Turning router packing into a ruined alien temple

Original router packaging and the resulting model photoshopped into a jungle setting. (Robin Rowland)

Just before Christmas, I purchased a new router. Opened the box and the router was packaged in papier-mâché, a more environmentally friendly to all that plastic.  I took one look at it and it reminded me  of all those photos of  jungle ruins.

Finely carved corridors from the ruins of the Buddhist temple of Angkor Ta Prohm in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It dates to the 12th and 13th century and was built by king Jayavarman VII who is considered to be one of the greatest rulers of the ancient Khmer Empire. Allie Caulfield/ Wikimedia Commons

 

Ruins on a hill behind the better excavated ruins at Palenque. Alastair Rae / Wikimedia Commons

So I imagined that once on an alien world (of course it could just as well be Earth) that once there was an impressive building, the Emerald Temple, that was for some reason lost to history abandoned and thus the jungle took over. But this temple was so well built that most of it has survived the ages.

So I put my several ongoing kitbashing ship model projects aside to create the temple.  It took about five hours work over three days.

Close up view of the packaging. It certainly looks as if it’s a web of vines . (Robin Rowland)

I am calling this the Emerald Temple.  There was once cladding or covering or paint that when the temple was new and active would have been a bright emerald green.  That has now decayed so I began with a very light spray of emerald green spray paint plus a little camouflage olive green spray paint.

The Emerald Temple begins to take shape. (Robin Rowland)
A closer view of the emerald paint on one of the towers (Robin Rowland)
Top view of the unpainted packing (Robin Rowland)

I began with the top of the temple, adding a mix of commercial autumn leaves ground cover with dried tea from old tea bags to create the old leaves and other forest detritus that has built up over the years.

Ground cover and tea leaves create the detritus that has built over the years and decades. (Robin Rowland)
Front view with the old leaves and other forest detritus. (Robin Rowland)

I then added several layers of different coloured ground cover and foam bushes.

Ground cover added to all sections of the Emerald Temple (Robin Rowland)
A closer view of one of the towers. (Robin Rowland)

Additional plant life were twigs from my garden and a tomato stem, dipped in dilute white glue and then with some ground cover added.

An even closer view of the tower. (Robin Rowland)

And here is the final product

The Emerald Temple model. (Robin Rowland)
A slightly different angle. All the final product photos were shot in direct sunlight through a window. (Robin Rowland)
Close shot of the tower with modelling complete. (Robin Rowland)

Finally I photoshopped the completed model into an old screen grab of the jungle in Thailand from a documentary I shot back in 1997,  worked so that the temple appears to be part of the older, lower resolution video. It’s up to the viewer to decide whether or not the temple is part of a lost civilization on Earth or on an alien world.

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.

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.

Weathering the Apalon Bridge

 

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I have completed the basic layout for the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai railway. Before I glue down the track, the bridges have to be built. The first bridge is the simplest, a two-span deck plate bridge on three concrete piers.


The
prototype

The prototype is the Apalon Bridge, about 25 kilometres inside Burma, beyond Three Pagoda Pass, at the 335 kilometre mark from the railhead in Thailand. John Stewart described it in his book To the River Kwai Two Journeys 1943, 1979, when he visited the bridge on his return journey. At the time it had been abandoned for 35 years, and at that time, appeared to be intact, but appeared to be
freshly painted a dirty shade of red, like coagulated blood. From close up, it is revealed to be nothing but deep rust which Stewart says contrasted sharply with the pervasive greenness of the
jungle. Aphotograph shows thick jungle right up to the edge of the pylons on either bank.

Alternate world

This project is more of an alternative world, the term taken from speculative fiction than the pure model railroading freelance.  In this alternative world, the railway was not abandoned; instead it becomes a mainline route from China and Southeast Asia, as well as traffic between Thailand and Burma as well as the local runs. However, in the post-war world, there is a minimal budget, and so far, in the period 1946-1947, the maintenance on the hastily built railway is concentrated near the railheads and high traffic areas in Thailand and Burma. The border region that I am modeling is on the list but at the bottom. So the bridge can be described as neglected, and I have weathered it, as it would have been in either world in 1946 or 1947.


A note on construction


In the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway, the wooden bridges, ties (sleepers) and telegraph poles were made from local insect resistant tropical hardwoods, mainly teak. At least during the
period of the Second World War, creosote was not available and not used. That means the traditional methods of staining or painting both the wooden trestle and the ties do not apply on this railway. Teak and other hardwoods were used, usually untreated, for many years after the Second World War across Southeast Asia. Later various forms of anti-insect treatments were used. Today it is more common to use metal and/or concrete for bridges and poles.


The model

The original model is made from two Kato N Scale deck plate bridges with Kato pylons. There is a close resemblance to the original Apalon bridge



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The pylons

I came upon a method of creating neglected or decaying concrete purely by accident. I was testing
Krylon All Purpose White Primer #41315 on some scrap styrene. The result was a powdery cracked white, not all suitable a primer, but perfect for crumbling or neglected concrete.

First I sprayed the three pylons with Krylon primer. Once it was dry, I applied a wash of Polyscale Concrete, allowed it to dry and then applied two more washes.

The level of the Kwai Noi varies from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour. Flooding is frequent during the rainy season. So how to create flood/mud stains on the pylons? So I tried an experiment, I created a bath of artists acrylics (raw umber and raw sienna), and mixed it so it actually had a consistency of mud. I left the three pylons outside in the sun, which reduced the bath and left a stain, then transferred the pylons to my work bench, where the remainder of the paint bath evaporated over three days, leaving an authentic looking stain.

After the mud stains were dry, I applied artists pastel chalks, first some raw umber followed, in the tropical environment with a bright Phthalo Green, an Olive Green and then a mixture of the two. The
final chalks were Black, Mouse Grey and a mixture of both. The final step was a Krylon matte spray to fix the chalks and remove any sheen.

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The track I have already run experiments with spare Kato Unitrack and Atlas Snaptrack. Both have ties that are too dark to match tropical hardwoods. As is widely recommended, I coated the
rails with oil before each painting step.

What worked best was Krylon Satin Almond spray #42327, which creates a dull grey-brown finish. The second step was also an experiment. I had successfully tested Home Hardware Teak wood stain on bass and balsa wood prior to building the trestle bridges.

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So I brushed the ties with the teak wood stain”and that worked, bringing out the details of the ties and adding a teak-brown tone to the grey from the spray.

However, this technique works best on track without a built-in roadbed, since the stain tends to bleed into roadbed. (I am working on a couple of other techniques with the Unitrack) I then painted individual ties with a variety of washes from Polyscale D&RGW Building Brown, Depot Buff and Mud, adding a smidgen of Box Car Red now and again. The guardrail and the sides of
the rails were painted with Polyscale Rust.

I added a wash of rust on the central walkway. It was chalk pastels that made all the difference. First was for rust, Caput Mortuum Red, Indian Red, Permanent Red Deep and Raw Umber (and mixtures of those shades). There were several different shades of Raw Umber in Curry’s Artists Supplies in Toronto, so I used those to add a general aged appearance. As with the pylons, I used my selection of green to add some hint of the jungle, followed by greys and blacks.

 Kato calls the colour of the deck plate grey. But it was actually a grey green that was perfect for my needs since it closely resembled camouflage paints, likely the only paint available in the
region at the time anyway. I used a small sculpturer’s pick to distress parts of the bridge, weakening some of the side rails and poking some small holes, which could have come either from allied
strafing or just general wear and tear. Again I started with wash of Polyscale Rust, followed by a mixture of Rust and Building Brown, but largely left well enough alone.

The main step was a heavy application of pastel chalks, several of mixtures of a rusty orange, followed again by greens and finally by blacks.

Finishing

All the elements were sprayed with Krylon matte finish, to seal the chalks and to remove any remaining plastic shine. I gave the Kato unijoiners a thin wash of concrete, and added
a black gantry support in the middle, that I may use for a telegraph pole or just leave as is.

Next step The next step is
the first trestle bridge.

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