frustration with video and pics anyone?

JoeS Apr 22, 2012

  1. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

    My wife has an Ipod that can video, so I thought I would take some video of my layout and my trains to show everyone. I hate doing it. I tried all afternoon and never got enough light. The room obviously needs some kind of overhead lighting which is weird, because to the eye it looks plenty bright, but on video dark and shadowed.

    So I tried to take some pictures. I have a new Wisconsin Central GP 30 and some harps wig wags and I wanted to get some neat shots. I hated all of them. Do we as modelers get more picky the older we get? I don't get it. I know we haven't had many sunny days here lately in Northern IN, but I am unsure. The light my eyes see is not what gets captured by a camera for some reason. Lately I haven't enjoyed taking pictures because every time I take one I think it is too dark. Makes me want to cut a darn hole in my roof.

    Anyone feel this way?
  2. zscaler

    zscaler TrainBoard Member

    Could make a diorama and put it in the sun? Much more realistic picture and more light increases your depth of field.
  3. Garth-H

    Garth-H TrainBoard Supporter

    today most camera of point and shoot variety come with software that allows you to reset the light level in a picture before or as you save it to your hard disc. the same soft ware allows me to correct light in pictures I have taken with me cellphone, but that does not work with video. My auto focus point an shoot 12 mega pixel digital camera is pretty good at adjusting lens for available light but if the room is not overly bright the video can still appear a bit subdued. I find even with my video camera I need strong lighting to get a bright video.

    regards Garth
  4. up mike

    up mike E-Mail Bounces

    Joe that Ipod your wife has does it have a light?
    The reason I ask is I used my wifes Iphone to shoot the Donner videos and it has a light on it.
    You could pick up a portable shop light I have used that in the pass and it works good.
  5. rvn2001

    rvn2001 TrainBoard Member

    Photography has always relied on additional light to get clear, sharp, bright pictures. Black and white movies used to shoot night scenes by not adding any additional lighting to the scene during normal daylight hours. Film used to come in different speeds to meet differing light conditions but the new digital cameras rely on software either inside the camera and/or on your computer to make up for the different lighting conditions. It's generally a good idea to have plenty of extra light when you're taking pictures or video.
  6. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

    Might not be a bad idea...It would give me an excuse to start something. :D
  7. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

    No light on this one. I would like better light. The light above my layout is a ceiling fan variety and only has 40 watts...the bulb has a small screw not like the normal size so I can't put a larger bulb in. Is there an adaptor for this?
  8. David K. Smith

    David K. Smith TrainBoard Supporter

    You are in dire need of additional light; a single 40-watt bulb would be considered inadequate to the extreme, even for a low-light capable digital camera. It may seem adequate to your eyes, but that's because they've adapted to the dark; cameras do not have that ability. Recommend you purchase a couple of inexpensive shop lights, or even a portable work light, which are available up to 1000 watts. Using an adapter in a candelabra (small) light fixture to increase the lamp wattage is definitely not recommended, as it could create a fire hazard.

    Once you've gotten more light on the subject, then it's time to start learning about color temperature, depth of field, composition, and a host of other aspects of model photography. It's not a subject suitable for a point-and-shoot style of picture taking.
  9. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

    I agree David, point and shoot does not do justice to the models. This weekend, I am going to look into getting some shop lights or the equivalent.

    I have learned a lot about digital shooting over the last few years but there was something you typed that I never have heard of before...color temperature. Is there a cliff note explanation of this?
  10. David K. Smith

    David K. Smith TrainBoard Supporter

    Color temperature is the "whiteness" of a light source. For instance, tungsten lamps are "warm" as opposed to most fluorescent lamps, which are "cool." To the human eye there is only a subtle difference, but to a camera the difference is enormous. A digital camera uses what's called "white balance" to make any light source appear dead white. If the camera is set for a tungsten color balance, fluorescent light looks blue, whereas if it's set to fluorescent, tungsten lighting looks orange.

    Here's the Wiki entry on color temperature, which is very comprehensive:

    Here's a good tutorial on white balance:
  11. Atticus Finch

    Atticus Finch TrainBoard Member

    This was taken from an old post by forum member Paul Templar:

    Lighting the layout
    For most model railway enthusiasts, lighting a model railway room means simply switching on the mains switch and either a 1OOwatt or 15Owatt light bulb springs to life. To my mind, the layout at this stage, looks dull and lifeless. Why not think about the railway layout as a theatrical stage, and when lit up properly, will bring it to life. There are two ways of going about lighting a layout room. First, if you just want to light the layout for viewing only with no thoughts about possible photographs at a later date, other than Black & White, then placing 6Owatt spot lights at various intervals around the room and disregarding the main light overhead, works very well. - Secondly, the use of FLUORESCENT DAYLIGHT TUBES can be used to great effect. (More on these later)
    If you place one spot light in each corner of the room where the layout is housed, and a further one in the middle of these walls, once the lights are switched on, you will notice that the focus of attention has shifted to the layout and not
    the surrounding area's. Make sure also that you put each spot light on a separate switch. To create a night time effect you could replace two of the corner bulbs with blue bulbs, not daylight type. Now let us consider lighting the layout for a natural light source and also be able to photograph the layout in colour, without the need for any studio lighting what so ever.
    When I first started to build a railway in its own environment, I started to think about lighting it properly, to show it off if you like. So, I mounted spot lights at various locations. These spot lights whilst pleasing to the eye, under normal viewing conditions were in fact, useless when it came for me to photograph the layout. I had to fit a blue filter to the camera (8OB or 8OA -- Daylight Film -- 1OO ISO ) The time exposures were far too long and reciprocity failure was I think, creeping in. So I looked around for some other way to photograph the layout without resorting to my 1OOO watt and 5OO watt flood lights I had used when I was a professional photographer. These 1OOO and 5OO watt lamps I might add when used with either 8OA or 8OB blue filter gave excellent results, for print film, and even better results if using a tungsten slide film, as no filters are required. The trouble of trying to get the flood lights at the right height and in the right place, to eliminate most of the shadows, warranted a change to something simple. My layout room was not designed to place tripods behind as well as in front of the layout, so photofloods couldn't be used. I did consider using booms attached to the tripods, but even then, I would have had a hard job getting them into the right place.
    I found what I was looking for in the form of FLUORESCENT DAYLIGHT TUBES, these tubes are rated at 55OO degrees Kelvin and are perfect match for colour photography, when using daylight type slide or print film. A little explanation on colour temperature verses colour prints, or for that matter colour slides. Light is measured in degrees Kelvin, and at around mid-day outside, is roughly 55OO degrees Kelvin. These tubes come in 4' 5' and 6' lengths, and are only a little bit more expensive than normal household fluorescent tubes, and as they match daylight temperature, no filters i.e. 8OA or 8OB are required.
    Unfortunately, Household fluorescent tubes cannot be used because they give a greenish cast to slide or colour prints. You can buy a filter for use using the tubes, but I wouldn't recommend it. Anyway, - I purchased one to try it out on a daylight slide film. I rigged it up in the railway room, switched off the other lights and with just the one daylight tube, used a full 24 exposure film up, trying out various combinations of exposure times, and also using a mirror to reflect the light.
    When the slide film came back to me, I was amazed at the colours, they were almost the exact colours on the layout. As I had kept a record of the exposure times and the shots I took, I found that the best results with just the one tube was f5.6 Okay, as f22 or better was needed, all I needed were more tubes, so off I went and purchased seven more 5' daylight tubes, and fitted the lot to my ceiling at 18" intervals.
    The next day I bought two films, one print and the other slide. On getting home I first of all loaded the print film up so I could develop and print my own colour, I switched on all eight tubes and photographed all aspects of the layout at f22 - f32. When the prints were finally out of the fix, washed and dried, I must say, I was very pleased with the results.
    The slide film was used, sent away, and on return was also very good.
    Oh yes, I still use the spot lights for normal running of trains, as the effects are great, but, off they go when I need some photographs. These Daylight Fluorescent Tubes are also kinder to the eyes for working on the layout, I have just the one 5' tube switched on most of the time I am working on the layout. Apart from anything else, it is a natural light and the colours on the layout look right. Even if you use the spot lights, they are giving off a yellowish light and although your eyes get used to it, you cannot take any photographs with them on without filters, you would have a colour cast.
    There is one point about the fluorescent tubes, and that is to keep them clean, as they collect dust, the colour temperature of 55OO degrees. Kelvin shifts a little, although you might not notice this, the camera will. I tend to clean mine just before a photo session, to make sure all will be well.
  12. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

    Good stuff. I have to rethink photography for a bit after reading all of this. There are some settings on the camera I now understand much better. Thanks!

    Atticus thanks for the response. Again, more things I have to think about and try.
  13. ztrack

    ztrack TrainBoard Supporter Advertiser


    Yes definitely good responses. I have been shooting Z scale for years. It is actually sort of a sad, yet somewhat exciting week for me on the camera front. My trusty Canon D10 showed it's age this week and I was afraid it may not make it through the Convention next week. After almost 18,000 images (almost all Z scale), I was forced to purchase a new Digitial SLR. I am not putting it through it's paces before I head out to Denver.

    Digital photography has really changed the media. It really has made life much easier. Here are a few tips that I have found.

    - Good light is key. But if you don't have good light, then a really good photo editing software can get you out of trouble.

    - Tripod. This is SO important when shooting small trains. I use a cable release to take photos. But, if you don't have a cable release, see if your camera comes with a remote. If it does not, then use the timer feature on your camera. You don't actually want to touch the camera when you shoot it.

    - Full auto can be hit or miss, especially on close up. Start playing with the Appature (AV setting on your camera). This is what I use for all those shots you see in Ztrack. Don't be afraid to try a whole bunch of settings. Start low and work up. The shorter the F stop, the less depth of field and the darker the image. The longer the F stop, more of the image will be in focus, and the photo will be brighter. The key is to find a balance that keeps the image clear, but not too much light.

    - Just keep shooting photos. Since you are shooting digital, there is no cost. Shoot different angles and try auto as well as using the different F stops. Take tons of photos. That is what I do when I go to shows and events. I may shoot a few hundred images to get a few that I think are worthy for print. Sometimes you get happy accidents that turn out amazing.

    - Did I mention really good photo editing software? ;)

    Joe, email me a few of the images you shot with your camera. I will take a look and put them through PhotoShop. I can send them back to you with a few recommendations.

  14. ryuen

    ryuen New Member

    Also, if you have editing software and the conditions to photograph are not ideal then shoot in RAW format.
    Contrary to JPG format, images shot in RAW need processing which is more work but the upshot is that RAW is not compressed and retains all the image information which JPG does not.

    So if you have the software and you know your images will need some processing you might as well shoot them in RAW as more can be salvaged, areas with deep shadows or blown highlights for example will not be compressed and detail can be pulled from them in post processing while this is nearly impossible with JPG images due to compression.

    And yes, Z scale models are a challenge to shoot even when the conditions are optimal.

    Another hint, very useful when shooting a static model, is to use manual focus if your camera allows it. Switch to live view, zoom in as far as you can on the LCD and then focus manually.
    It is slower but more precise as you can see better what you are focusing on exactly, very useful with these very small models. Best in combination with a tripod.
  15. David K. Smith

    David K. Smith TrainBoard Supporter

  16. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

    I will try some shots this weekend if the weather cooperates and I will see what I can get.

    Rob I'll take you up on the offer once I get a few.

    David that focus program is amazing. I now see why your shots always seem so perfect besides the lights out modeling!

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