Photographing Layouts with Gary Hoover

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Duration: 5:52

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In this video, Gary Hoover demonstrates how to take a photograph of the Oak Grove, Illinois area of his Missouri, Kansas and Quincy model railroad layout. The scene features a CSX engine. There is a typical B&O type singal there. The first step in taking a photograph is to set up the lights where they should be. Hoover uses a main light – a thousand watt tubular bulb, and a fill light which is diffused with a silver umbrella.

The trick to good lighting is to get it as even as possible. Good quality and even light is more important than having a lot of light. When Hoover moves the light just a few inches one way or the other, the scene can be made to look totally different with the shadows. He likes to set up the light on the nose of the engine, so that part of the engine is in a little bit of shadow. This provides better relief and pulls out the detail on the engine.

The next step is to make sure the backdrop is all evenly lit. Hoover uses the spot meter feature on his camera. He swipes the camera across the backdrop and checks in the viewfinder to make sure that the exposure is the same all the way across. If there is a couple tenths of a second difference, then the lighting position needs to be adjusted.

It’s important before shooting to also make sure that everything is dusted off. Every little piece will show up on the engine, platforms, roofs, and more. For the shot Hoover is demonstrating, he is using a 50 millimeter macro. He likes this lens because it stops all the way down at F32, which will give the best depth of field. This means that much of the engine will be in focus – very important in creating a realistic shot. This particular shot will be triple exposure, so three different exposures will on be on the same slide. Hoover goes on to describe the exposures. Watch the full video to hear more.