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Opinions Needed For A Backdrop

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  • Member since
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  • From: Wyoming, where men are men, and sheep are nervous!
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Opinions Needed For A Backdrop
Posted by Pruitt on Sunday, October 11, 2020 10:55 PM

A few days ago my wife and I drove over to Hudson Wyoming to take some pictures I was hoping I could use for the backdrop on my Chicago & North Western branchline through a modeled part of Hudson.

I printed some out and mounted them temporarily on the skyboard, stuck a depot in the scene, and posed a train. I'd like some honest opinions on how this looks.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The prints are "draft mode"
  • I cut off excess sky, but did not trim around trees and such
  • There is no other scenery
  • The final prints would be on one long, high quality paper roll dome at at a reproduction shop.

So, what do you all think? Please be brutally honest.

The pics (you can click on them for a larger version):

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Posted by hon30critter on Sunday, October 11, 2020 11:20 PM

Hi Mark,

Okay, you asked for it! I'm going to be brutally honest!

I think they look sensational!! IMHO, you have established an excellent ratio of scenery to sky on the relatively low height backdrops. The scenes add a huge amount of depth to the backdrops.

I'd say that you have done a great job, even though you are just showing some draft pictures.

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by SpaceMouse on Sunday, October 11, 2020 11:37 PM

They have potential. Here's the thing. Sky goes from white on the horizon to deep blue at the apex. You have sharp contrast between the white horizon on the photo and the deep blue of your background color. Fade your background from white to blue and you'll sell it much better.

I'm hoping that "no other scenery" means at the present moment. You'd want at least enough scenery to tie the layout to the backdrop.

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Monday, October 12, 2020 12:07 AM

Hey Mark-

I agree with Dave. It looks really good, and I especially like the proportion of earth to sky.

I understand that you're in draft mode and I think you'll work out Chip's point by trimming the photo at the top of the trees and/or the ridgeline (to remove the white entirely) or by photoshopping in a blue sky to match the curved styrene, with or without a deep-blue-to-light-blue gradient.

Robert 

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, October 12, 2020 1:01 AM

ROBERT PETRICK
I especially like the proportion of earth to sky.

I don't have any quibbles with the earth portion of the backdrop, nor the white on the horizon, but unless there's some other things planned, that sky should reach right to the ceiling if you really want it to look like the great outdoors.  As it is, the non-sky area is a big distraction from what's otherwise a great-looking scene.

Wayne

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Posted by selector on Monday, October 12, 2020 1:49 AM

The problem I see is one I often see, Mark.  It's the angle of the ground rising sharply at a grade of apparently 5% from the 'seam'.  If the benchwork were canted at the same approximate rate, downward toward the observer, the photo would be fabulous and natural.   But that angle gets in the way for me.  If you could see your way to another experiment, could you mock up quickly a 'berm' rising toward the backdrop from maybe three inches out so that the angle isn't so sharp where the bottom of the backdrop meets the benchwork?  That may be a lot of bother, and I hope I haven't deflated you.  But, I think I owe you a frank impression, and it's a niggling issue I have with so many backdrops.

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Posted by NorthBrit on Monday, October 12, 2020 6:29 AM

Hi Mark.   The backscene looks fine by me.  More important is,  'how do you feel about it'?

One thing I was taught was taking photographs are a scale of 1-1.   The model is 1-87 (or whatever).   The trick is to try and take the picture as if you are 1-87.

If you take the same photographs from a closer position  showing just the track and actual backscene you will see a marked difference.  Then, you wil know if it is right or not.

Keep up the good work.  Well done

David

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Monday, October 12, 2020 8:19 AM

selector

The problem I see is one I often see, Mark.  It's the angle of the ground rising sharply at a grade of apparently 5% from the 'seam'.  If the benchwork were canted at the same approximate rate, downward toward the observer, the photo would be fabulous and natural.   But that angle gets in the way for me.  If you could see your way to another experiment, could you mock up quickly a 'berm' rising toward the backdrop from maybe three inches out so that the angle isn't so sharp where the bottom of the backdrop meets the benchwork?  That may be a lot of bother, and I hope I haven't deflated you.  But, I think I owe you a frank impression, and it's a niggling issue I have with so many backdrops.

Hey Mark -

I have a suggestion that might address selector's suggestion . . .

I plan to create a backdrop very similar to yours. My desired scene will be photographed from a point about 6 or 8 miles south of Buffalo. You know that stretch of I-25 where the pavement is red because WYDOT used crushed red rocks in the mix? The highway runs along a ridge and looking west from there, the ground falls away down into a very broad valley across some farmland, grasslands, and pasture and rises up to the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains some 30 or 40 miles distant.

The point being, that the photographic image falls away from the viewer, and that might help diminish the 'rising berm' distortion selector talks about. Might help, might not. Just a suggestion.

Robert 

LINK to SNSR Blog


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Posted by Pruitt on Monday, October 12, 2020 6:07 PM

Great responses, everyone, thanks!

Dave, if I might be so bold, you should be a little more careful with your wording. Honesty that brutal may make some of the more tender folks almost suicidal! Wink (thanks for the compliment)

Chip, I have done the horizon lightening painting in the past, but never got as far as mounting a backdrop. With the backdrop, the lack of fading to white at the horizon is a bit stark, isn't it? Thanks for pointing that out.

Robert, Thanks for the compliment. I'm a bit concerned about the proportions you mentioned. The backdrop looks a bit low in person (at least to me). I'll have to chew on that one a bit more.

Wayne, I'm planning to finish the top edge of the skyboard with a bit of white trim. Hopefully that will "frame" the upper deck and the top edge of the sky will look more "appropriate."

Crandell, I know what you mean. I'm not sure there's really much can be done about it. I think it's inherent in a 3D to 3D transition. The scenery will rise slightly to the backdrop, but at best that would correct the problem from one eye level (hopefully the level that most photographs are taken from). Like continuing a road into the backdrop, it looks good even in a camera from only one location. Otherwise the camera will see some kind of corner at the backdrop. And stereoscopic vision will never be fooled even from that vantage point. At best we can hope for a "willing suspension of desbelief" (to borrow a live theater phrase) on the part of the viewers.

Robert II, That's an interesting idea, and there is room to try that behind Hudson, at least for a ways. In other areas, especially the long run above Casper, the edge of the ballast is maybe 3/8" to 1/2" from the backdrop. Not much can be done in that space.

Again, thanks for the comments everyone! If my reply missed the point you were making, please correct me. And if any other ideas come to mind, please post them!

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Posted by Lakeshore Sub on Tuesday, October 13, 2020 10:46 AM

Hi Mark,

I do like the way the backdrop looks.  Could you share the technical details of how you put the backdrop together.  Would like to do something similar and since my layout is set in the Fall, would like to take the pictures now that would match the scenery but not sure how to accomplish this.

I also like the CNW ten wheeler in the picture.  Have the same one but I modernized it a bit so if you are interested, I have some ideas for you.

Scott Sonntag

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Posted by Pruitt on Tuesday, October 13, 2020 10:33 PM

Lakeshore Sub
Could you share the technical details of how you put the backdrop together.  Would like to do something similar and since my layout is set in the Fall, would like to take the pictures now that would match the scenery but not sure how to accomplish this.

I also like the CNW ten wheeler in the picture.  Have the same one but I modernized it a bit so if you are interested, I have some ideas for you.

Scott Sonntag

Hi Scott,

This will be rather underwhelming (and long), I'm afraid.

First I photographed the area I wanted to make into the backdrop. I used my Galaxy Edge 7 cellphone camera. It's surprisingly good - 12 megapixels. I took about 200 photos, most just normal shots, but a dozen or so in panoramic mode. I'd never used panoramic mode, so I was learning as I go.

Then I went home and loaded all the pictures onto my computer, where I could see them on a larger monitor. I could see that many of them were not very suitable.

Next I downloaded some photo stitching software packages - the free and trial versions. None of them worked very well. I got blurry mish-mashes of the individual photos, none of which were at all suitable.

At this point I was pretty disappointed. I thought nearly the whole photo trip had been a waste. Then I decided to take another look at a couple of the panoramas.

I put them aside at first because they all came out looking like this:

(I shrank this way down from its original size - it was a bit over 12,000 pixels wide!). The files are large - about 33 MB for this one, with a total of over 24.5 megapixels. 

I didn't think this would be at all suitable - the road on either side is the same straight road. The panoramic function on the camera distorts the picture tremendously in the foreground.

Then I realized I didn't need - or even want - the near foreground. I wanted a section that began to the right of the "stop ahead" sign to the left, over to just before the road enters the picture in the right, and from slightly above the mountains in the distance to about the base of the post of the "stop ahead" sign. 

So I opened the panoramic photo in MS Paint (I was a bit surprised Paint would even open it) and cropped the image as I described above. I then blew up the resulting picture so that the height would just fit vertically on a landscape-orientation sheet of 8 1/2 X 11 paper.

Then I printed it out. It took 13 sheets of paper. I cut off three of the four edges - top, right side and bottom at the edges of the image. I left the left side (on all but the left-most page) so that I would be able to line up the next image to the left on top of the page, and using clear tape I aped them together and to the skyboard.

I didn't do any image manipulation other than described above. The 12 megapixel camera resolution makes it possible to blow up the image by 2-3 times without significant pixelation of the image, even close up.

Next I'm going to take the image down to a large-format printer company (FedEx Kinko, maybe) and have the entire thing printed off on a single roll of good quality paper, at their highest quality print setting.

I'll carefully trim off the sky, then use spray adhesive to mount the backdrop to the skyboard. I'll probably do reversed images on either side of this one, which will give me nearly 30 feet of backdrop!

My last step will (probably) be to dullcoat the entire skyboard and backdrop to eliminate any glossiness in the sky (it's really cheap blue paint) and on the backdrop.

So in summary - cellphone camera in panoramic mode and MS Paint (about the most basic image software there is) to manipulate the image. That's all there was to it.  


Regarding your modernized ten-wheeler, yes I'm interested! Do you have some shots of it that you can post? 

I've been trying to find one or two more, but haven't come across any.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 8:13 AM

The back drops look excellent!  Now match that shade of blue and paint over the jarring deep maroon wall behind which distracts the eye from the layout scene.  Blend man!  Blend!

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by Lakeshore Sub on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 8:55 AM

Thanks for getting back to me Mark.

 

Wow, that simple.   I will give it a try.  One last question. Which printer are you using to print them out.  Been looking for a color printer but can't settle on anything.

As far as the 10 wheeler.  I don't have any pictures of it currently but will get some on here tonight.  The Spectrum high wheeled version are very difficult to find at a reasonable price and Bachmann has run out of most of the parts for them except tender bodies.  Bought a couple those 3 years ago anticipating finding a couple more.  Just wish someone would come out with a Alco version of 10 wheeler.

Thanks again.

Scott Sonntag

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Posted by Pruitt on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 1:53 PM

I'm using an Epson ET-4760.

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Posted by Lakeshore Sub on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 8:59 PM

Hi Mark, 

Thanks for the print info.

I've got a couple of shots of the 2 improvements that I have made.

CNW 236

CNW 236-2

There are  2 updates that are already in place. The first was to replace the lead truck which I believe has spoked wheels with one that has solid wheels.  The replacment truck is available on the Bachmann parts site for 11.00 and are still in stock.  Really easy update.

The second was to rebuild the steam chests into piston valves since the valve gear is already in place.  I took my inspiration from Dr. Wayne and ReadingCasey.  I carved down the upper part of the steam chest and put some styrene rod on the top as the upper valve.  I placed punched out styrene disks to resemble the upper piston and then stretched a piece of .10 styrene around the whole thing.  Put some styrene rod pieces above the walkways to show the pipes and there you have it.  Not too bad for a first attempt.

The steam chest is a little small but certainly updates the look of the locomotive.

The last step will be to replace the steam and sand domes.

By the way if you are looking for CNW Sanborn order board models(non fuctional) I have a great source.

Hope this helps.

Scott Sonntag

 

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