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Sunlight Photography : N1K2-J Shiden Kai -1/32

With Spring finally here, I decided to do some outdoor photography. I rigged up a two-sided light tent on my deck. In shooting this model previously, a lot of the pre-shading mottling effect was lost in indoor lighting. In some ways, also, it is hard to capture the colors of a model visible to the unaided eye in natural light indoors. In sunlight the details really jump out. I took the lighter color pictures with my Canon Rebel IOS T2i. The somewhat darker ones are with the iPad. True colors are somewhere in between, but overall the results look better to my eye, and sharper in detail than any pictures I took previously. I am happy that the riveting shows up better. Also a surprise is the clearer cockpit detail when the sunlight hits it just the right way. The deep shadows in some of the iPad pics are a bit distracting, I know, but I couldn’t think of a way around that.

What are your experiences shooting in direct sunlight? Do you think the results justify taking the model outside? By the way, the only way I could get good results with the Canon was to shoot on full auto. If anyone does outdoor photography with an SLR, I would really appreciate knowing what settings you use.

BTW, you may notice that one antenna wires came unglued and is hanging loose. That’s one of the risks of taking a model outside, I guess.

Comments welcome.

15 additional images. Click to enlarge.


12 responses to Sunlight Photography : N1K2-J Shiden Kai -1/32

  1. I seem to get the best pictures outside in indirect AM light. I only have a iPhone as my camera though and I still have to adjust the brightness/contrast regardless. For me it’s very difficult to capture the true color and all the details of the model. Still trying to get by with out a camera or fancy equipment for now. Thanks for the post

    • Thanks for your response, Jeremy. Your phone camera is probably very comparable to the one in my iPad (maybe better, even, since phones are upgraded so frequently). Like you, I use morning light. I use a white board as a base and the light tent with white fabric or paper behind the model. The reflectivity of the paper really helps to bounce the light around. On these pics, you can seen how well it lit the bare metal finish of the undersides. I take lots of pics, download them on my computer and study them before going back outside again to vary my technique. The thing i like about my SLR is that it doesn’t distort the shape of the model so much in close-up shots, as compared to the iPad. I’m still working all this out, though. I don’t get to go outside so much in the cold Canadian climate, so I really look forward to spring and summer to shoot in the sun again.

  2. Thanks for posting this, my friend @coling!
    To me, there’s no real answer on which light is better; eachvobe has its own special characteristics, with the direct sunlight having exactly the ones you mentioned.
    The human eye is the final judge: if, what you see at the pic, is what you wanted to show, all is good.
    As a side note, direct sunlight is showing any model imperfections, but I believe this is not applicable to your excellent models 🙂

    • Thanks, Spiros. You are quite right. Sunlight is very unforgiving in exposing every detail, including flaws. In this case, I had two aims, one, try to capture the true tones of the IJN Green finish including the marbling of the paint I attempted and two, to bring out the surface detail of the riveting better. The photos worked out OK, I think, but may look a little stark to others.

  3. Great pictures, Colin @coling
    Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Capturing models the way your eye is seeing them is indeed not that easy.
    I also try to find the correct lightning and it seems that each model wants to have it’s own sort of light.
    Sometimes pictures taken inside are preferred, sometimes outside.
    Basically I judge per model and try to take pictures in such a way that they look like them most.

    • Thanks, John. I agree that every model is different in how well it can be lit. One thing pretty consistent for me is how darker finishes hide detail in indoor lighting, but I have this experience mostly with greens. Always glad to share if it helps others. I know I had renewed satisfaction with the model when I saw the improvement in color values in sunlight.

  4. Colin, @coling
    I enjoyed watching you build this model as part of the Empire of Japan group build. The model looks splendid outside. You are not only a fantastic builder, but you have equally outstanding photography skills.

    • Very kind of you to say, Louis. Getting good angles is sure a lot easier in the age of digital photography than in the old days of film. It is easy to try and try again, based on instant results. I’m glad you like this version of the finish. I think it makes modeling more worthwhile when you can revisit an earlier build with new “eyes.”

  5. Hi Colin @coling, first, many thanks for posting this interesting article. I think your outdoor photographs are great. Our climate here in north east China is similar to yours, we have long winter and the temperature never goes above about -10 deg C. Thankfully spring has arrived and outdoor photography is again possible. I know that taking pictures of 1/12 motorcycles is very different to trying to capture 1/32 aircraft, but here is how I go about it. My indoor “lightbox” is pretty crude, consisting of three pieces of white foamboard, a sheet of white paper held in place with masking tape, and an overhead LED desklamp, aided by natural light from the window. I’m interested to see that you use a lightbox outside, I like to have my models in a natural surrounding, it seems more realistic that way, but, again, that must be different for aircraft. I generally use my Sony full frame mirrorless camera, paired with a 50mm lens, this gives a natural perspective and a nice wide aperture for throwing the background out of focus. I took a few pictures today, both inside and out, and in fact used a Canon 24-100mm zoom lens via a Sigma convertor, just to try it out. It has a smaller aperture but has the advantage of additional image stablisation. I generally set the camera to aperture priority and select the aperture to try and get the effect I’m after, and let the camera look after the shutter speed and ISO settings. I’ve attached a few pictures I took today, the QA team don’t look very interested. Thanks again for posting this.

    5 attached images. Click to enlarge.

  6. Thank you for your detailed response, George! I am impressed with the depth of your knowledge on cameras. I will experiment more following your settings. The pic and model of the bike is quite striking. The blurred background also contributes to the illusion that it is full-size, I think. BTW, the reason I used a light tent outside is that ideally I am going for more depth of field, which takes in more background clutter, potentially, but also the surface details of the model. I am shooting under a gazebo on my backyard deck – so fairly dark fence boards all around.

    It may interest you to know that I am quite familiar with Northeast China as my wife is from Changchun. My first visit back in 2001 was in the dead of winter. I am a hearty Canadian but I have never felt so cold in my life! I hope you are enjoying your teaching experience. I may end up there myself some day soon.

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