Where the Magic Happens

“I’m going to tackle that kit one day…I just want to build my skills up on some cheap kits first”

How many times have you heard this? Come across it in some forum or another?

How many times have you said it yourself?

It’s easy to fall into the “need more experience” trap. It’s a tantalizing justification. A thing that novelist Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance”. Yes, with a capital R. Resistance is the enemy of work, of creativity, of accomplishment. Caving to Resistance and falling back on needing more experience does one thing – keeps you firmly rooted in your comfort zone.

Want to build up your skills? Step out of that comfort zone and take on a project that intimidates you. Maybe it’s the dollar signs attached to a certain kit, or the daunting task of rigging a biplane or doing a water base for a ship. Maybe it’s risking your pretty, shiny build to the vagaries of chipping or salt weathering.

It all comes down to fear. Fear of failure. Of not doing the kit justice, and so on.

But what’s the worst that could happen? You ruin the kit? Of all the things we do in life, modeling carries one of the lowest failure costs out there. Nobody gets hurt if you ruin a kit. Nobody gets fired. Maybe some money gets blown and some plastic winds up in the trash, at worst. And even if that happens, you have mistakes you can learn from.

But I also think you will be less likely to make those mistakes when you bust out of your comfort zone.

Being on edge makes you pay more attention and, in my experience, churn out better work than you otherwise would.


A New-Old Bench Camera

I take pictures of my finished builds (and works in progress when they hit significant milestones) with my trusty Nikon D300s. For these “staged” shots, well-lit on posterboard, the Nikon is wonderful.

But…it’s a chunk of a camera, and not exactly the most convenient thing to wield around the bench. That and, with its usual 35mm lens, its minimum focus distance really limits what it can do in terms of detail shots. Sure, I can slap the macro on it, but then it becomes even more unwieldy.

So, instead of the Nikon, I’ve been using my iPhone to capture my day-to-day bench adventures. In that it captures images that I can share, it does its job, but it’s just not a very good camera, and has many faults that leave the photographer in me gnashing my teeth. The absolute lack of white balance controls. The poor metering and poor dynamic range. The tendency of colors to shift toward the edges of the frame.

Facing down a few epic builds, I finally decided to upgrade my bench camera. I decided straightaway not to buy anything new. I’m not a big fan – or a fan at all, really – of point-and-shoots, and outside the high end, there haven’t been any major improvements to the point-and-shoot in years. After all, I don’t need face detection or sweep panorama. I don’t need billions of megapixels or a 15x zoom. All I need is solid metering and a good macro mode.

After polling others, I landed on the Canon PowerShot SD790 IS.

While the camera is four years old, it still packs 10 megapixels and does what I need it to do. At around $70, the price was also very right (this thing retailed for $350+ when it came out in 2008).

For one who’s so accustomed to the absolute control DSLRs provide, the simplicity of the Canon is…irritating. Why in the hell can’t I adjust the aperture? You call that a manual mode? But…it is a dramatic improvement over the iPhone, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Revell PV-1, shot with iPhone

Revell PV-1, shot with Canon PowerShot SD790 IS

Allarmi Capt. Ugo Drago - iPhone on left, Canon on right

And the workflow is significantly easier than the one I suffer through with the Nikon. I shoot in RAW when I shoot with the Nikon, and as such, the workflow looks something like this:

  • Shoot pictures
  • Import pictures into Aperture on the Mac
  • Tag, make adjustments in Aperture
  • If finals, go the further step of editing in Photoshop to take advantage of the wonderful “Unsharp Mask” filter
  • Drag images into iPhoto
  • Export images to Photobucket using the iPhoto plugin

With the Canon:

  • Shoot pictures
  • Import pictures onto the iPad
  • Upload pictures to Photobucket using the iPad app

The upshot…better, clearer bench pictures, with more accurate color tones, from here on out!