Pat's Log
Sat, 15 Sep 2007

USS Grissom
20070914 As mentioned in an earlier post, my model of the USS Grissom is finally done. After fifteen months of hard work, the details are good, and I think the effort shows.

The kit is Sci-Fi Spaceship Miniatures' "Survey Class Vessel," a kit from (I believe) the late eighties. What started out as a fairly simplistic 11" vacuum-formed kit is now a finely-detailed model. I had the pleasure of being told by the person who created the masters for the kit that it was the best build of the model he had ever seen.

Here is the run-down on the model. The ship is internally lit with LEDs, fifteen in all. I scratchbuilt details for the various bits where machinery is exposed. The paintjob is done with Testor's Acryl, airbrushed, and was difficult because of the lack of any reference lines in the plastic. The decals are an excellent set from JTGraphics. I weathered the details lightly with pastel chalk dust.

There was much procrastination in finishing this model, as there always is. One always wonders how far to take things. The perfectionist never wants to finish. The pragmatist wants to get the job done. A balance of the two is necessary. It worked out.

[] | posted @ 03:56 | link
Thu, 13 Sep 2007

Model Photography
20070912 After almost a year and a half of hard work, I have finally finished the model of the Star Trek ship Grissom this week.

This afternoon I set up a small photography studio to take photographs. The experience of past knowledge trying to photograph my models let me revisit a few things and should result in better photos.

First, a little background. I build models with internal lighting. I consider it about half of the hobby in being able to photograph the model as they have been doing with motion control photography for about three decades now. While my camera doesn't move on a sophisticated rig, the principles of compositing still hold true. The idea is to take several photos under different lighting conditions and combine them together. That way, the internal lights can look brilliant even if they are much weaker than whatever external lighting is used for the overall composition. It's complicated, but worth it. I've gotten fairly good results using basic techniques in the past.

The most obvious new addition to my equipment is my Canon Rebel XT digital SLR camera with a decent lens. In the past, I used an old SLR Praktica. It worked, but film is not very friendly for trial and error, unless you have months of time to kill. To complement the camera, a now own a sturdier tripod than before. This is important, as the exposures are up to 30 seconds in length, and multiple exposures have to line up precisely. The remote I built for the camera also helps.

Aside from the camera, the overall setup has been improved as well. Shelling out the money for a real black velvet backdrop was worth the expenditure. Initial tests show it is many times better than the felt I had been using. I made a new stand for the models themselves, on a longer-than-usual stainless steel rod nested in a solid chunk of aluminum. This will allow for the model to be held sturdily, as well as more low-angle photos. Finally, although I hate fluorescent lighting, a cheap 18" cold white light provides a true colour capture of the model without having to play with white balance after the fact. The length of the tube helps as well, as any point source of light within reasonable distance does not provide even lighting.

All of this is in the basement, on a steady concrete floor, and where all light sources are controlled. If everything goes according to plan, I should be doing some serious photography tomorrow night.

[] | posted @ 03:57 | link
Mon, 10 Sep 2007

Guns are Fun
20070909 This weekend Phil invited a bunch of us to his parents' new cottage. I was surprised when we got there, because this cottage was to other cottages as a palace is to a house. Great place, with acres and acres of land, lakefront, and a killer view.

With the land came the opportunity for some target practice. Phil owns a .22 calibre rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun. I had never fired anything like those before, and it was a great experience. The shotgun was quite a powerful thing, with OO buckshot the kickback was really a new experience. Exploding cans of club soda and cinderblocks as targets with the rifle was good fun too.

Additionally, we spent the weekend fishing, barbecuing, and the like. However, the guns were the best part. Novelty? Perhaps. But it's rare to take a candid photo of me really into something, and when this photo was taken I was downright giddy.

[] | posted @ 02:21 | link
Wed, 05 Sep 2007

The Most Amazing Organ
20070905 One thing that I visit whenever I'm in the Gdańsk region in Poland is the cathedral in Oliwa. The cathedral itself is a very tall and narrow building from the romantic style. While at 107m, it is the longest in Poland, and is not particularly interesting, save for the exquisite pipe organ which dominates its interior.

The organ was once the largest in Europe, and is still amongst the largest. At last count, accounting for all the stops, it amounts to around 7900 pipes. It has an astonishing sound, and the various figures and carvings move as the instrument is plays. In a single word, it is magnificent.

Of course, the day we came by to see it, it was a holiday in Poland. And in that region, a holiday is literally a "holy day" -- no concerts, only masses. Coming in 15 minutes into the mass, there was still a long sermon to get through, and the music was rather dry. I was most satisfied when at the end of the mass the organist let loose and played a piece that was more suited to the brilliance of the instrument.

Arcade Fire has long won me over by their original approach to music and their use of not just one, but two violins. This weekend I happened across a music video someone on YouTube created for a song of theirs called "My Body is a Cage." I was most intrigued that they released this song, and in fact, an entire album, without my noticing. Moreover, in this album, titled "Neon Bible," the band uses a full-blown pipe organ to its fullest in several tracks. The organ is allowed to scream at its full potential. Very unusual in rock music. Very Arcade Fire. Very cool.

[] | posted @ 05:10 | link
Tue, 04 Sep 2007

Europe Trip
20070903 It's been a week since I returned from a three week trip to Europe with my brother and father. We flew direct to London, then spent a few days there until the RyanAir flight which took us to my grandparents' city in Poland, and then we did the same thing in reverse on the way back. No need for a detailed summary, I'll just mention some highlights.

First and foremost is the fact that when I returned from London in early winter 2001, I claimed that it was one of the few cities I could live in. I based that on my winter impressions of transportation, population density, and so on. I don't like taking things back, but I have changed my mind. This time, the trip was in the summer, there were millions of people everywhere, with long lines, and while the transportation was still very good, the temperature in the tube was about 10 degrees warmer than comfortable.

Aside from the mentioned nuisances, something that drove me nuts is that two-thirds of the time if someone opened their mouth on the street it was either Polish or Arabic. This really irked me. I expected English in England.

In contrast, on the trip out to Stonehenge, we took the train to Salisbury. Salisbury was a nice small city and proved to have all the things I would expect in an English town. It was like the archetypal sort of English town one expects. Strange as it may be, I don't think London fits its stereotype any longer. It has lost much of that uniqueness.

Enough about England. It really wasn't that exciting, aside from the various methods of transportation. While time in Poland was very limited, we packed the days full of activities. Outside of the usual family obligations, we took a larger trip up North to the Baltic, at Gdańsk. On the way, we stopped at Malbork; that castle the Teutonic Knights built is amongst the largest in Europe. A truly amazing place, and getting better, as can be said for everything in Poland as time grows since communist regime.

It is interesting that every time I go to Poland someone ends up asking how I find it compared to life over here. Everytime I go, I am forced to answer less and less, as the gap is shrinking exponentially. I could live there, go to the grocery store in the same car I have here, buy the same brands of food, and use the same credit card to pay for them. There really is a lot less contrast than there used to be. It almost takes the fun out of travelling.

The new lens proved to be a very good thing during this trip. At 17mm, it was wide enough to capture even the largest buildings, and in at 85mm it got the closest details.

The photo here is of me standing in an archway in Toruń, where Copernicus was born and where he lived. It was on the way during our trip to the Baltic. Through the archway is the Vistula and the bridge we used to get into the city.

[] | posted @ 03:58 | link

copyright ©2004-2016 pat suwalski