Dark Side parking

I don’t like figures! Better to say I don’t generally like ordinary figures, and the ones that cost as much as a premium model I won’t buy out of this exact reason. And from another point of view, I don’t really like how figures in a showcase give such a toyish vibe to the entire ensemble. I like a lot more a showcase with a simpler, museum-like aspect. I have a couple figures though, but with specific roles, meaning that they help giving a sense of scale to the non-conventional cars, like the Benz Patent Motorwagen, the Daimler Motorkutsche, the Mercedes Simplex or some of the Silver Arrows. Yeah, but that’s just me.

I told you all of that because the subject of this text is a figure that is very dear to me, a figure that doesn’t really fit into my collection, but it is a part of it anyway. I am talking about my Darth Vader in 1:18th scale. The weirdest thing happened when I was looking around in a bookstore and found this figure (WTF) in the hobby corner, yes, totally unrelated with the store’s general line-up of items. From the first look it seemed to be the right height, but I said to myself: “what would be the odds for this to be in 1:18th scale… but I’ll take it anyway”. I was pleasantly surprised by the way it was made. I couldn’t see this from the packaging at first, but it is very well made: it is all resin molded, the helmet, chest/shoulder plate and boots are painted glossy, everything else is matte and all the buttons, lightsaber or metal ornaments are very nicely painted. The cape is kind of thick, but you can’t tell this only when you inspect the figure in your hand. And after some research I discovered that Darth Vader was 2,02m in the movies, which should be about 11,2cm in 1:18th scale, and that’s how tall the figure is. Lucky me! I am not a fanboy, more like a fan, but I like these pop culture icons especially if they are as badass as Lord Vader himself.

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I immediately linked the figure to the “dark side” of my collection of Mercedes-Benz cars, the AMGs. I try to buy them mostly in that color, as much as I can of course of if they are available in black.

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Since the figure is in the “force choke” stance, I searched for a way to take some fun shots with it, together with my models. What better than a side parking, a Dark Side parking!

This photoshoot was also done for a contest, and since the rules forbid the use of post processing, I tried to do make a SUV float using transparent nylon wires. 70 shots later I got the result I wanted. As always, I do my props from household items, so the background and the futuristic/metal spaceship environment was a challenge. I decided to go for a LED TV in the background with a lot of metal texture on an USB memory stick. The solution for the stand is pretty silly: I used some black oven trays placed upside-down on some boxes; I needed the reflections. Too bad there wasn’t one long enough for 3 models to be on it. Anyway, the interesting part, not the difficult one, was to suspend the black G55 AMG by AUTOart. For that I used a regular indoor clothes drying rack and the nylon wires I previously mentioned. This is how the entire ensemble looked like:

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After that is all about finding the right settings, a balance between the natural light, background light, shadows, reflections and composition of course. The only difficult part was to find a spot where to shot the scene from, a spot from which the wires weren’t visible.

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And also another downside of shooting something suspended with wires is that after each minor set modification, you have to wait for the objects to “settle down”.

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It was definitely a fun photoshoot and one I will remake for better results, now that I have a little more knowledge about the matter. I hope you like it!

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And of course, since it’s that day: May the fourth be with you!

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How it all began

Well, at first it was all about collecting and sharing my new items on the forums for other passionate collectors to see. All the photos were extremely simple, on a flat surface or in a friend’s lightcube. Yes, I took some models (replicas, don’t get the wrong idea) outdoors for a couple of times, put them on the road and try to make some realistic photos; I got some mediocre results, with the models not fitting into the background, so I dropped it.

All this until I received the impressive Mercedes-Benz L6600 “Rungenwagen” in 1:18th scale as a gift for my birthday. Being such a big model, with a huge flatbed in the back, I wanted to fill it with some 1:18 logs. I took the model to the mountainside, began the search for some sticks to fit my preferences and cut them. The result, as you will see in the following photos, was pretty rewarding. Back then (i.e. the year 2011) I had my all-time-favorite phone everywhere, a perfect Nokia N95, a phone which I kept by my side for about six years. Anyway, I took the now fully loaded truck to find some proper existing places places to take some photos of it. I took it on the road, found some logs, some stones, some snow and got “down and dirty” with the model, taking photos with my trusted companion. As you might have guessed, the best way to shot a model is to be at it’s level, so pretty close to the ground. Here are a couple of photos from that “photo session”:Image1952

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The “sets” in which I managed to integrate my truck were more than I could hope for at that time. I had my phone packed with a lot of shots and I was THE MAN.

Between all these shots, I managed to squeeze a more elaborate one, where I tampered with the background a little. Inside the parking lot where I was doing my preparations, there were some piles of dirt and gravel for some construction works that were taking place. I “stole” a couple of shovels full of very fine gravel / dirt to make my own road for the truck I was carrying around. I dropped down into my sniping position and shot it. This is the result:

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Pretty much an ordinary photo, that did not raise my attention back then. I got home, downloaded the photos, I cropped them, did some adjustments and I was ready to show my tremendous work to my fellow collectors on our forum. Feedback was good, but there was always that comment that used to bring me down to earth: “the grass is too big”, or “that thing definitely brakes the scale of the photo”. I treasure all these comments now even if then they were braking my chi.

One of the photos was the most important, a photo which showed me the importance of a very carefully arranged set for my model, and I am talking of course about the one I last showed you. Yes, that simple photo of my truck on a circle of dirt made me rethink the way I photograph my miniatures. With a little crop, some adjustments (clarity, contrast and a little blur in the background), I received a lot of compliments and a little light bulb just got lit above my head. This photo has pretty much everything to do with the work I do today in my spare time, and I am happy I made all that back then. Thank you past Patriciu ! If I look now upon it, the shot was just lucky and sloppy,  because the far background (wall) was shady and it did not catch the viewer’s attention that much; also, the crop was awful, more like a banner than a conventional aspect ratio for a photo. And here it is:

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Where all this took me, I will try to show you in my future posts. Thank you for your time, and keep a close watch !

Patriciu D.