What have you been up to, eh?
If you've been paying this project the scant attention it so rightly deserves, you'll probably already know that the book has been around in various shapes and forms for almost 12 years. . . yikes!
Taken in isolation, this seems like a huge amount of time but in the grand scheme of things this is about average for a non-fiction title which is totally new from the ground up.
Here's a bit more about the process and design pathway to explain why it's taken so long to get it to an almost complete state.
Why, what and how?
The idea for the title started life around 2008 as part of my postgraduate study into the design of a student handbook for the university resource area I was managing and tutoring in. It quickly morphed into something altogether more useful and interesting!
But there was a problem:
While an Arts Institute could afford 'state of the art' professional DSLR digital equipment (12MP house bricks were cutting edge in the mid Noughties), the teaching resources were still very much focused on the conventional wet photographic process. Ahh, the glow of safe lights and enlargers, film changing booths, processing rooms and the delicious smell of D70 and X-Tol. Mmm, nice. . .
But how would that translate to a book aimed at enriching the practical skills of people who to be honest, are engaged in a niche hobby with defined parameters? And then there was the availability of and problems with the early adoption of new technology. Even though they had been around as a commercially viable product since 2001, digital cameras were still in their awkward toddler phase. Mass produced consumer cameras were of clunky resolution (around 3MP) had restrictive controls and very limited in image storage terms being not much better than a conventional film camera and its 24 or 36 exposures.
And they were still the wrong side of expensive for the majority of us to take the plunge and ditch our old film gear. And as for mobile phone cameras - well, yeah but no but.
So a photography book for modellers written around this time would naturally struggle to focus totally on the ultra-high resolution, immediacy and ubiquity of digital photography that we know and accept as the norm today.
This is the primary reason for the long gestation period, because as the book started to evolve and coalesce into a working structure with a focus on how to take really good images of miniature model aeroplanes, digital camera technology turned up the volume to 11. Which sort of meant that a lot of revision and additional material needed to be discussed and explained. A re-write was on the cards.
This emerging advancing technology also meant that the focus of the practical part of the book shifted from creating images within a limited resolution ability machine (for use on web sites and model forums which had small file handling capacities and torturous upload processes); to a new age where image size and quality are no longer an issue but image editing and manipulation is. Suddenly the potential got a whole lot bigger.
The second reason for the extended development time is that I started out with an altruistic (read: control freak) aim to produce the entire thing by myself.
I am not only writing the text, but I am also solely responsible for the design, layout and creation of all of the visual and graphic content.
Oh get you Mr. writer/designer/art director/editorperson!
Most professional authors and many indie authors with an eye on the cost of creating a book would roll their eyes at this and say "are you mad or what?"!
Logic decrees that you sub-contract out the layout and graphics to design professionals who know what they're doing and can do it accurately and quickly, but my rampant ego said I can create the style/visuals (and I don't have deep pockets), so why not do it all myself? After all I have no editor or publication house breathing down my neck for copy and content what's the rush? Plus the accountants voice in the head says the tiny production budget needs to be spent on the all important services of a professional Editor. So I was determined to teach myself the ins and outs of desk top publishing (DTP). How hard can that be? I already knew Photoshop and Tai Chi.
Starting out with the industry standard Quark Xpress software of the day was an activity in probing the edges of my sanity and very nearly saw the whole project end up in the bin. It's not an easy package to get to grips with. It took a long time and countless hours to admit defeat and discover an altogether more intuitive DTP package in the shape of iStudio Publisher. A Mac only application, it is a one-stop shop revelation and for a visual learner like me, is a joy.
With this new found creative platform came a realisation that the conventional layout and boring text book approach needed a bit of a kick in the pants too. Avoiding a magazine or periodical look to the design (which works well for some subject areas but not for a 269 page manual) was the flip side of this and the book weaves its way between conventional text, visually arresting panels and blended information with clear navigation and a unique 'indexed' feel.
Third, fourth, fifth and eleventy-one reasons. . . life.
I don't have the luxury of being able to dedicate 8 hrs a day to this task which to be frank has long passed the point of ever recovering the cost in time and effort. It owes me big time for all the wee small hours lost, not to mention the model kits bought to populate the pages with (no freebies here). So it's not a get rich quick, or get rich idea, heck its not even in break even territory any more.
Along with variable and at times scary health issues (ropey aortic valve regurgitation and blood pressure, and with my wife who has rheumatoid arthritis), I can add emigration to Aotearoa New Zealand, a variable mental health, job changes and three house moves to the mix.
All of this erodes any sense or hope of continuous creative activity and a clear head space to write, form and create the supporting materials. That said, prolonged periods of inactivity are good for perspective, but not so good for someone who struggles with decision making. We wont even mention a global p*ndemic.
So what can we expect and when?
The fundamentals of light, colour and the physics of photography are universal regardless of the recording process and we really do need to understand this stuff first. Yes I know this is all about model aeroplane photography and yes, all of this basic stuff is covered elsewhere but this is a complete manual, so a large part of the first section has to set out these in a way that any model maker can identify with. Plus it's not exactly difficult.
Applying new photography skills to real world modelling subjects (which are actually real in all their glorious flaws) provides an honest practical approach to the hobby. Not for us mere mortals are the perfectly flat surfaces, crystal canopies and aligned decals; no this book is a celebration of how to document and creatively capture the essence of real scale models - in all their sticky fingered, silvered decal and fogged canopy imperfectness.
This book says that every model built is worthy of a decent, nay a downright awesome photograph to celebrate its completion. And here is how to achieve that without pro grade gear and breaking the bank too.
So where is it at right now?
Here are some screen grabs of the main section contents which are the quick start guides - a pagination shot of the section and some teaser page shots.
I'm currently working up the illustrations for each of the 13 tutorials. These are hand drawn old school sketches which I hope you will appreciate and connect with.
More updates coming soon! Kia kaha - be excellent.