a little project of photographing all my model cars in a nicer way. It has been fun to do, time-consuming for sure, but now the project is complete, very satisfying indeed. And best of all it has been very inexpensive, which suits my budget. And so I thought I'd share a couple of tips on how I've done it (and show you the results of course), in the hope it helps you to photograph your own collection on a super-low budget.

Here's the cheap set-up. My little Ricoh digital camera is set
to take macro shots. I sit it on a pile of books to keep it steady.
If I need a higher angle shot, add more books! The lightbox
itself is just a plastic storage bin with a sheet of A3 paper
stuck down with stickytape. Total cost $8. The lightbox is
pointed at the window where the natural light streams in,
but the clear plastic sides let in a bit of valuable light, too.
Instead of paying a fortune in artificial lamps to light the shots, I have simply been waiting for the right, bright, time of day, when natural light streams into my study. The natural light here is at its best for a couple of hours in the afternoon, so on weekends and other times when I can find a bit of time to take a couple more shots, I've been banging off photos of my little model cars and bikes this way.

Now, the results vary using natural light, so I do use Photoshop to tidy up the dark bits, should they occur. Here's an stark (ie, really bad) example of what I mean about 'dark bits'.

This one went really badly – the usual results are a lot, lot
better than this – but this shows what I mean very clearly.
By using the 'Dodge' tool in Photoshop, with a big 200 pixel
brush, it takes about 10 seconds to get rid of the muddy
bits and come up with a clean, crisp result such as I now
have here with this very lovely Peugeot 404 Wagon.
By comparison, this photo of two Lancia Asturas hardly
needed any attention at all in Photoshop.

So, in dealing with natural light while photographing indoors (I turn off all other indoor lights when photographing, of course) the results can be a bit variable, and they are not as good as a studio set-up with the control of lighting available there. However, for my humble, amateur, collector purposes, they are fine and most importantly the cost is minimal.

I'm so happy with the results of the photography project that I have uploaded them all to Photobucket, and now at the end of this blog (below the diorama slideshow, and below the 'blogs I visit' lists) I have set up yet another slideshow filled with my whole diecast collection, a bit more than 300 photos in all. Let me know what you think!

Big tip: the slideshow here on the blog only shows a small selection, so simply click on the bit saying "view all": this will take you to Photobucket and my albums there, and in there click on the "view as slideshow" and you can then enjoy the whole show as a nice presentation.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Check out the slideshow

I've just spent the last half-hour figuring out how to set up a slideshow of all the dioramas I have done in Photoshop (96 so far, says Photobucket), starting with the relatively crude (or at least very simple) early ones, then slowly getting better as time has gone by, since I started back doing them back in late 2010.

The slideshow is at the bottom of the page, but to celebrate this minor improvement to the blog, here's my pick of the 10 dioramas which I am most pleased with, for one reason or another. They're in no particular order – picking the top 10 was hard enough!

Peugeot 403 at Phillip Island, 1960, my first 'action' shot.
Mythical arms summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, in 1969, with
Brezhnev and Nixon smiling for the cameras.

Citroen C4 World Rally Championship, Sebastien Loeb driving.

Holden FBs at a Golden Fleece Service Station in Sydney;
using my first colourised black and white background photo.

Jaguar Mark V, my old family car, at the cricket.

Citroen Type H Fruit and Vegetable van.

Fiat Abarth Record Car 1960, glimpsed through the trees
as it speeds around the banking at Monza.

Chrysler Valiant R series, with a Ford Falcon behind, in
a suburban fantasy about a new car owner's pride.

Borgward Traumwagen ('Dream Car') pictured in a scene
showing the future as it was imagined back in the 1950s.
Renault Floride and Peugeot 404 cabriolet somehwere on
the French Riviera.

So that's my top 10 so far. Hopefully the slideshow thing (see below this post) will work OK for you. I'd be interested to hear from you whether you agree with my top 10, or if something else appeals a bit more.

Big tip: the slideshow here on the blog only shows a small selection, so simply click on the bit saying "view all": this will take you to Photobucket and my albums there, and in there click on the "view as slideshow" and you can then enjoy the whole show as a nice presentation.