Monday, May 29, 2017

A build from my youth

Fi 156C3, 5F+YK, Luftwaffe, North Africa, ca 1941

This is the first Heller kit I was able to buy, I think from about 1980, but maybe earlier. It has the hallmarks of my building preferences from 1975-1980: hand painted with enamels, OOB decals, and a bit overzealous with the glue.

The Subject

I know little about the subject, albeit I did a quick search on the internet. Idleweiss unit in North Africa, circa 1941. I chose this subject because it wasn't green/green like all the other Luftwaffe models I could get my hands on at the time. THAT, I remember.

Some photos seem to suggest this was used by Rommel. Possible. He certainly moved around in a Storch if he wanted to see the battle field from the air. Not quite so sure he was in THIS particular Storch.

The Model

What I remember of this build is that I took a weekend to finish it. Purchased on a Saturday (I'm certain, as the rest of the week I would have been either in school or at work). Construction was pretty much done by the afternoon. First bits of white, light blue and green paint on by midnight. Sunday morning I put on the tan squiggles. By Sunday evening I was putting decals on it. Apparently I sprayed it with a coat of flat lacquer (Testor's Dull Coat??) because the finish is dead flat and the glazing is a bit frosty.

The decals have yellowed over time. Noticeable on the white backgrounds. At one point it had thread of some sort because I rigged the antenna per the instructions (had never done that before!). I remember it being a royal bear to get the thread to stick...likely I was using the only glues I had on hand, like Testor's tube cement. That did not survive 11 moves around the world while I was in the Navy.


I remember being quite proud of this one back in my teens. First "real" model, the detail was awesome and it went together so well I just had to find more Heller kits. I went right out and got a Tempest the next weekend. The Tempest did not survive the moves at all. I still have the canopy and wheels in my spares box.

Thanks for looking...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Model Photography

Ha ha!  I just realized after typing in the title that this post will likely crop up on a lot of searches having nothing to do with 1/72nd scale aircraft or plastic mind.

I've been struggling with photographing my models for the last few months.  Set up the booth and lights, take pictures, then tear down the booth and lights and pack it away.  It wasn't helping with my ability to post here as I would delay taking those photos until I could do a batch.

And then suddenly the quality of the photos was crap.  I mean the lighting was bad, exposure bad, focus poor, depth of field all out of wack.  You name it, it was not coming out well.  I also decided to start putting my builds on line as Works-in-Progress (WIP) and that needed a faster method of photography...too many folks online seemed to be able to quickly take photos (daily) and post them easily on the forums.

So I asked questions.  My biggest hurdle seemed to be hosting the photos.  I could host them here but I'm not sure how long Google will allow that.  I guess, technically, none of us really know how long any of our photos will be hosted given the fine print in the agreements we quickly click through to get on with our lives essentially say the hosting site gets to decide everything unilaterally in the future.  Whenever that future comes.

So I shifted into using my iPhone6 for WIPs and my trusty Canon DSLR (Rebel T3) for the final photos for this blog.  And I started asking for help.  Lots of help.

What have I learned?

Firstly, my background is not quite right.  Mid-blue.  Why mid-blue?  That's the color that came with the portable booth.  Then I realized my white balance was all off.  So I tried using auto white balance but that seemed to make it worse, not better.  Just to my eye, wife couldn't see a difference.

I'm looking into a homemade frame made of ??? (PVC pipe from DIY store?) that I can attache a roll of white-ish barrier paper to.  The advantage of the DIY frame is that I can size it for my larger models...the Lancasters, Sunderlands, Liberators and Flying Fortresses.  I won't then be so afraid to build them given I can't photograph them.  Additionally, I can change the background out, if I want.

But until then, I'm watching Paul Budzik's outstanding videos on Photographing Models.  I've already created a gray card for standardizing my white balance for each session / model.

I've set my ISO to 200 to better balance speed and exposure.

I got a remote shutter release to eliminate camera shake.  Okay, turns out the shake is still there from the mirror moving, but I haven't yet figured out how to lock my mirror open.

My f-stop is set to 29 to create a larger depth of field.

I've moved my camera away from the model, and the macro-zoom allows me to frame the subject, capturing enough to allow me to crop it for display on this blog.

I'm still learning, but the photos have already improved.  I still can't move quickly, but it's better.

As for my iPhone6...I'm finding that a strong light on my work surface (already there for modeling) is "good enough" for WIP photos if I position the phone just so.

I'd love to have a dedicated corner of my work room just for photography, but that won't happen.  I'd rather have it for display at this stage.  There is a spot "over there in the other basement room" that would work...but my wife owns that room.

Thanks for looking...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

NMF Spitfire

Spitfire F Mk VIII, 307th FS, 31st FG, Italy 1944

This may have been easy, but it still took me 3 months from start to finish!

The Subject

The 31st Fighter Group used Spitfires for hacks during the last year of the war. As I understand it, they were flying P-51 Mustangs and retained a few reverse lend-lease Spitfires for the squadron CO's (or Operations Officer I would presume) to run about the theater when a critical meeting of leaders was needed face-to-face.

"MX" was stripped of paint and unit markings were applied. In my view, it should have been given an aircraft-in-squadron letter or number, but apparently it did not. Maybe the only known photos are pre-application of that letter/number so we are making an assumption that it never had them. Anyway, that is what this subject represents.

I also wonder if the aircraft would have retained it's 20mm cannon. I left them on for this build because it was simpler. If they access to spares to keep the bird flying they probably had access to the appropriate ordnance.

The Model

This is the Hasegawa late Merlin Spitfire kit, in a "U.S. Army Air Force" boxing of the Mk VIII variant. Kit number 00723 from 2004. The sprues are engineered to offer a HF Mk VII, F Mk VIII, or an middle or late F/LF Mk IXc. This particular boxing did not have the VII bits in it, but had everything to build either the VIII or IX. These kits are quite expensive nowadays, unfortunately, as they suffer some inaccuracy and the Eduard Spitfires beat these kits hands down for both detail and accuracy.

I decided to start WIP stories for each of my kits, which I'll document on the 72nd Scale Aircraft forum instead of here. I will discuss what I've done uniquely about this kit.

I decided to attempt the natural metal finish on this model because I hadn't done one in years and even then it was simply paint the entire model a silver color. Lately I've been building models that required an aluminum paint over either metal or fabric, and some are in the queue that have both fabric and metal painted aluminum...and there is a difference in the tone. So instead of simply painting it all one shade of Aluminum I decided to get some of the recent acrylic metallic paints and give them a try.

In this case, I started with Model Master Aluminum enamel as the base coat. I then masked off areas that I wanted lighter and sprayed them Vallejo White Aluminum. Then I did the same for Vallejo Dark Aluminum. I had no idea "what" would be each shade but I decided to experiment a bit and try to be symmetrical. I knew the cowling got hot so wanted to make it darker, but otherwise kinda let my imagination go. After the White Aluminum I was quite pleased with how it was progressing and frankly if I'd stopped there could have been quite happy. So for the Dark Aluminum I hand painted a few removable panels as well as the cowling. Yuck! Way to contrasty and the look was terrible. After lots of contemplation I did a combination of misting lightly the MM Aluminum enamel over the cowling and then misting it over the entire model to "tone down" the effects. Voila!


I'm quite pleased with this model. Yes, it's not accurate but frankly the Hasegawa late Merlin Spitfires are extremely easy to build. As a kit they are great, if expensive. I got lucky and acquired mine online as part of a "lot" and got a few of them for about $3 USD apiece. That was nearly 10 years ago and now they fetch well over $30. Not worth it IMO given the much cheaper Airfix IX and the extremely high value for money for the Eduard kits. Since I have them, I'll build them.
Thanks for looking...