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The Fireman's Seat

By Robert Bell, Division 15, Assistant Superintendent

Fireman Seat
Hybrid Loco
Digital cameras are really nice, great pictures no matter the amount or type of lighting, and no processing fees for unwanted photos. With these advantages, digital photography can help improve our modeling, help write an article, as well as document our layout. All you need a camera that will allow close-up photography and a tripod. As you build, paint and weather a model, take several pictures from different angles at the end of each step. I take them right on my model-building workbench with a piece of heavyweight white paper to hide most of my tools and other clutter, and to give a plain background with no distractions. Take these with AND without the flash, experiment here with your available light, (a cheap, adjustable-arm desk light from Wal-Mart with a 60W bulb works well, and you can play around with the lighting angle). I then download the photos to the computer, and then delete any that didn’t turn out decent. Then I study them on the computer, usually before I retire for the evening. Before I move on to that next step, I’ll look at the photos again. I have found that this helps me to spot bad glue joints, incorrectly bent piping, paint problems or other “glitches” in my model. When it looks right in the photo, it should look even better in person. Remember, you’re not paying to get the film developed, so click away.

If you plan on writing an article for publication, take the pictures with at least a 4-megapixel camera. If you take photos of trains on your layout, take them in color; many cameras have sepia and black & white options. But, most photo handling programs have this also, and with the program you can save the same picture in color, sepia and B&W. Play around a bit.

One more note on digital cameras: they are not created equal. I have two 4-megapixel cameras by the same manufacturer. One has a 3X optical lens (cheaper) and the other has a 10X optical lens (pricier). The 3X will zoom in at a much closer distance than the 10X will. The minimum focal length for the 3X is 9 inches and the zoom does not affect this distance. The 10X, however, has a minimum focal length of about 4 inches, but at around 7X+, this distance is now 2 ½ - 3 feet!! Kind of defeats the purpose, huh? Bigger is not always better. (Don’t even worry about “digital zoom”; this just makes the pixels bigger, giving the photo a “grainy effect.)

Now, go get busy on that Christmas ornament, I mean that new building for the layout. Next time we’ll talk about “Rubber Gauging”. Until then, remember: It’s your club - get involved! Let’s play trains!