The hunt for the Millennium Falcon – the diorama

Once again the Millennium Falcon is on the run. Once again in this non-canon, non-legend Star Wars Micromachines diorama, the Falcon is trying to hide out in a crater on an unnamed, uncharted minor planet at the edge of that galaxy far far away, perhaps in the mysterious “Unknown Regions.”

The Millennium Falcon hides at the edge of the galaxy. (Robin Rowland)
The Millennium Falcon hides in a small crater on a minor planet in the middle of galactic nowhere. (Robin Rowland)

Unfortunately for the Millennium Falcon crew and passengers, a bounty hunter comes up over the planetary horizon.

A Slave 1 class scout vessel comes over the horizon of the minor planet right over the Millennium Falcon. (Robin Rowland)

 

The Slave 1 class scout hides in another crater, while waiting for the Super Star Destroyer to arrive so the bounty hunter can collect a reward.. (Robin Rowland)
The Super Star Destroyer appears in orbit over that minor planet where the Millennium Falcon is in that crater. (Robin Rowland)

So what happens next? I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Creating the dioramas and photographs

All the models are Hasbro Star Wars Micromachines that were part of a Hasbro Star Wars Micromachines Epic Battles 48 piece set that fortunately was on sale at half price in my local supermarket.

Rebelscale.com lists the MicroMachines Millennium Falcon at 1/682 scale, the Slave 1 at 1/551 scale  and what Rebelscale calls the Imperial Star Destroyer (if it is the same as the Super Star Destroyer) at 1/23529 scale.

The problem with the Millenium Falcon MicoMachine is that the detailing is way out of scale, especially compared to some of the other models. Also the shiny “vinyl plastic” (according to Rebelscale) didn’t really work for the much loved but by now old and beat up Millennium Falcon.  The model was first painted with Krylon white primer,  then  lightly sprayed with Krylon Ivory Satin.  I added detailing using sharpie style art ink pens. I then sprayed with Krylon Matt finish.  Some of colours of those inks run when sprayed with the matt finish (especially reds).  After the matt finish had dried, details were touched up with the pens.

I left both the Slave 1 and the Super Star Destroyer as is.

The base is the Lunarscape vacu-form crater mold from  Amera Plastic Mouldings  from Low Prudhoe, Northumberland, in the UK.

The sheet of plastic was first covered with Krylon white primer.  Then I brush painted a thin grey wash with ordinary (not modeling) arcylic artists’ paint.   I then sprayed the surface with Krylon Fusion for Plastic white paint and Krylon Make it Stone textured grey paint, two handed, at the same time.   Finally I finished off with a quick pass of the Krylon Ivory Satin to give the surface some variety.  Serendipitously by that time the Ivory Satin can was almost empty and the spluttering spray left lumps of paint which became the surface rocks.

The spray painted Amera Lunarscape with the Micromachines Millennium Falcon (Robin Rowland)

My work table is grey and some what dirty as you can see.  I pinned a black cloth on the wall in preparation for photography. The light for this image was daylight through a window to the left.

Setting up the shot of the Millennium Falcon and the Super Star Destroyer (Robin Rowland)

To take the photograph of the Millenium Falcon and the Super Star Destroyer the Star Destroyer model was on a platform (actually a pile of books) also covered in black cloth.  The main lighting for the shoot was an LED video light high on an extended light stand at the door to my workroom. For this shot the overhead light was also on.

All closeup images were taken with a Sony Alpha 77 and a Sony 100mm prime macro lens.

I wanted imaginative backgrounds, like the covers of 50s-70s science fiction paperbacks, so I choose public domain shots from NASA.

The barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217 (NASA Hubble)

The barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217 was photographed on June 13 and July 8, 2009, as part of the initial testing and calibration of Hubble’s ACS. The galaxy lies 60 million light-years away in the north circumpolar constellation Ursa Major.

The NGC 4536 galaxy, captured here in beautiful detail by the Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Located roughly 50 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin), it is a hub of extreme star formation. Released April 14, 2017  ESA/Hubble & NASA

HH 901 and HH 902 in the Carina Nebula Star-forming Pillars and Herbig-Haro Objects with Jets  Taken in 2010 by the Hubble the region is two light years across and 7,500 light-years away from Earth. ESA/NASA

Photoshop

For both the Slave 1 and the Super Star Destroyer,  the NASA image was added in a new layer, then the eraser tool was used to reveal the spacecraft which were lighted the same way as the Millennium Falcon on the surface.

The “line” between the Lunarscape craters and the work table was blended using a combination the blur tool, the clone tool and the healing brush tool.

 

“Do or do not. There is no try” – the diorama

Yoda and Luke Skywalker on Dagobah after Yoda lifts the X-Wing from the swamp, (Robin Rowland)

For my second diorama (the first was the Emperor Palpatine and his guards) I tackled two scenes, from different perspectives from The Empire Strikes Back.

Photographed from one side, young Luke has arrived at the swamp world of Dagobah and has met Yoda.

Welcome to Dogabah, young Luke. (Robin Rowland)

Shot from the reverse angle and using forced perspective, the frustrated Luke Skywalker has just watched Yoda use The Force to raise his sunken X-wing fighter from the waters of the Dagobah swamp.

Both Luke and Yoda are Star Wars Command figures, painted in the appropriate colours. The Luke figure, unfortunately, is one of the poorest in the Star Wars Command line, compared to other personalities and even ordinary stormtroopers.

The snake (the creature that ate and threw up R2 D2) is from a $2 packet I bought at a dollar store. The flying creature was a lucky addition to the background shot I chose.

Here is the concept art of the scene from the official Star Wars site

How I did created the diorama

I started with the X-Wing which I painted in the standard colour scheme. The tiny R2 unit on the model was removed since on Dagobah, R2-D2 was with Luke. Military modellers often dip figures in Miniwax wood stain to bring out details. Usually I use a light stain, Minimax Fruitwood. This time I used the darker Walnut stain and rather than cleaning most of the stain, I let it drip into the a small aluminum pan.

Yoda also was dipped but he was wiped clean.

For the X-Wing I then added deadfall Witch’s Hair lichen (Alectoria sarmentosa) which is common in northern British Columbia where I live.

I then built the diorama using standard materials, with one exception. The styrofoam base was small so instead of commercial model water, I used several layers of standard food cling wrap (which actually comes with a slight blue tint in a private brand version) to make the snake/monster emerge from the water. I painted the layers of cling wrap with a light brown wash.

Here’s how the diorama  looks.

To photograph from different angles I then chose photos that would work as backgrounds.

Did I visit Dagobah? I wish.

The background images were photographed during a canoe trip in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refugee in south Georgia, ten years ago in April 2006.  The photographs were printed on Epson matt paper so there would be no extraneous reflections

Background image for Welcome to Dagobah
Background image for Do or do not, There is no try.

Finally here is the X wing on the diorama  showing the aft end of the star fighter.

Close up images shot with a Sony A77 and Sony 100 mm macro lens.  Others shot with a Sony 6000.

An Imperial AT-AT on patrol in swamp

An AT-AT on patrol in swamp, planet unknown. (Robin Rowland)

Star Wars Command AT-AT photographer in the woods near my house. Now that it’s spring will be able to do more outdoor photography where appropriate (the small approx 54mm Star Wars Command figures don’t always blend into a real world setting as easily as the larger 3.5, 6 and 12 inch figures).

Shot with Sony A700 and Tamron 70 to 300 on macro mode.

Why did I enlist in the snow troopers?

Why did I join the snow troopers? Snow trooper patrols in cold rain after a heavy snowfall.

A Star Wars Command snowtrooper figure, painted, photographed in rain after a heavy snowfall, Sony Alpha 700 Tamron 70 to 300 on macro mode.

Snowtrooper patrol

Snowtroopers on patrol on a snowy day, cursing the officers who sent them out. Another one of my Star Wars Command figure projects. Photographed in a snowstorm, in Kitimat, BC, January 6, 2017. (Robin Rowland)

Snowtroopers on a patrol in heavy snow. (Robin Rowland)
A snowtrooper in snow above his knees. (Robin Rowland)
The snowtroopers taking the point on this icy patrol (Robin Rowland)
Snowtrooper (Robin Rowland)
This snowtrooper wonders why he “volunteered” for this mission. (Robin Rowland)
Why does the Empire issue such crummy equipment? this snowtrooper wonders. (Robin Rowland)
A rebel snowspeeder has spotted the snowtrooper patrol. (Robin Rowland)
The view of the snowtrooper patrol from the snowspeeder (Robin Rowland)
“I have a bad feeling about this, bud,” the snowtrooper says. (Robin Rowland)

Snowspeeders at a hidden base

One of my holiday hobby projects was painting the Star Wars Command snowspeeders (with the aim, of course, photographing them in the snow.)

So imagine that on Hoth (or some other snowy world) some snowspeeders escaped the Empire attack on the main base and have found refuge in a hidden valley. (Planets are big places)

But given the Empire’s tech, and orbiting satellites, or patrols, the lined up snowspeeders could be spotted from above.

So that means it is a good tactic to disperse the snow speeders, with the pilot carefully landing this one at the edge of a cliff.

A second pilot brings the snowspeeder in right under the lip of a snowbank.

(Photos of other projects coming soon)

Emperor Palpatine and his guards

Emperor Palpatine and his Star Wars Command guards. (Robin Rowland)
Emperor Palpatine and his Star Wars Command guards. (Robin Rowland)

So here is my first project for miniatures and photography, Emperor Palpatine and his guards.

The miniatures are painted Star Wars Command 54mm/ 1/32 scale figures.

palpatine2

Technical photo details for first and second images. Sony Alpha 77, with Tamron 70 to 300 lens, tripod, ISO 1000, manual settings f25 at 13 seconds.

A wider view of Emperor Palpatine and his guards. (Robin Rowland)
A wider view of Emperor Palpatine and his guards. (Robin Rowland)

Sony Alpha 55,Sony 55 to 200 SAM lens, ISO 3200, program mode, popup flash fired, 160 at f10.

Now for the fun part.  George Lucas was inspired by the old movie serials from the 30s to 60s in creating Star Wars.

So here’s how my miniatures look using filters to emulate old movies.

Emperor and his guards in a vintage movie (Robin Rowland)
Emperor and his guards in a vintage movie (Robin Rowland)

The Silver Efex Pro filter captures the idea of the old black and white (or semi sepia movies) Sony Alpha 77, Sony 100mm prime macro,  ISO 1600, Aperatre priority f32 at 25 seconds (on tripod)

The Emperor and his guards in an old colour film. (Robin Rowland)
The Emperor and his guards in an old colour film. (Robin Rowland)

This vintage film image was created in Analog Efex Pro using an old film setting. Sony Alpha 55, ,Sony 55 to 200 SAM lens, ISO 3200, aperture priority, popup flash fired, 160 at f16.

 A little later style of black and white film. (Robin Rowland)
A little later style of black and white film. (Robin Rowland)

And if the director was still using black and white.  SilverEfex Pro, Alpha 77, Tamron 70 t0 300 in macro mode, manual settings, ISO 1600, 32 seconds at f8.

Another old film look at the Emperor and his guards. (Robin Rowland)
Another old film look at the Emperor and his guards. (Robin Rowland)

Finally, how I created the set:

The set for the Emperor Palpatine shoot (Robin Rowland)
The set for the Emperor Palpatine shoot (Robin Rowland)

So here’s the “set” for the Emperor Palpatine shoot.  The round base originally supported WalMart’s delicious chocolate fudge cake.  I had kept the base several months ago as I was hoarding possible scratch building material.  The base is set on a piece of black poster board.  The background is a cardboard box spray painted black.  The two wall panels are also from chocolate cake bought from my local supermarket.

Lighting: Three lights on most of the images.  An LED flashlight as you see to the right of the setup.  On top of the box was a small LED light (designed for use with mobile phones, pointed at the offwhite ceiling. The third LED was to the left and about two metres away pointing just to the left edge of the box.

Once I had finished the tripod time exposure shoot, I wanted to get this shot of the set so I used the Alpha 55 with just the popup flash  at -2 without changing the lighting set up otherwise.  I used the same settings when shooting wider shots above with the Alpha 55.

First crack: A dusty sandtrooper

A dusty, dirty, Star Wars sandtrooper. (Robin Rowland)
A dusty, dirty, Star Wars sandtrooper. (Robin Rowland)

When I decided that I needed a non-work related creative outlet (I am a professional photographer and writer) I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Then I saw a display of Hasbro Star Wars Command figures in a local drugstore. I immediately recognized that 1)the figures are cheap– something that is important when you are retired 2)the figures are 54mm or 1/32 scale a standard for military miniatures and 3)the plastic figures can be easily customized (which is part of my long term plans)

So this is my first crack at a Star Wars Command miniature. The detailing is a little ragged in some parts but overall it works– at least in the long shots, if not the closeups. Learning from experience the next figures will have better detailing.

Star Wars sandtrooper
A closer vertical image of the sandtrooper. (Robin Rowland)
Another angle on the Star Wars sandtrooper (Robin Rowland)
Another angle on the Star Wars sandtrooper (Robin Rowland)
Side view of the Star Wars Command 54mm 1/32 scale sandtrooper (Robin Rowland(
Side view of the Star Wars Command 54mm 1/32 scale sandtrooper (Robin Rowland)
Rear view of the Star Wars Command sand trooper. (Robin Rowland)
Rear view of the Star Wars Command sand trooper. (Robin Rowland)

I am using the standard military miniature painting and dipping techniques that I found online. Once I get a little better at it, I will add “how I did it” information to my posts.

Photography I am using my Sony Alpha 77 camera with the Sony 100mm macro lens. Figure placed on a sheet of white poster board and shot using sunlight coming through a window.

A vintage model “tank”

oldtank1

This “tank” — I guess you can call it that — is about fifty years old.  I was always making both kit built and scratch built science fiction and space models back when I was a teenager.

I am pretty sure I built this model when I was about sixteen.

oldtank2

As you can see from the bottom, the original plastic was a dark red and, if I remember correctly, I copied the camouflage from the painting on the box.

I have a vague memory that the kit was Japanese. I have posted a picture with the science fiction modelling group on Facebook, asking if anyone recognized that model but so far no one has.

oldtank4

Back ages ago, the tank (or perhaps armoured fighting vehicle) was on diorama base with a purplish alien landscape. That is long gone. I found the model in the bottom of a box of some other modelling hold overs from my teen years that I had hauled with me all those years. So now I am getting back into modelling, I intend to reposition the vehicle in a new diorama and will post that when it’s complete.

There is just one update with the model. One of the tail fins broke off over the years, so I added a black wash as “battle damage.”