Star Wars #ourgreatindoors

The #ourgreatindoors concept came about during the Covid-19 pandemic when outdoor photographers were stuck in their homes and recreated images of the outdoors by using anything they could find around the house. I decided to use the same concept using my Star Wars Micromachines figures.

The idea was featured on CBS News Sunday Morning. (video autoplays) based mainly on the work of photographer Erin Sullivan. As CBS’s Conor Knighton, reported: “When COVID-19 hit, all of travel photographer Erin Sullivan’s far-flung gigs dried up. So, the woman known as “Erin Outdoors” began recreating the great outdoors indoors, turning her Los Angeles apartment into imaginative landscapes made out of spaghetti, vegetables, sugar or tinfoil. Her Instagram photo series, #OurGreatIndoors, has inspired other homebound travel buffs to imagine vistas of their own in miniature.”

Sullivan’s website Erin Outdoors.

Here are my inspired photographs.

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker battle in the Death Star in the Empire Strikes Back. In this case, the Death Star is actually the interior of my dishwasher. (Robin Rowland)
Darth Vader takes on his son, Luke Skywalker, in the Death Star. (Robin Rowland)
A closer image of the two Hasbro Star Wars Micromachines figures of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. (Robin Rowland)
Finn, Rey and BB8 cross the desert of Jakku. Actually the arm of my sofa. (Robin Rowland)
BB8, Rey and Finn on the desert of Jakku as the Force Awakens. (Robin Rowland)

The Rusty Romulan

An unfortunate Romulan Bird of Prey crashed on an alien world many years ago and nature is taking over. (Robin Rowland)

My latest project, The Rusty Romulan, was begun to solve a very old problem. When I was a teenager (yes that long ago, when Star Trek the Original Series was still on the air on NBC) I built all the available Star Trek models from AMT, including the Romulan Bird of Prey.

My original build of the Romulan Bird of Prey from the late 1960s.

There was one problem with that model. There was something wrong with the spray paint I bought (memory fades) either at my neighborhood hobby shop or perhaps a hardware store was faulty and the metallic paint was rough and potmarked.

Somehow, unlike all the other models I built in those days, the Romulan Bird of Prey was the only one that survived. Like some other models, it ended up in a box of books that I unpacked when I retired. (Yes it was that long ago).

So the Bird of Prey was hanging around on a shelf until one day I had an idea. Living in northern British Columbia you often come upon crashed cars in the bush, completely rusty and overgrown. Or illegally abandoned vessels rusting on a shoreline and also becoming overgrown.

So why not make lemonade from the Bird of Prey and turn it into a rusty Romulan.

So that’s what I did.

The repainted and now rusty Romulan Bird of Prey.

The Romulan Transportation Safety Board has not yet investigated the crash. The Bird of Prey is listed as missing. So the reasons for the crash (and if the crew survived) is unknown. The space craft managed to reenter the atmosphere intact. There was no significant battle damage and the crew did not trigger the self destruct. However there was clearly some exterior damage, either in space perhaps causing the emergency landing or during reentry.

The Bird of Prey livery was damaged during re-entry. (Robin Rowland)

I scored the old model with my Dremel sander on a very slow rotation. Then painted some areas black for the re-entry burn and then added the initial rust in light washes.

The Rusty Romulan on the workbench. (Robin Rowland)

I wanted the Bird of Prey to be somewhat upright, so it came to rest against a ridge so that the livery can be seen. With that design in mind, the decades on the surface of this planet alien to both Human and Romulan will take its toll on the unlucky Bird of Prey.

Top view of the diorama. (Robin Rowland)
A side view (Robin Rowland)
A view of the wreck as if someone, Human, Romulan, indigenous to the planet or other alien is walking up to it. (Robin Rowland)
The Bird of Prey came to rest against a ridge face. (Robin Rowland)
A closer view of the Bird of Prey on top of the ridge. (Robin Rowland)

I wanted an alien look while maintaining the scale. The Bird of Prey has four decks and is 21.9 metres (71.8 feet) high by 90.6 metres (297.2 feet) wide. So the trees and other vegetation (allowing that this is an alien world) had to be proportional.

A visitor approaches the rusty wreck of the Romulan Bird of Prey (Robin Rowland)

One of the species of vines on this part of the world are made from ornamental moss from a dollar store, the kind usually put in planters.

Our visitor is walking around looking at the Bird of Prey, with the winged livery still visible among the rust. (Robin Rowland)

The “conifers” are the standard, cheapest, model railway trees, with purple foam added.

Our curious visitor continues to walk around the wreck. (Robin Rowland)

The trees are Woodland Scenics Light Green Forest Canopy using just the very tops of the plant material. (Chaos theory is at work here, the tiny tops are just like the bigger trees designed for a model railway.)

The visitor looks up at the rusty hull. (Robin Rowland)

The original AMT model did not have the portholes in the Bird of Prey so I drilled the holes. The fibrous material is a model railway grass and the orange fungi is a chalk.

Now the visitor ventures to walk on the hull of the wreck. (Robin Rowland)

The built up leaves on the hull are just that. Autumn leaves collected, dried and then pulverized in a blender. (It is another model railway technique. However if you are using a blender make sure to use one that comes with both glass and metal containers–and use the metal one).

The visitor looks over to what was once the bridge of the Bird of Prey. (Robin Rowland)
Our curious visitor continues to explore the hull of the Bird of Prey. (Robin Rowland)

The final touch, the second species of vines, are “silk” from corn-on-the-cob.

Hot chicken Jedha

There’s another citadel temple city on the moon Jedah. And the Empire is occupying this city as well as can be seen from the Imperial Star Destroyer overhead. (Robin Rowland)

According to Wookieepdia, there is more to the moon Jedah than just the NiJedah Holy City destroyed in the movie Rogue One A Star Wars story:

Many settlements on the moon, such as the ancient Holy City, sat atop the world’s natural mesas…

So the model above is my latest semi-canon creation. The mesa temple city is scratch built. The Star Destroyer is the Hot Wheels model.

This all started one evening when I had a speaking engagement and so, with no time to cook, I picked up a whole hot roast chicken at the local supermarket. Delicious. Then I noticed something. Hey, I thought, in my sometimes off the wall way, that container resembles that city from Rogue One.

A hot chicken container that resembles that ancient desert city from Rogue One –or that’s what I thought over dinner. (Robin Rowland)

After I got the black plastic “mesa” out of the dishwasher, I went to my stash and pulled out the Star Destroyer I bought a year or so ago cheap at a dollar store, just to see if would work.

Hot Wheels Star Destroyer on top of a one-time chicken container. (Robin Rowland)

Given the huge size of a Star Destroyer and its size in relation to the Holy City, it was clear that this model city would be a larger mesa and settlement that one in Rogue One.

Screengrab from Rogue One showing the huge Star Destroyer over the Holy City of Nijedha.
The Star Destroyer leaves NiJedah as the Empire evacuates its forces prior to the destructive attack from the Death Star.
The same scene using with the model. The stand has been erased in Photoshop. (Robin Rowland)

The next step was to turn the chicken container into a city on Jedah.

Top view. Buildings were added using scrap plastic, tops of tubes, the top of a dental floss dispenser and chopped up Evergreen plastic strips. (Robin Rowland)
The iconic domed buildings found on Jedah and Tatooine are bits of sprue. (Robin Rowland)

The Star Destroyer was repainted and weathered.

Then I built up the city, painted it, weathered it. Then it was glued onto a foamboard base and the desert landscape was added.

The Jedha model city. (Robin Rowland)

The Star Destroyer on its Hot Wheels stand. (Robin Rowland)
The city and the Star Destroyer. Stand removed using Photoshop. (Robin Rowland)
Front view of the mesa, the city and the Star Destroyer. (Robin Rowland)
Jedha model opposite view. (Robin Rowland)
Jedha model with the Star Destroyer on its stand. (Robin Rowland)
Jedha model and Star Destroyer (stand removed by Photoshop. (Robin Rowland)
Top view of the mesa city. (Robin Rowland)

The GT-1350 Smuggler Interceptor

(Star Wars non-canon; non-Legends)

A Star Guard “smuggler interceptor” using the military version of the Corellian Engineering YT 1300 light freighter which I call the GT-1350 chasing a smuggler in an original YT-1300. (is it the Millennium Falcon or another smuggler using the YT-1300? Who knows.) Have you ever noticed that the Millennium Falcon always out  flies  and out maneuvers a Tie-fighter?

PREMIS

About thirty odd years ago I co-wrote two books, King of the Mob and Undercover, about Prohibition in Canada and how Canada smuggled illicit alcohol into the United States from 1919 to 1933.

One of the things I found out during my research was that in the early days of  Prohibition the United States Coast Guard was ill prepared to intercept many of the faster boats that  opportunists and later gangsters used to smuggle alcohol either from Canada or the French islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon (off the coast of Newfoundland). But if the US  Coast Guard was able to seize one of the smugglers and the specifications were acceptable the seized vessel was turned into a Coast Guard smuggler catcher. The Coast Guard also purchased fast boats that were the same as or similar to those that were used by the smugglers. The Royal Navy used a similar policy in converting fast sloops to pirate catchers during the pirates of the Caribbean era.

So one day I had the idea of turning my Star Wars Command Millennium Falcon into a “smuggler catcher.”

The Star Guard GT-1350 at a landing pad on a planetary base (Robin Rowland)

Since the Star Wars Command Millennium Falcon is marketed as a child’s toy, it runs on wheels and there are three gaps on the underbelly. Also while detailed, the Star Wars Command Falcon is crude compared to the higher quality models on the market.

So it sat on the shelf for a couple of years until I had the idea of making it a “coast guard” interceptor.

Scenario

Time:  The late “Old”Republic at the time Lando Calrissian and Han Solo were flying the Millennium Falcon.  The time was becoming more lawless after the Sith Wars.   Smugglers were found working all sections of the galaxy.

Remember in all the now forty years of Star Wars, according to both Star Wars canon and Star Wars Legends, the Corellian Y-1300 light freighter was a standard production model, so there must have been lots of them around, even though Star Wars, so far,  has had only one Millennium Falcon (and I am pretty sure the fans would want only one Falcon)

Place: An alliance of several star systems under the banner of the Republic.  Since all these systems are quasi-independent, while they are overall affiliated with the Republic military, like 21st Century nations on Old Earth, they have their own police forces and system patrols commonly known as “Star Guards.” With the rise of the Empire all local forces were Imperialized.

That system is cracking down on smuggling of all kinds, from arms to drugs to luxury goods.  They find that their regular patrol ships are too slow to intercept the Corellian Engineering Corporation’s classic, respected and souped up YT-1300 light freighter.

The local government then decides it needs to “set a thief to catch a thief” and it obtains (and here the reader can choose one of two options)

1)the government buys a YT-1300 light freighter  (or managers to capture a YT-1300, probably on the planetary surface) and modifies it to Star Guard requirements and specifications.

OR

2)the government orders a military version of the YT-1300 the GT-1350 from Corellian Engineering, modified to Guard requirements and specifications, including, of course,  fast and powerful sublight and lightspeed engines.

The Star Guard interceptor at its landing field at night.

The Mission

The Star Guard interceptor has three missions

  1. Smuggler chaser
  2.  Routine policing and system star guard duties including maintenance of  navigation beacons and other vital sensor systems.
  3. Search and Rescue

(just like 21st century coast guards on Old Earth)

The GT-1350 Smuggler Interceptor

A modified version of the popular YT1300fp version popular in the late Republic.

Normal complement is a crew of five to seven.  That would include a pilot and co-pilot,  who doubles as a shuttle pilot. The third regular crew member is a sensor and navigation specialist and when necessary, gunner.  Depending on the mission the GT-1350 can carry Search and Rescue Technicians,  Navigation aids engineers and technicians or Special Weapons and Tactics  Teams who are trained in boarding and capturing intercepted space ships. The GT-1350 can also normally carry up to seven or eight passengers or if required up to fifteen passengers/intelligent beings on a rescue mission (although that would mean the vessel would be crowded until it could rendezvous with relief vessels.)

Special bays

The GT-1350 has replaced the cargo bays with

1)a shuttle bay for a one person/intelligent being shuttle craft

2)drone bays that can carry a number of sensor drones with different missions such as sensor probes and search and rescue probes.  Or it can carry navigation and other in-system beacons,  just like coast guards today act as buoy tenders and maintain other aids to navigation.

3)The third bay  carries a high powered sensor dome that can be extended from the underbelly and used to focus on target areas of the mission

(These bays cover the wheel wells on the Star Wars Command toy Falcon)

Colour scheme and livery

Until the Empire “Imperialized”  the galactic police and military,  Star Guards continued the tradition from Coast Guards on Old Earth where each nation often  had their own colour scheme based on a mixture of mostly white and red ( usually not including some specialist vessels)  US Coast Guard,  largely white with some red except for icebreakers which are mostly red, Canadian Coast Guard with red hulls and white superstructure, Russian Coast Guard all red, China Coast Guard mostly white, UK Coast Guards white hulls and buff superstructure etc.

For painting this GT-1350, I used a slightly modified Canadian Coast Guard colour scheme, making most of the hull red with major parts white and equipment areas in buff or black.

For the livery I wanted something that would seem both futuristic and familiar. As with earlier projects I created the planet in the Solar Cell Photoshop plugin as a symbol for the star system where the ship is based. The stars and other symbols came from various dingbats to create a more alien look.   I decided to use the English “Star Guard” since I found the terms System Guard, System Patrol and other variations awkward and I wanted something that suggest a galactic version of a coast guard. (But it’s also a tribute to Andre Norton’s Star Guard which, of course has nothing to do with the Star Wars universe and is a completely different story).

The underbelly of the Star Wars Command ship showing the colour schemes, livery and shuttle/sensor bays.  The majority of the hull is painted red while the “superstructure” is painted white with some areas, including the landing gear in buff or black.

The toy becomes a sort of model

 

The Star Wars Command toy Millennium Falcon disassembled with the wheels removed.

The disassembled model was primed. I then inserted the shuttle (forward bay) and the drones (upper bay in this picture) port side on the model. The shuttle and the drones are 1/2500 Star Trek 3D printed shuttles I bought from Shapeways for another project but decided they would be of better use for this project.

The underbelly of the GT-1350 before decals were added. You can see the sensor dome on the bottom left.

A view of the front. Note the star decal.

The port or left side after decals were added. One question I thought about was whether to weather? In the end I decided to weather the ship. As a military vessel under most circumstances, it would be better maintained than the Millennium Falcon’s often jury rigged repairs. On the other hand the George Lucas vision of the Star Wars universe calls for a certain dirty, aged, weathered look.

The aft/rear view of the GT-1350. The toy blue of the engines was washed in a couple of shades of blue. The other ship is the Star Wars MicroMachines Millennium Falcon. (normally used on my earlier project based loosely on The Empire Strikes Back and borrowed for the photo shoot.)

The landing gear are from N Scale model railway telephone poles, which were just the right size to fit into the screw holes on the toy Millennium Falcon.

The photo

 

The completed GT-1350 Smuggler Interceptor chasing a YT-1300 smuggler. Taken on the black stands you’ve seen above and a black sheet of poster board.

LED light to the right to produce star light.

Taken with a Sony Alpha 6000 at various focal lengths on aperture priority to produce greater depth of field mounted on a heavy duty tripod.

Starfield photoshopped Hubble image from NASA.

Modelling Andre Norton’s “baldie” starship

The “baldie” starship trapped in Arctic ice from Andre Norton’s The Time Traders. (Robin Rowland)

The “baldie starship” at an alien base from Andre Norton’s Galactic Derelict. (Robin Rowland)

Almost all the model starships on the market today come from either Star Wars or Star Trek, with a few from the Battlestar Galactica reboot. Some speciality hobby stores both brick and mortar and online do offer some “vintage” kits. Even on Shapeways, the online marketplace for 3-D printed models,  the offerings are almost all Star Trek or Star Wars.

Yes as you can see from this site, I do model Star Wars and I have some Star Trek models on my to-do list.   A few months ago I decided it was time that my favourite science fiction author as a kid, Andre Norton, received some modelling tributes.

I decided that my first Andre Norton project should be from the first Norton science fiction novel I read when I was 13, The Time Traders.   (which became a series of novels )

The Time Traders, first in the series,  was written in the fifties at the height of the cold war.  The basic premise  is that the Soviet Union finds an alien starship preserved in the Arctic ice cap and starts using that technology (at the time of the so-called, later proved to be non-existent “missile gap”) and the United States must counter the Soviets.

Both sides some how, it’s never explained,  develop time travel and in a time travel arms race send agents back in time to various ages when the aliens later dubbed the “Baldies” were active on Earth. The “Baldies are alien pale, white, hairless, alien humanoids.

Norton only described the starship as spherical.  And various cover artists had their own interpretations of the ship trapped in ice. Every cover is different,  unlike movies or television where the design is fixed, so that gave me a little flexibility.

 

Time Traders paperback cover.

Time Traders hardcover cover.

So I decided to start  with an N scale propane tank model from my  model railway days ( I may try other approaches to baldie ships in the future)

I then added a bridge similar to the first cover, using a manufacturers container for contact lens (which didn’t work out as well as I had hoped) and stand/main engine from a bottle top.

 Once the model was complete,  I took it out into the snow of my front yard.

Perhaps this is how a 1950s helicopter might have spotted the Baldie ship in the thinning Arctic Ice.

And this is what the helicopter crew might have seen as they go down for a closer look. (Robin Rowland)

Of course I couldn’t leave the model out in the snow. So I created a base using another cover, from the novel Galactic Derelict.

Landing on an alien base.

Another view of the starship

There are a couple of differences here.  In Galactic Derelict the spherical ship is a scout, capable of holding perhaps up to five humans/humanoids.

It is discovered in the American west during the Palaeolithic when there is still volcanism in the Rockies (at least in the novel) and during an attempt to bring it forward to twentieth century time, instead it sends the crew on a journey across the galaxy and back.  In the several thousand years the “Baldie” civilization has collapsed and one of the bases the Terrans visit is a refueling station that, luckily still operates.

So in this case the model remains the full size starship. not the scout. The landing zone is a container for frozen meat pies.  The “tower”  really should be further away. Once again I used two toothbrush containers glued together,  then add details from scrap.

To match the cover, I photographed the base in available light late on the afternoon of April 1.   Also there are images of the model in full light to show more details.

The Baldie ship at the refueling base (Robin Rowland)

The “tower” at the alien base. (Robin Rowland)

A closer shot of the “Baldie” ship after landing at the base (Robin Rowland)

The base in full light. (Robin Rowland)

The tower in full light (Robin Rowland)

A pirate starship chase, scratch built from toothbrush packages

An alien pirate ship in pursuit of an another starship . (Robin Rowland)

So here are the results of my latest project, scratch building a couple of alien starships and then applying my photographic and Photoshop skills to put them in some star systems not too far away.

Scratch building the Golden Starliner

You start by going to the dentist for a teeth cleaning and scaling. 🙂   And then take the clear plastic packaging for the tooth brushes that the dentist gives you at the end of  the ordeal.

Add modellers’ masking tape to mark windows for the bridge and viewing ports. The exterior tape is the exact size of the windows I want, the interior is much wider.

Spray paint inside and out. I use a heavy duty plastic compatible automobile primer.

Detail the starship with appropriate scrap that will add to the appearance of the starship.  Remove the inner masking tape and replace it with images (in my case I reduced stock photos to a few millimetres in Photoshop).

Then decide what the basic “look” of the starship should be. After the two halves were glued together, it came to be that although this is designed to be a starship,  it had a sort of steampunk look. (The projection in the stern is not a smoke stack.  The bit of scrap plastic was there to fill a gap in the original toothbrush package). So I used a gold spray paint and decided it was a luxury liner for that alien species The Golden Starliner. Remove the outer masking tape to reveal the windows.

Later I added detailing paints, varying the gold in areas with brass and copper paints and adding colours including reds, greens and blues where appropriate.

The pirate ship

Once the Golden Starliner was complete, I decided the neat thing to do would be to have it pursued by a pirate ship. For that I already had one look in mind, that the ship would be black.  Although sensors in that star system not too far away might detect the ship, it would be black to make visual spotting and identification difficult.  The vessels are not the same scale.

The main body is a shampoo bottle.  The upper deck is another bit of clear plastic packaging, enhanced with one of my favourite candies, Cadbury Cream Egg packaging.

The upper deck was glued to the shampoo bottle and secured with push pins for drying. I originally had planned to remove the pins after the glue was set but decided to keep them.   I used the same grey auto primer. The nacelles, as you can see, are from used highlighters.

The bow is  the top of a bottle of mouthwash, another cream egg package plus a bit of scrap from a juice container as the sensor unit. (Thinking that the forward sensor unit could mean the pirate ship could be part of the Star Trek universe)

The pirate ship was spray painted flat black, with the engine end of the nacelles (the highlighters) masked by tape.  Some parts were painted in a metallic blue, which was also used to dry brush “space rust” with some other parts also painted in different metallic colours to enhance the model.  Here it is seen as I am setting up to take the photographs.

Here I am setting up the chase scene for the camera, showing the completed scratch built models.

The photographs

The photographs have three elements.  The models are photographed in low light with a black background on  black cardboard.  The planets are created in the Photoshop filter plugin LunarCell by Flaming Pear Software. The sun was created in Flaming Pear’s Solarcell filter.

Backgrounds were public domain downloads from NASA’s Hubble website.

Lighting with a LED TV news lamp was adjusted to fit with the illumination of  the planet or the star.

The Golden Starliner

The pirate ship

The pirate ship orbits its base, a marginal planet where normally no one would live.

The pirate ship is an ambush predator, orbiting as close as possible to a red dwarf star so it won’t be seen.

The Golden Starliner follows its usual course from planet to planet, oblivious to what awaits it at the next star.

And the ambush predator begins the chase.

 

Camera Sony Alpha 77, Minolta 28-75 lens, Iso Auto, F32 apperture priority.