Sunday, June 6, 2021

Layout Update - The End is Near

No, this (very fortunately) is not a post about me leaving the hobby or tearing down the layout - although you'd be excused if you interpreted my lack of posts lately as evidence of something amiss. The only "miss" though, has been the lack of time in the basement due to my busy time at work. But The End - of the 2021 legislative session - is Near. In fact, we adjourn midnight this coming Wednesday, June 9 and while there are rumors of having to go into special/additional session, that's hardly ever as busy as regular session.

So, between that and my Mustang modifications drawing to a close, the Model Railroad Bug has started to nibble a bit again and I've been looking forward to getting back to the basement. Apparently, so have my - ahem - "helpers"...

Since my last layout update, and during the long work hours, I've been trying to figure how to pick up where I left off - namely, with the backdrop around the end of the peninsula between Goff Brook and Rocky Hill.

As you can see in the "before" pic above, I have a great image that shows a barn in the distance that I think will work really well here. The problem is, the tree line and field are level/horizontal, while the foreground terrain drops off from right to left. When I last worked in this area in mid-February (?!), I couldn't figure out whether there was a way to correct this in Photoshop Elements, so I scoured the internet for images of tree lines that went down hillsides. I couldn't find any really suitable images and right about that time, work got extra busy.

So the layout sat idle for a few months.

Thankfully, I had the entire Memorial Day Weekend off and was able to devote a nice, rainy Sunday to getting back to it - with a little help from a friend . . .

Regular readers will recognize BillS and many will also recall that he has some MadSkillz when it comes to Photoshop. Despite PS Elements not having the tools in the same places (or with the same names!) as the full Photoshop, he knew right away what I needed to do to the image and, most importantly, how to do it. You can just see on the computer screen there that we'd/he'd already started "pulling the horizon down" using the tools he introduced me to.

But before you know how far to pull things down, you first have to measure the terrain - specifically the distance/drop ratio so you know how to follow the slope. So yeah, that required me to get out my handy, dandy level. It ain't a scenery session unless this left-brained modeler gets out the precision measuring tools. Thankfully, Bill is right-brained enough to balance me out (hey! I guess together we have one Really Especially Good Brian? Must think about that . . .)

Once I knew the drop over distance measurements, I told Bill who then pulled/skewed the right amount of treeline just the right amount. Here are the results . . .

Now, one thing you'll learn about Bill - and if he ever gets around to doing another blog, you'll see it firsthand - he works FAST. We just figured out that he broke ground on his new, double-decked O&W layout at the end of July last year - and he already has some scenery and structures on it! Yeah, he definitely ain't slow.

The only downside of that, at least last weekend, was that we moved so fast creating the image I needed that I forgot to change the color of the sky to match the color of the blue on my masonite backdrop. We were so excited to get the image over to Staples to print it out and mount it up, that we skipped that critical step. (For a full description of my backdrop process and how great Staples is for printing photo backdrops, click here for the post). And here's the result:

Yup, a bit of white (actually, REALLY light blue) border right at the top of the trees. PRO TIP: use Photoshop to select ALL of the sky on your backdrop photo and "paint" the sky in the image with a color that matches your sky color. Then, when you cut out the backdrop, the "right" color will show "through" the lacy trees. You're welcome :^)

Bill said that operators probably won't even notice, but that if it really bothered me I could "just" reprint the image and remount it. Heh - it was hard enough trying to slide/fit/glue the image behind the existing scenery and trees that I definitely won't be doing that. So, another PROTIP: If possible, mount your photo backdrops before your foreground scenery - at least before you add trees(!).

Alternatively, I could try painting the white border with my sky colored paint - but Bill suggested if I do that to try "stippling" it on to at least soften the hard white edge, so that's what I'm going to do. I was actually going to try and get to that today, but had to catch up on some yard stuff before going into the final stretch of long days at work.

So fingers crossed for next weekend . . .

Thankfully, as we go "north" around the peninsula, the white border is a little less obvious - probably because the backdrop here is just a distant tree line to suggest that there's "something" behind the foreground trees . . .

So I'll probably try stippling some blue here first and see how it turns out. No use practicing in an obvious place!

But all in good time. As of midnight tonight, there's 72 hours left before Life can begin again - or at least life on the layout. Since the bug is starting to bite hard, and the itch to get back to the basement is getting stronger by the day, I'm looking forward to getting back into it asap. 

Thanks to all of you for continuing to follow my progress - and I'll plan to have more progress & news to share in the coming weeks (including, I'm told, perhaps a ProtoThrottle for my anniversary present...)