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T O P I C    R E V I E W
railphotog Posted - 02/22/2009 : 5:52:32 PM
Offering a suggestion for tabletop model photography. In case I have to make some corrections or edits, I'll continue in thr following message.

15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
railmus Posted - 02/28/2009 : 10:26:11 PM
I think dollar store "locker mirrors" are first surface mirrors so you might check there.
Frederic Testard Posted - 02/28/2009 : 5:28:41 PM
Thank you for the answer, Bob. I agree on "you don't get something for nothing". There's still the Helicon program, but it's not easy to take a series of shots with the camera on the rails modifying slightly the DOF and yet not moving the camera...
John, your pinhole shot is really wonderful.
Jan Kirkwood Posted - 02/28/2009 : 3:48:17 PM
thanks all of you for your instruction
railphotog Posted - 02/28/2009 : 3:32:37 PM
Hey that's a great photo! My pinhole equipped lens is an old Vivitar manual focus 28mm. Worked really great with my film cameras, but with the 60% crop of the image with my digital camera, the resulting images aren't very good. The Vivitar takes a 62mm filter, meaning it is quite large. That was one of the discouraging reasons why I never did make the mirror device, I would have needed quite a large piece of front surface mirror and a resulting large box to hold it. Nice to see someone has been able to make and use the device for digital.

cnj999 Posted - 02/28/2009 : 1:45:57 PM
Chris...by interesting coincidence I am currently fabricating the very same device illustrated in that old RMC article.

While others have pointed out a few of the problems associated with the device, I'd like to add another significant one. If one examines the model photos in RMC it is quickly appreciated that there is a strikingly large depth-of-field to the images, i.e. they are in-focus virtually throughout, in spite of the fact that the nearest parts of the model are almost on top of the camera. Such images are not really possible using any standard lens, or Macro setting, on today's digital cameras. What is needed is either a pin-hole lens system or to use an image combining program like Helicon.

As I recall, the author of the old RMC article was also a promoter of the use of pin-hole lenses in model photography, as am I. Below is an image of mine similar to the RMC photos, shot with a 35mm f/55 pin-hole lens system from a low angle.

grlakeslogger Posted - 02/28/2009 : 11:01:26 AM
This is a very informative thread! Thank you all.

Bob, I must work somewhat like you do. When I think, "Wow, a photo at this point would be great," I next realize that probably the rest of my chunk of spare time will be spent clearing things away, getting the backdrop set right, setting up the lights, etc. So I skip the photo! Then, much later, I usually wish I had taken the time to capture that point in a model's construction ...

The cameras themselves are not the only place you "don't get something for nothing."

Peterpools Posted - 02/28/2009 : 02:08:36 AM
Thanks for the idea - a mini photo studio, looks easy to build and a hundred and one uses.
TrainClown Posted - 02/27/2009 : 9:55:33 PM
Thanks so much for the replies.

Mike, I never caught on to the fact it is supposed to use a first-surface mirror. Makes sense though. I think I have some Mylar that might work the same.

Great photo of that track-born shovel, Bob. It must be a real trick to get the front of the shovel and the rest of the scene in focus. Cool stuff!

Always learning.

MikeC Posted - 02/27/2009 : 8:26:40 PM
I also saw that RMC article when it was first published (and still have it - October 85). Several years later, I finally built the 'mirror device' and bought a small first-surface mirror for it. As it turned out, the mirror (2" X 2") was too small to work well with the 'device' and my camera. Several months later, I found another supplier of first-surface mirrors who had a variety of sizes available - the fellow's main customers were folks who build their own telescopes - and bought one from him for about $20. The mirror I got (4" X 5") is a good size for the device, but to be honest, I have never used it. I bought a new camera about the same time and needed to build a new box to accommodate the larger size of the body. I never got the new box built, and the mirror is still in its sleeve and packing material.

The biggest problem with using an ordinary mirror as opposed to using a first-surface mirror is "ghosting." An ordinary mirror (silvered-back glass) will reflect some of the subject light back through the glass and can create a 'ghost' image. First surface mirrors eliminate this problem because the silvering is literally on the front surface. And therein lies the biggest problem with first (front)-surface mirrors: they are very easily scratched, so a great deal of caution needs to be taken when using one. (You can't just spritz it with Windex and wipe it like you can an ordinary glass mirror. )

Another thing to remember is that you really need to use a fixed focal length macro lens. Even a modern wide-angle 'zoom' lens will extend too much into the box and create problems.

One of these days, when I have nothing better to do , I might try building another box to accommodate my camera and the larger mirror.

railphotog Posted - 02/27/2009 : 7:42:46 PM
Originally posted by Frederic Testard

It's an interesting rig, Christopher. But with the advent of smaller cameras and the possibility to shoot hundreds of photos at no cost, isn't it simpler today to simply put the camera on the rail to take this kind of picture?

Sounds like a good idea, Frederic, but the small cameras don't really have the ability to take photos like in the RMC illustration. They mostly only stop down to f/8, which is decent for general model shots, but not for the "trackside" shot with its great depth of field. Also to get that close the model their close up mode would probably need to be on, which reduces the depth of field. You don't get something for nothing!

Frederic Testard Posted - 02/27/2009 : 6:39:05 PM
It's an interesting rig, Christopher. But with the advent of smaller cameras and the possibility to shoot hundreds of photos at no cost, isn't it simpler today to simply put the camera on the rail to take this kind of picture?
railphotog Posted - 02/27/2009 : 5:59:49 PM
Christopher: I remember seeing the article in RMC and gave it some thought way back when, but never did make one of the down low devices. It needed a front surface mirror to work properly. I priced the mirror material at a local glass shop decades ago and it was around $28.00 per square foot. Never did inquire if I could buy a small piece, but was concerned whether I could cut the small piece by myself without breaking it.

It would be easier to shoot with the device these days with digital, as the mirror image could be reversed with an imaging program. Since I don't have a layout, my modeling is done on modules and dioramas, there would have been very few places where I could have placed the device anyway.

To get shots like that, I use my generic photo bases made from Styrofoam and just place the camera down low, like this one:

TrainClown Posted - 02/27/2009 : 4:37:20 PM
That is brilliant, Bob! I will make one of those for sure.

While I have your attention, have you ever used a rig like the one pictured below for taking photos from a scale eye level?

I got this from an old MRC. Here is a diagram of the rig.

Here is a picture of the rig.

Here it is in use.

Here are some photos taken with this rig.

You are the master of model train photography so I thought I would see if you have ever used a rig like this, and if so, would you be so kind as to post some of your photos. I would be very interested.

MikeC Posted - 02/27/2009 : 09:54:38 AM
Bob, thanks for the 'tutorial' and some easy-to-use ideas. When I get a chance, I'll place a copy of this in the forums' "Classroom" area for easy reference.

railphotog Posted - 02/25/2009 : 11:08:29 AM
Originally posted by Danny Head

Bob, what lens are using (in the photo)? Danny

Danny: I was using the 18-55mm IS "kit" lens that came with my Canon XSi DSLR.

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