Friday 13 February 2015

"Project Intercity"- 2015 reshoot...

After a while away from doing shoots with miniatures, last week I (Ben) took the opportunity to shoot a new set of images for a project I started a couple of years back.
Above is one of the images from that project, which was completed as en entry for an Exhibition open call at the South Square Gallery, Bradford.  There is more info on that project here:
The idea was to do an abstract shoot, a representation of a trip through a city, all lights and blurring with the only constant being the railway line, as if it was a journey being viewed from the cab of a speeding intercity train.  Typically it was originally shot in a bit of a rush and on a very low budget, using leftover parts from the Model Village project, and skyscrapers improvised from a couple of filing trays, with plastic toy train track ballasted with loose grit which got everywhere.
Whilst the few pictures I produced for that call were alright, I hankered to reshoot it with a better camera (the original being shot on the now-deceased Cannon 350, as it was the lightest SLR we owned at the time and the best for the rather simple wheeled camera-dolly being used).  With a better rig and railway track built for the "Welsh Pony" project still available from last summer, I decided to shoot some new pictures.
A refurbishment at work provided the basis for the skyscrapers; an awful lot of plastic veg-crates which were otherwise bound for the bin were bought home, lined with masking tape and backlit with cheap LED push-lights and torches, as a cost-saving exercise.  The sets were built on the kitchen floor, with a black bed sheet draped between some chairs (not exactly high-tech, but then I don't have a studio available).
I decided to have the camera 'travelling' at a faster pace this time, to make the images even more abstract, and above is the first test-shot.  I decided to shoot a skyscraper image first to get the feel for the project.
Along with the buildings, liberal use was made of red and yellow Christmas-tree lights, to try and give the impression of cars on roads below the railway embankment.
The shot looked good, but with a rather all-consuming gap in the distance (due to the size of the set, it ended up being quite close to the backdrop, about 3 and a half foot of track), and it took a long time to get the picture.
Shoot number two involved another train, and utilised the older railway track from the first attempt at the original "Welsh Pony" project shoot (the first lot of track was plastic from a cheapo train set, and was too uneven for a smooth image, getting replaced with the model railway track being used for the camera dolly here).  Moral of the story, never throw anything away; the train is ex-Britannia Model Village, and vaguely resembles a Pacer DMU.  It was illuminated by using masking tape inside on the windows, and each carriage was filled with Christmas Tree lights.
The shot above shows the set up, including yet more Christmas Tree lights.

The result was pleasing, particularly the effect caused by the back-lit girder bridge.
Next was probably going to be the most complex set-up, improvised from lots of different bits, including plenty of parts borrowed from the kids' Tomy battery-powered train set, such as the arched station roof.  To be fair they were photography props before they were toys, being purchased as parts-donors for the Steampunk project, in the end unused for that project due to time constraints. 
Other buildings used include Airfix building kits, Hornby platforms on the left, upturned Tomy track bases in the middle, and an ancient Triang signal box in the middle, yet more bits borrowed from around the house and older projects.  I aimed to spend as little as possible on this shoot, improvising as much as possible.

This is one I'd tried to do, on a smaller scale, in the original Dromology shoot, and really wanted to have another go at, inspired by several years worth of night time high-speed journeys through stations in the middle of the night whilst travelling between Uni and home.

An attempt at a monochrome shot, just for a bit of variety...

...and one pushing the Pacer along at the same speed, trying to capture it within the shot as if both trains were approaching the station at the same time.
Away from the urban city scenes, next I thought I'd have a go at something more industrial, using yet more Tomy train parts (actually the above station platform flipped right-way up with trains added, and a working signal light).  Other bits include pen holders, 1/32nd containers from the Model Village project, and as a representation of oil storage tanks, which were upturned food containers, yet more scrap from the clear-out at work.


This time I tried placing some more back-lit crate skyscrapers behind the backcloth, to give the impression of distant buildings
The next shot was a cutting, with brick-paper on card on the right (recycled from the original Dromology shoot) with the Tomy track yet again, this time as a concrete wall on the left.

This time, I tried using an ancient torch with a yellow bulb, to try some different lighting effects...

...and lens flares.

Version two used a modified version of the same set but with a siding added to the left.  The skyscraper on the back-left was actually a dishwasher cutlery holder overturned.

By this time, I'd been shooting pics for about four hours (having got no sleep the night before) and it was starting to show, as the set-ups were getting sloppy.  This wasn't helped by the bridge/plank falling apart, and becoming too wobbly to support the weight of the camera-dolly properly, finally dropping the camera onto the floor which ended this set-up).  Moving the dolly too fast and the pic blurred far too much, too slow and the crates became too obvious.  On top of this, the two torches being used on the dolly to represent headlights both failed, making the trackwork too dark.

So to the final shot, another skyscraper image, though with an attempt to inject a bit more colour into proceedings.

Incidentally, quick word at this point though on music; a lot of my miniature shoots are done with songs on in the background to help get me in the right frame of mind for the images.  In this case I wanted slightly dreamlike songs to enhance the feeling of being on a late-night, slightly sleep deprived blurry journey through a city.  Key songs for the shoot include "Happy Little Pill" by Troye Sivan, "1969" by Geodadi, and "Lovely Head" by Goldfrapp.
So, at about 1.30 in the morning, the shoot was completed.  I'm rather happy with the results, as it feels like I managed to get the atmosphere of the shoot that I was after, the images are better with the D90 than the 350, and I managed to improvise it for the cost of about five packs of batteries, using waste materials and recycled model bits.  All in all, an enjoyable shoot to do, particularly as I haven't managed a models-shoot for about a year.

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