Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Posts Tagged ‘cuirassiers’

Experimental photo shoot

Posted by Martin on April 5, 2009

Test shot of Perry plastic officer

Test shot of Perry plastic officer

A quiet Sunday afternoon provides the perfect opportunity to experiment with taking better photos of miniatures and put into practice some of the things I’ve learnt recently. On the one hand, I chose quite a challenging subject – a completely grey Perry plastic French officer. On the other, this was the first time I’ve been able to deploy the tripod and infra-red remote with the camera. I also assembled a couple of lamps from around the house to provide light sources from different angles.

For the technically-minded among you (and so that I’ve got a record of what I did) here are some of the more gory details…

Firstly, set-up: the camera was mounted on the tripod and I actually used my telephoto zoom lens at its fullest zoom (300mm). I set the camera to use aperture preference and started at f8 – the idea being to get a good depth of field. As it turned out, this figure holds a sword that (with the figure’s arm) sticks out about 30mm in front of the figure’s body, which was a bit of an issue.

I blu-tacked a couple of sheets of white A4 paper to the worksurface as a background (just one sheet seemed to be too transparent under the lights). The lamps were positioned to the front and side of the figure at 45 degree angles to catch it in the crossfire, if you see what I mean. This was intended to reduce shadows on the background.

Then I did something I’ve never tried before – I used the camera’s whitebalance functionality to set a custom whitebalance for this particular set-up. I’m sure the method for doing this varies from camera to camera so I won’t go into the specifics here. Look up “whitebalance” in your camera’s manual and follow the instructions. Essentially, I was able to get my camera to measure the lighting conditions on the white background and adjust its own whitebalance setting accordingly. This should remove those yellowish, redish or bluish tinges you sometimes see on pictures taken under artificial lights.

Once that was sorted, I set the camera to work with the infra-red remote shutter release (these tiny gizmos are really great fun), positioned the miniature in shot and started taking photos at various apertures.

Then I downloaded the photos on to the computer and did a little post-processing. I selected the image with the best depth of field and cropped it tightly. Then I tried various combinations of resizing, automatic equalization and lightening. The original images had still come out a little dark and the background was still a bit grey (but tonally neutral) so these tweaks fixed those problems to a reasonable extent.

The final image isn’t ideal but its certainly a promising start. On the plus side, there’s no nasty flash glare, shadows on the background aren’t an issue and I was able to get the background down to a nice unobstrusive and neutral almost-white with a combination of the custom whitebalance and a little post processing.

Painted Perry horse

Painted Perry horse

There’s still room for improvement, though. The main thing is that I’d like to get brighter lighting on to the figure. That ought to reduce the need for post-processing and enable me to go up to higher apertures which will improve sharpness and depth of field. I think choosing a grey figure to photograph was asking for trouble in the first place but once we get to ones wearing paint, that ought to make life easier. At the end of the session, I took a couple of shots of the Perry cuirassier horse I painted at the end of last year to see how things would differ for a larger and painted figure. As you can see, this is easily a few steps on from the pictures I took back then. Given this, you may well be wondering why I bothered photographing the naked plastic figure at all.

Well, it’s all part of my preparation for painting Saxons. I’m anticipating an exciting package from Calpe Towers any day now and I’ve been giving a lot of consideration to conversions with Perry plastic heads and the unresolved issue of suitable paint choices for Saxon officers’ surtouts. So messing around with this Perry officer gives me a chance to kill both birds with one stone. The figure in the photo has actually been decapitated and had one of the spare Perry heads fitted (a natty number with a damaged shako). I did the conversion with some drilling and pinning and applied green stuff to hold the pin in place and fill in the gaps. And that part of the exercise went very smoothly.

The next stage is some painting. As mentioned above, the light blue for the surtout is one target. Peter F. has suggested Vallejo Sky Blue (VMC961) but I’ve got to work out the palette to go with it. The other target is a new white palette because I’m still not happy with the one I’m using at present and there’s an awful lot of white on those Saxons! So the shot of the naked plastic is a reference point for the rest of the test painting.

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The Perry experiment, part 3

Posted by Martin on October 26, 2008

Perry horse latest WIP from three angles.

Perry horse latest WIP from three angles.

It’s been over three weeks since I updated progress on the test painting of a Perry figure. For most of that time, nothing noteworthy happened other than me chewing over the result of using the Foundry wine stain red triad. I’ve been looking at plates in various reference books and I spent some time studying photographs on a 14th cuirassiers re-enanctors site. The conclusion: the Foundry colours are too pink and not maroon enough. So that’s been redone with only the darkest shade of the triad surviving the cut. Vallejo old favourites of hull red, red and (sparingly) scarlet have stepped into the breach.

I’ve also finished off almost all of the saddle furniture, including two attempts to get a result I was satisfied with for the sheepskin shabraque. The other big area of progress is that all of the horse’s black coat is painted and highlighted. So now there are only a few details left to resolve – rear hooves, reins, straps and the blanket roll under the sheepskin shabraque. The final jobs will be the regimental number on the valise ends and the grenade insignia on the saddlecloth. I’m currently considering two approaches to these devilish tasks: one is to take a deep breath and pick up a fine paintbrush for a freehand job; the other is to avail myself of the kind offer of a chap in Oregon called Harry to make me some decals for the job.

What do you think so far? And would it be cheating to use some decals?

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The Perry experiment, part 2

Posted by Martin on October 3, 2008

forelegs left and right views

Perry horse WIP: forelegs left and right views

A small update tonight. I’ve finished painting the forelegs – three shades of grey (Vallejo dark grey, neutral grey and light grey) over black with only very sparing use of the lightest grey. Also painted the fetlocks (if that’s the correct term, I’m not too good on equine anatomy) with some even lighter grey and white (Foundy arctic grey and white). And I did the hooves too – not very exciting.

Now that I look at these photos again, I’m a little disappointed that they don’t show up the white blaze on the horse’s face very well. I’ll have to take a more front-on picture next time.

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The Perry experiment begins

Posted by Martin on October 2, 2008

left and right views

Perry cuirassier horse WIP: left and right views

Since I’ve been off work looking after ill children, it seemed like an opportunity to start trying to paint my first ever Perry miniature. This horse comes from pack FN68 “cuirassiers on standing horses in reserve, at ease (2)” – quite a mouthful! And these two photos show work in progress.

So far I’ve done some work on parts of the saddle furniture including the shabraque, valise ends, wolftooth edging of the sheepskin saddlecloth and some of the cape strapped the valise. I’ve also done the head (above the reins). These items were selected to enable me to get a feel for what Perry horses are like to paint, to enable me to try out the Foundry wine stain paint triple and to confirm that the black coat I want to use for the horse is going to work.

My initial observations on Perry horses are as follows:

  • They’re about the same height as Calpe horses, which makes for a pleasing scale fit.
  • As I suspected, there’s more cleaning up and preparation work than I’m used to. Quite a few casting runners needed to be removed and filed down.
  • They’re thin animals. This is especially noticable on the legs when viewed from the front or back. The body is also thinner than I’m used to and certainly more so that the horses we see plenty of in the Wiltshire lanes and fields locally. I suppose you might say these Perry horses are survivors of the retreat from Moscow!
  • Some details seem a little rushed: the legs and particularly the hooves spring to mind. Other details I like very much, especially the head.
  • The overall pose and proportions of the sculpts are very natural. Maybe the legs are just a touch too long but that might be a subjective view on my part.

The Foundry wine stain triple is a tonally good set. The three shades are just the right distances apart though I’m not yet convinced by the coverage. In mitigation, I should say that I probably didn’t shake or stir them thoroughly enough in my enthusiasm to rush and try them out. For use as lie de vin, they’re probably a bit too bright but I think that’s better than being too dark. I’m actually keen to have these details stand out a bit on these figures. I won’t be able to tell if the overall effect will look right until the sheepskin and horseflesh is painted. Foundry paints also seem to dry with a slight sheen to them but that’ll get fixed at the varnishing stage.

This is intended to be a black horse with a flesh coloured nose and mouth. If you look closely at any “black” object in real life, you’ll soon realise that it isn’t actually black but various shades of dark grey. I once read a really interesting article about painting black and white objects that asserted that white objects are defined by their shadows and black objects are defined by their edges. So here I’m trying to use greys to highlight highspots like the tips of the ears, eyelids and musculature. I think the camera flash has over picked up these greys in these photos -they don’t look so prominent in real life.

Overall, a pleasing start but there’s plenty more work ahead with the grey paints.

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