Wednesday 5 September 2012

Real Skies - now't new!

MRC_Oct85 by nevardmedia
MRC_Oct85, a photo by nevardmedia on Flickr.
I have to thank fellow modelling and blogger David Smith for the catalyst for this post, his recent blog post linking to a website that sells old magazines. Believe it of not I've been after a copy of the above magazine since the mid-1980's, so I must apologise to David for his link now pointing to a 'sold' page for the above issue!

In the summer of 1985 a small group of us were to be seen on Sholing station platform with a model railway, several large sheets of card, white paper, a tripod and camera. We must have been on the platform for at least 3 or 4 hours much to the amusement of passengers on trains that were passing through and calling at the station. The sun was the 'studio lighting', its position being 93 million miles away meant that its position was fixed, so physically moving the layout to suit the sunlight on the various photos was the only realistic option. In case you're thinking that we simply turned up at a random station to photograph toy chuffers you'd be wrong. for at the time SMRS rented the station buildings off British Rail. Sadly shortly after these photos were taken the club had to move, and BR demolished the buildings, the club moving just down the road.

Between 1979 and 1986 I was a member of Southampton Model Railway Society, a fabulous club of talented innovative model makers and the sort of club, which if still on my doorstep I'd still be a member of if it wasn't now 60 miles away. Luckily I still see a few of the members from all those years ago and have been lucky enough to photograph some of their more recent layouts for Hornby Magazine and more recently Model Rail.

On that summer's day I was the chosen one to photograph the layout, and at the time I was a student at Salisbury College of Art studying photography and snapping a model railway was certainly a departure from messing about with a Sinar or MPP on 5x4 inch Ektachrome in the college studio knocking up room sets or messing about with 16mm Bolex cameras making short films. 

For the photography of Overcombe which was one of the club's smaller exhibition layouts, 35mm film was used, the small camera offering alot more flexibility than a big bulky sheet film camera. In those days, apart from the odd colour plate, hobby magazines were mostly black and white, so good old Kodak Plux X was used and processed in the home darkroom. I'm pretty sure I used a 35mm focal length wide angle lens, it offering a reasonbly natural view not disimilar to the eye and oddly enough is still my main choice of lens for layout photography.

Model railway fanatics tend to think that replacing flock wall paper, flying ducks, garage walls and ceilings with a little 'sky' is something just from the digital era, and indeed it mostly is. The photo here is a traditional wet print, and halfway through the printing process a negative of a summer sky was swapped for the model negative to get the result here. I'm not sure if I was the first to do this though, but I do recall at the time being keen to do something different as well as blocking out the location the layout was shot in, but with hindsight it would be quite fun to see the full sized railway station in the background!

The colour cover shot was more simple, that was good old Kodachrome 64 and I'm sure I've seen the slide quite recently so might well pop it into the scanner just for old times sake along with some of the other colour layout shots taken than day.

1 comment:

  1. It's funny how things turn out. I found your blog very recently, after my interest in model railways was rekindled by my Mum giving me a box of my old 'Model Railway Constructor' issues from my youth. The issues range from 1980 to 1985 and of course include this one! I read it with extra interest last night. I think it might actually have been the last issue I bought, before model railways took a back seat to my late-teen interests in photography, heavy metal and girls.
    Thank you for an inspirational blog, which is teaching me two very important lessons: firstly, that I can fit a model railway into a very small space (I have a small house and young family), and secondly that railway modelling can be done with real poetry and artistry. I am reassured that I can return to the hobby without becoming a rivet-counter in a beige cardigan!
    All the best, Paul.


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