Friday, July 29, 2011

Studying Hard

The learning continues...  I'm finally beginning to understand how aperture, shutter speed, focal length, and all the other ingredients go together to create a photo.  I'm also discovering that there are some VERY cool things that this camera can do, more on that later.

Here are three of the best photos I took this evening, immeasurably better than anything I've posted here to date....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Move Over, Jimmy Olson!

Just like a scene from any Superman comic, the young(ish), enthusiastic reporter/photographer has a hot story that he's just dying to write, only to be told "Your pictures are crap, kid!".  Yeah, I really just used a comic book reference to set up my story - I admit it, I'm a geek.


The truth is, I do have an article that I'm itching to write, for one of the trade magazines, but over the past few days, I've discovered that I have a LOT to learn about photography and publication.  Most of the photos that you've seen in this blog are 8 megapixel photos taken with my HTC phone.  They're good pictures, compared to the old Canon point-and-shoot camera that I own.  In terms of magazine use, however, they're crap.  There simply aren't enough pixels to make the photos look good on paper.  The phone also has other limitations, mainly with depth-of-field.  Bottom line - if I'm going to pursue magazine publication, I need a better camera.

After a few days of research, I decided that I wanted one of the new "super-zoom" cameras, also known as "bridge" cameras, because of their placement between cheap point-and-shoot cameras and higher-end DSLR's.  I found one at a great price, with loads of features, at Tiger Direct, with lots of positive reviews on various sites around the Internet:

The camera arrived today, and I've spent all evening playing around with it.  There are a LOT of bells and whistles on this thing.  Some of them I know how to use, most of them I have no clue, but it's very clear that this is a great camera.

Here's one of the cell phone pictures:

Here's virtually the same shot, taken with the new camera (cropped to the same size as the first photo):

Much better field depth (notice the trees in the background - blurry in the first photo, sharp in the second), and vastly higher resolution.

One more, taken from the far end of the layout, showing the "super-zoom" capabilities of the camera:

The same photo, with subtle clouds of steam added:

It's going to be fun learning to use this new tool, and I can't wait to see what shots I can pull off with it!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Handle For The Hand Car

Found some time today to build the handle for the hand car, completing its construction.  The handle consists of three lengths of brass rod, joined with two small triangular pieces of styrene.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Break Time!

Now that I have a hand car, and a hand car shed, somebody needs to put the car in the shed.  This guy drew the short straw, and had to do the job all by himself.  Time for a break!

Looking at that photo, your brain tells you that there's "something" inside that building, which is exactly what I wanted it to do.  In reality, there's not much of anything in there, but it's an effective trick.

A Handy Little Hand Car

I mentioned earlier that I was going to try scratchbuilding a hand car to put in the hand car shed (obviously).  This turned out to be a LOT of fun to build!  I will admit to cheating, somewhat, in that I bought a hand car kit to use as a guide.  Here is the frame from the kit, beside my scratchbuilt frame:

The wheels are also purchased, I didn't scratchbuild those.  No reason to reinvent the wheel, right?

The lever & gearbox housing is cut from a plastic "For Rent" sign:

Here's the resulting car, minus the operating handle.  I need to do some soldering to build that, and didn't feel like firing up the soldering iron today.

A Case Of Shingles

The blueprints call for asbestos shingles, but since I'm all out of asbestos, I opted for paper instead.  Nothing fancy, just a piece of printer paper taken out of my laser printer, then cut into strips with a pair of pinking shears.

A little gray & brown paint, followed by some white chalk, and we have ourselves a finished roof.  The entire building was dusted with white chalk, with some brown around the bottom of the walls:

Doesn't look half bad sitting in its new home:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Little Red Train Shed

First coat of paint is on, a very light coat of some random reddish color that I had sitting around...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What's Behind Door Number Two?

The doors for the hand car shed are built and attached.  Obviously not weathered yet - gotta let the glue dry first.  Construction was simple, a frame built from scale 2"x4" lumber, with 2"x6" planks attached in a diagonal pattern (just like the prototype diagram).  I decided that rather than do a fully detailed interior on such a small, insignificant building, I will instead display it with one door closed, one door open.  Through the open door will be visible a hand car, and some assorted tools and other details, creating the illusion that the building is full.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Topping Out With A Little Balsa

After a multi-day hiatus, I've finally finished the basic construction of the hand car shed.  The roof is on and the exterior is stained.  I wanted the roof to "sag" in the middle, like old roofs are prone to do.  I built the two end rafters slightly (less than 1/2 scale foot) taller than the middle ones.  My original intent was to use individual planks, laid across the rafters, for the roof deck, but I decided instead to try very thin balsa, hoping that the Elmer's glue would cause it to warp slightly.  It worked!  There's not quite as much sag as I'd hoped for, but it's there, and noticeable.  Once the shingles are on, and I paint on some mossy green stains, I think it will look quite convincing.

Left on the to-do list are the doors, the window glass. permanently gluing the building to the floor, painting, and some interior detailing.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Twin Cities Modelers

For those of you from the Twin Cities, I recently became aware of a Yahoo group for Twin Cities model railroaders:

I was unaware of this group until I noticed some hits on the blog originating from there.  If you reside in the Twin Cities and have any interest in model railroading, join the group!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Unknown Photographer

Check out page 6 of the August 2011 issue of Model Railroader magazine.  Readers of this blog will recognize a photo on that page.  They didn't name the photographer, but it's mine!  Yeah, I know, it's small potatoes, but way cool nonetheless...