Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Photographing miniatures, Part I; tools and set-up

Since I started blogging, my bane has always been Photographing miniatures. I hate it because it takes forever to set-up, and that means spare time not used to painting; I hate it because it always end costing money, from tri-pod to cameras to light-box, etc. (and again that means money not spent towards my hobby), and mostly I hate it because I'm not very good at it, and my pictures always end up too dark and I have to take 50 pictures to get two "good enough" picture. It has, in the past, played a role in irregular blogging posting habits. I would often wait until I had enough figures painted to spend an entire afternoon taking pics. But this way of doing thing really didn't work well with regular blog posts, and it's especially problematic during the Analogue Hobby Challenge, as I find it important to try to get a good rhythm and post every week or at least every two weeks.

So when I moved this Spring to a new house, I decided I needed to fix this issue once and for all, especially since I had the room needed; i'm indeed lucky enough to have an office (which also serves as my toys/comics collection room) upstairs to myself, as does Laurie. There were a number of things I wanted to adress, and it took me a long time to all put it together, mostly because I had to wait a few months because I was broke after the house move! So I wanted the following :
  • Permanent photography set-up. In the past I tried everything, from taking my pictures outside (not so good when summer is basically 3 months a year in Montréal), to setting up a table corner with terrain, to try to take pictures in front of a simple white paper sheet. All these would take time to install; bringing the terrain needed, getting the tri-pod, etc. I wanted something which would always be easily accessible, no set-up required.
  • A lightbox or something similar. I like to use my terrain for gaming, not taking pics, so I decided to go for a lightbox, with a permanent backgroup. Now, I like my house and my office to look nice, so not only did I wanted the box to be efficient and if possible cheap, I also wanted it to look smart in my office. So no home-made cheap looking cardboard box! 
  • A set-up right next to my computer; when taking pics outside or in the basement, you always have to go up and down the stairs to download your pics, and to double-check they are ok, etc. It's a lot of time wasted, and moreover not the best idea for my knees. 
So now lets look at the solution, which is fairly simple really. I already had a tri-pod (which I think is a must to take proper pics of minis) and a good camera. I needed a lightbox!

While perusing an Oldhammer blog, I found a review for the Foldio lightbox; it's a cheap lightbox, incredibly easy to assemble, small enough to fit on an office desk. And it was available through Amazon! And finally, it looks quite good and fits very well with the aesthetics of my Mac computer and office in general. I actually bought the Foldio 2, which is bigger and has more light than the Foldio 1, two problems mentioned by Matthew in his blog

However, lighting was still an issue, and indeed you don't have enough. I fixed this by buying two desk lamps and equipped them with daylight bulbs; faster and easier than buying more lights of the Foldio guys in Korea!

Here's a picture of the (permanent) set-up. 

To take pictures, I just roll my chair a bit to the left, get in front of the tri-pod, open all the lights and I'm done. 30 seconds and I'm in photography mode.

And then, to download the pics, I move the tri-pod with the camera still attached to it a few centimeters, and connect the USB cable straight from my usb multiple port adapter to the camera.

20 seconds later pics are uploaded, and I know if they are good. Yes, the whole point of this is to minimize as much as humanly possible all time devoted to photographing miniatures, while still getting great results. Toyota would call it "the lean method".

Of course, nothing is easy about Photographing miniatures, so I quickly realized that, while the set-up was great, my pictures still weren't...so stay tune for Part II!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Halflings, Part I (LeafGrave project)

As I mentionned in a previous post, I'm starting the work on a LeafGrave/Fantasy skirmish project ; the first Warband is a band of Halflings. I have around 40 of the little buggers from a StoneHaven Kickstarter, and I'd like to paint at least 20 of them for the Painting Challenge. The plan is to paint 5 of them per week, give or take a few weeks.

And it starts this week. As I mentioned, what I really love about the range is that each figures represents a RPG "class" or "profession", and every one of them is unique and full or personality. For this first batch of 5, we have the fighter, the chief, the cleric, the archer and the Rogue.

From left to right: fighter, cleric, chief, archer and rogue
The figures are lovely and super detailed, and have that Halfling caricatural look that I like. While painting them I realized one doesn't save that much time  when "batch painting" 5 completely different figures with different colour schemes! I wouldn't paint 10 at a time, that's for sure. 

I painted each one individually, but I did favour green and brown tones, which I find are traditional Halflings colours. I went with a super old school "goblin green" style of base to get a bit of that old 80s Citadel/AD&D vibe, but also because I didn't want to detract from the figures and wanted to keep a very woodland vibe to the whole bunch.

So 5 28mm (if a bit of the smaller side of the scale! ) figures equals 25pts to add to my challenge total!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Emperor's Children Armoured Division (30K, Epic style, Part III)

Children of the Emperor! Death to his foes! 

Well here it is, the first painted miniatures of my 30K Epic project; an Armoured Division (combined arms) of Emperor's Children. Of couse, I had to start with the forces of hope and change!

As mentionned in a previous post, the Emperor's Children, the IIIrd Legion, was always one of my favourite "traitor" legion. Mostly, I'll admit, because I find the purple & gold colour scheme looks really good on the battlefield, especially in the smaller scale. Their name, also, has always been a favourite of mine. Of course, I could also mention the Legion's "joie de vivre", so refreshing in this dark and grim world of the Emperor! Of course, the cheap propaganda of the Emperor has repeatedly referred to the Legion as made-up of hedonistic psychopaths! 

The Legion has a bit of a perfectionist complex and strives for perfection in all their endeavours and continuously works to perfect their military operations. Sustained not merely by the example of their peers but by a deep individual belief in their duty to their superiors and the Legion as a whole, they fought to the best of their abilities in all conditions, whether the battle was a massive attack or a simple patrol. Favouring a quick-strike and agressive approach to combat, I intend to give them more speed as the force grows.

I don't think I've ever worked that hard to get a colour right as I did with this purple. It's a good thing Rhino models are cheap because I tested at least five different recipes; every time I would paint a whole Rhino, to see how it looked finished with proper shading, metal work, etc. The purple was usually either too dark, too light or the shading and highlights were not visible enough. I wanted a purple which was bright but still a bit "evil" looking and not overly pink like the original EC colour scheme (I actually tried that at first but it was too much, even for a pink fan like me).
In the end, I went to my local GW stores and found my purple recipe! And I never use GW paints, other than  a few glaze and my trusted Leadbelcher. But finding the right colours and contrasts will make or break an Epic force. I then used the traditionnal white and gold secondary colours of the Emperor's Children to pick up details and add a touch of diversity to this field of Lilacs!

Painting technique was fairly simple (and all painted by hand, no airbrush here) : base coat, then a good wash of Army Painter wash, careful drybrush of highlight colour, and then a second edge highlight to pick up the details. Final details were then picked up with Brazen/gold and light grey/white.

I'm very happy with the results. 

So for this first painted Division, we have :

Space Marines clad in Mark III armours. The rules for Epic 30K requires rather big infantry formations, but it does look good. In the middle of the formation you can see a stand of sergeants with their white crest.

Rhino Armoured Personnel Carrier to transport the lads into combat. These are the classic, old school plastic Rhinos which came in the Space Marines box set of the late eighties. They aged remarkably well.

Land Raiders, famous and reliable heavy tank and transport vehicle. Also the original plastic models of my youth. The model has also aged remarkably well. The nostalgia feeling was high while painting these! 

Then a talon of Deredeo Dreadnoughts, my favourite dreadnoughts. They look really cool and remind me of some of the Robotech mech of my youth. I must say I gave these guys a bit of extra love and I think it paid off, as I really like how they came out! 

And finally, the big boys! Legion Fellblades, Super Heavy main battle tanks equipped with compact Mechanicum Atomantic Arc-reactor technology, a reinforced metaplas alloy chassis which provides protection superior to that of nearly all other Imperial armoured vehicles, and a (very visible) advanced Accelerator Cannon as its primary armament. Not to be fucked with. 

These are massive models measuring 45mm(!) in length and I spent a substantial amount of time working on them. I love their looks, and the additions of the legion symbols on the side doors makes for a welcome addition for someone like me who's freehand deficient!

And finally, the mandatory picture of 6mm figures next to a canadian penny! always wanted to do that! For you see, this force is my first time painting 6mm, in fact it's my first time painting another scale than 28mm! (Crazy, I know!) Bit of a leaning curve especially the first batch of infantry (I swore a little at first) but I got the hang of it pretty quickly and I really enjoy painting the little scale. I might be hooked. The girlfriend thinks I'm officially crazy for painting such tiny soldiers!

Points wise, for the challenge we have :

40 infantry x 0.5 : 20 pts
8 vehicles : 16 pts
2 Super Heavy : 8 pts
6 "guns" (dreadnoughts) : 6 pts

So a total of 50 pts to add to my total, and my first foray into the 30K duel! Huzzah!

This was entered as my submission in the Armour Bonus Theme Round . If you like it please go vote for me!! Rewards includes bragging rights, hobby goodies and extra points for the challenge. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Vordania II Insurrectio

Freedom looks beautiful and inspiring to those who desire & seek it; but Freedom looks like rebellion to those who have become complacent in hiding.

Antin Sanu, ex-commissar of the Imperium, leader of the Vordania II Insurection

Vordiana II is a small planet on the outskirt of the Majorian System. Like most planets of the system, it exists under the Imperium's "protection". Such protection is of course very expensive and the planet's government must supply resources on an annual basis, both material and human, to support their benefactor. The constant state of war and conquests by the Imperium has put a severe burden on such small planets, and Vordiana II, stricken by a string of planetary water drought, has become a world devastated by famine and poverty. After years of such conditions, the recent "enrollment" of a large proportion of the male youth population of the planet has been the catalyst and the cause of a female-led, popular resistance movement amongst the lower and middle class of the planet. Led by Antin Sanu, a crafty ex-military commissar of the Imperium, the insurrection has been a thorn in the side of the pro-Imperium government of Vordiana II for more than a year now; raids, sabotage, and the assassination of Imperium embassy personnel have been the bread and butter of the operation. 

Mostly equipped with older weapons and equipments and whatever they can salvage, the Insurrectio has used the "maquis" example of organization, dividing itself into self-contained and independent rural guerrilla bands and can be best described as a paramilitary organization, although the government has labelled them a terrorist organization, "rebels" to be exterminated at all costs.


The "Insurrectio" is my second Sci-Fi outfit, after the Effigy Corporation. It is meant as a small "spaceband", to play in various Sci-Fi skirmishes. I find the figures, just like the Effigy Corporation, would fit equally well in some Pulp, Cyberpunk or distant future Sci-Fi settings. They could also be used in a pinch as Imperial Guards in a Rogue Trader game. And of course, could be used as the small principled band of resistance fighters against the highly trained Havoc Teams of the Effigy Corporation! My intro above is one of many uses for these lovely figures!

Same as the other outfit, the project is largely an excuse for me to paint some lovely Sci-Fi figures I've been eying for a while and which don't neatly fit in any actual game system. They also make for easy "transportable forces" for games away from home.

This merry band of female fighters is from the "Resistance Fighters" range from Statuesque Miniatures and it is a lovely little range. The sculpts are truly fantastic and full of personality, and were a joy to paint. My only criticism would be that some delicate assembly is involved, and gluing small hands or arms is always annoying, even more so on delicate female sculpts. I believe this is my first ever all women outfit! It is made-up of 13 members, including a (sexy) Cyborg!

The "Vordania II Insurrectio" 

I tried to give the outfit a unified theme of green and purple while still giving each figure some personality.  I'm happy with the end result.

The bad ass girls of the Insurrectio

First up we have the Command group: Antin Sanu in her commissar uniform and her cadre of officers. The two middle figures are probably my favourites of the range, they have *loads* of attitude!

Next up the heavy weapons and communication specialist. I love the extra-sized Thompson-style heavy machine gun!

and then we have the regular Insurrectio fighters, with the Cyborg in the middle. Actually, the Cyborg was part of Statuesque's Pulp range, and is meant to be a Fembot of sort, but the addition of the cyborg head makes all the difference and I find the figure fits very well with the rest of the girls. I also wanted each of my Sci-Fi outfit to have a robot of some sort, and she fits the bill.

There's a few figures from the range I still haven't painted, as they were OOP when I made my purchase, so I might add a few extra girls to the band one day. Or not, as it is the right size for what I'm aiming for. 

I haven't decided (or bought) my next Sci-Fi oufit, but I'm thinking something "Imperial" in nature...

These gals are my second entry in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge and will net me a total of 65 pts (13 28mm figures). Now, let's move to smaller things, like Halflings and Epic stuff...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

30K, Epic style, Part II : Planning

Epic Battles in the Age of Heresy

So as we saw in the previous post, this project, like many others in this place, is moved by Nostalgia and a sense of unfinished business. But now, let's leave aside feelings and let's look at the concrete side of the project!

There's a lot of layers to this project: first I had to decide what rules to use from the many official and non-official Epic rules available. It's a bit complicated honestly, especially since Epic hasn't been supported by GW for a number of years. Fortunately, the community is very active on the web and on Facebook and the Epic Armageddon crowd has done a great job of creating a complete rule package for Epic 30K, including army lists for all the Heresy Legions. You even have FAQ,s, an "how to build a 30K force" etc. How this hobby was possible before the Internet I have no idea! So, for those interested you can find everything here 

Then there's the actual figures, which I got from Ebay and numerous Facebook groups. While the project is rooted in Nostalgia, the rules have evolved so much that my goal was never to use only Oldhammer Epic figures; I'd say about a third of the force is made-up of the old, original plastics figures from the Space marine boxset, and the rest made-up of newer GW stuff or "forumware" (private sculpts) I managed to acquire through various sources. I might also use some proxies from various Sci-Fi manufacturers who produce some great stuff similar in style to GW.

What is particular for this project in my case is that I haven't painted anything but 28mm since my few attempts at Epic some 25 years ago. No, not even a few 15mm or 40mm, just 25 years of good ol' 28mm. So a leaning curve is to be expected, especially since I've never painted modern vehicles either, in any scale. So do keep up with me if my first few attempts are shit! 

Now of course, the most important question : which Legions (Chapters) to paint? Obviously I need two, at least, a traitor chapter and a loyalist. Let's have a look at the original ones, starting with the Imperials, shall we?

These images were on the side of the Space marine boxset and were actually the only colour images available at the time, the booklet being B&W. Since then other Legions were added to the fluff but for this project I want to use 2 of the "original" 12 Legions. I looked at those images when I was 11 a lot more than it makes sense, really! But I disgress : since the Imperials are for the brother I intend to pick one of his favourite. Gabriel had three favourites : Dark Angels, Ultramarines, and Blood Angels. However I'm the one who does the painting so I settled on a Legion I'm going to enjoy painting! And this is the good, old and reliable XIIIth Legion, the boys in blue, the Ultramarines. I don't fancy painting that much red to be honest (so Blood Angels out) nor black (Dark Angels). Also, to me the Ultramarines are just the perfect Imperials; goody two shoes to the extreme, the "Emperor's finest", and as a bonus my 30K dueling partner Greg just despises them so why not throw some in his face for 3 straight months!

Now, let's have a look at the forces of change, under benevolent Warmaster Horus

Here what's interesting is three Legions (as per the "official" fluff) changed colours since these days; the Death Guards are now white and green, the Sons of Horus are now green and the World Eaters white and blue. Growing up, my favourites were the Death Guards, the Sons of Horus and the Emperor's Children. However Greg has already done the Sons of Horus to death, and I don't feel like dealing with conflictual sources and colours ;-), so the choice becomes an easy one : long live the IIIrd Legion, the Emperor's Children! I've always been a fan of purple and pink (love painting both colours) and these guys are just twisted and evil, which makes them a perfect counterbalance to the Ultramarines! Also, my favourite Legion (or Chapter for that matter) name.

So yeah, I think Purple vs Blue will look pretty good on the battlefield. If I really enjoy painting Epic, I might add smaller contingents of allied Legions later on.

As I usually do, the project is not based on an actual "Order of Battle". I just intend to build enough toys on both sides to be able to mix and match as I see fit. I did made a few tests using the army lists, to have a general idea of what I can get for a set amount of pts, and to create proper, usable formations in terms of quantities.

The first batch is below, ready to be painted. More will be added, but I'll try to finish this first! Yes, I know that's a lot of super heavies; really I just got them all in one score so I figured I'd paint them all! You can see the original Land Raiders and Rhinos in the front, and in the middle the still very Old School plastic Dreadnoughts.

Wish me luck!