Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Posts Tagged ‘Infantry’

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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Black or white?

Posted by Martin on June 29, 2008

Landwehr work-in-progressAnother small update on progress. I’ve been following a thread on TMP about Prussian landwehr uniforms with some amusement. As usual, there seem to be several TMPers who are content to make categorical statements about things with little or no historical evidence to support their assertions. In this instance, there were some people prepared to state definitively that the straps for things like cartridge cases were white for the landwehr. Well, sorry, no…

We’re talking about poorly equipped militia units from a nation with sorry finances in a continent almost totally exhausted of all resources after 20-odd years of constant warfare. There’s no way that a regulation insisting on white staps could have been honoured. Equipment was begged, borrowed or stolen from where ever it could be found. And that meant straps were a mixture of colours. Yes sometimes white but far more often black. I’ve previously posted Knotel plates of Prussian landwehr here and the mixture of strapping colours can clearly be seen in them.

What’s this got to do with the current painting progress? Well, I was working on the figure shown here while this TMP thread was happening and, as you know, I’m striving for a campaign look with my Kurmark landwehr. I do actually want a mix of black and white straps so this chap has just happened to get white ones to offset the black the others painted so far have received. Other bits of progress on this figure include canvas coloured straps for his bags, completion of the footwear, trousers and litewka along with the now traditional muddying up of things. I think he’s coming along rather nicely.

Posted in Landwehr Infantry, On the Workbench | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

And just a little bit more…

Posted by Martin on June 15, 2008

Landwehr figure w-i-p Just short painting session yesterday to get the second figure of the current w-i-p pair up to the same stage as the first figure. So this chap’s face is done and he now has all his red provincial facings and I opted for light blue for his neck scarf. I’m pleased with the result though it doesn’t show up too clearly in this picture. I’ve also started on his trousers with the first two layers of grey: VMC neutral grey and VMC light grey. These will be finished off with Foundry arctic grey and Foundry white. And after that, of course, they’ll get the mud treatment!

Posted in Landwehr Infantry, On the Workbench | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A little progress update

Posted by Martin on June 14, 2008

First landwehr figureSecond landwehr figureThird landwehr figureFourth landwehr figure

Keeping up my Planet Armor approach that each small bit of progress is worth documenting and celebrating. Here’s two figures you’ve seen before finished and ready for varnishing (on the left) and the next two just started (on the right).

The left-most figure gave me some trouble. I want to vary the colours of the blanket rolls through the battalion to aid that landwehr campaign feel so I tried out some red-brown shades for this figure. They were an abject failure and I don’t really know why. More reflection called for there I’m afraid. So that led to a repaint using one of my trusty brown combinations (burnt umber basecoat, beige brown first highlight and cork brown second highlight) with a twist. I chose to experiment with an exceptionally dark brown called german camo. black brown (VMC822) as the basecoat and promoted the three other browns up the layers.

Success! You can see this darkest brown in the deepest central fold of the blanket roll. Don’t be deceived though – the other two “folds” you can see are a). burnt umber rather than german camo black brown and b). aren’t even folds really – they’re actually lines painted on the smooth surface of the blanket roll that give the illusion of folds. This is a tactic I’ve adopted on all the figures I’ve painted recently and really seems to give the texture of the figures a lift.

The two w-i-p figures are the ones that will complete the first company of the battalion and therefore the first officer makes an appearance. As you can see, I haven’t done too much yet. The first step was to paint the figures overall in a mixture of VMC black and Daler-Rowney FW black acrylic ink. Then I started on the faces and the fiddly bits on the caps: the landwehr cross and the black and white Prussian cockade. And yes, I do paint a little black dot in the middle for the central part of the cockade.

It’s at this stage that I also tackle everything that’s in the Kurmark provincial facing colour of red: cap bands, collars and cuffs. This is a four layer process (hull red – red – scarlet – orange-red). As you can see, one figure is further on than the other. The second figure wears a small neck scarf, so I’ve got the luxury of choosing a colour for this non-regulation item. I want something that’ll stand out from the red and dark blue of the uniform without being garish or unprototypical. I expect I’ll go for yellow or light blue.

Posted in Landwehr Infantry, On the Workbench | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »