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Digital cameras and road trips

How photos and travel can be valuable tools/Bob Walker L

ong ago two famous modelers, who were long time friends, got together one day for a little

show-and-tell. They were John Allen and Cliff Grandt, neither of whom needs a bio here. Cliff had just scratch- built a locomotive, an On3 Climax I be- lieve, and John graciously pho- tographed it for him. When the prints were done, Cliff studied them closely with his modeler’s critical eye, and was disturbed at what he saw. The camera is a harsh but honest critic. The model’s flaws (for that time peri-

od, it was a magnificent piece of work), were glaringly apparent. Most of would have missed them but not Cliff. He used John’s photos to make all the cor- rections he felt he needed, and the re- sults were an even more stunning model. In the end, John was polite enough to not mention the flaws, and Cliff put aside any ego and addressed the issues that he felt needed atten- tion. The end result of all of this extra effort was better modeling and a con- tinuing friendship.

I did a column in the recent past about digital photos for making build- ing walls and signs and the like. I will not be covering the same ground for this one and will take things in an en- tirely new direction.

I started writing for Carstens Publi- cations in December of 1970, and in the intervening 40 plus years I have taken (and submitted) a lot of photographs. A


Scratchbuilder’s Corner

lot of those pictures were less than complimentary of the model work be- ing shown and were the cause of some re-work, and new photography as well. The camera is difficult to impossible to argue with. You either accept the flawed work as the best you can do or try to correct the problem with a little careful reworking. The choice is yours, or in some cases the second harshest critic, an editor. Now Bill Schaumberg and Tony Koester before him were two of the nicest guys (and best modelers) I ever knew. Try to slip second rate work past either of them and they would be on you like white on rice. I freely admit to being called on the carpet by both men. Remember, all you potential au- thors out there, an editor’s suggestion is much like a golfer’s swing: it is best if you follow through.

After a while in this game you get to know your skill levels pretty well and of- ten decide what is your best effort, as well as what can be improved. I have found that if you keep trying to improve your skills you will. Take a few photos of your work as a project progresses and stop to study the results once in a while. You may be surprised at what you learn

from your own model pictures. I keep my camera (a Pentax K20D) near the workbench, mostly because of my association with the good folks at Carstens, but also to keep me honest in the modeling process. This is a habit developed in and because of the digital era. As a long time professional photog- rapher, I was deeply into film. My first real camera as a college freshman in 1963, was a Nikon F. I stayed with the pro versions of film cameras (for me, Nikon) until my last day at Rush Uni- versity Medical Center in December of 1987. It was Editor Bill that dragged me, kicking and screaming, into the Digital Age when this column started, and he insisted on digital images. That was almost ten years ago, and I am now 100 percent digital, having sold all the Nikons. The films that I used have disappeared from store shelves, too, which also has something to do with it. And, thanks to Accurail’s staff artist Eric Cote, I now can muddle through the basics of Corel Photopaint®


I am not advocating photography as a second hobby, although it is a fine one, and I guess you could say it is one of my few other hobbies. I still recom- mend a digital camera for use as one of the many tools at our disposal for building models from raw materials. In many ways, the camera is as useful as the other tools on your bench. Take it to museums, where vintage equipment resides, and use the photos to accurate-

When a modeler is on the road, he or she never knows when a building or scene will inspire a model (left). With a camera in


hand those photographs can help one reach a certain fidelity with the models that will end up on the layout (right).


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