Friday 30 April 2010

Photography at Conventions

This post is in response to several requests both here on my blog and on the TMP forum for info on how I took my pictures at this years Salute. I'm not an accomplished photographer by any means, and my head hurts when people start talking about f-stops and apertures, but I have learned how to take a half decent image by following some simple rules. I've always taken the view that achieving a good picture isn't and shouldn't be some mystical zen skill only mastered by professionals. If you take pictures based on sound techniques then even a grunt like me can get some good shots.

I used a Cannon EOS 500D with a 18-55mm Lens for my pictures but the same techniques can help you when taking pictures with compact cameras. Most of the pictures I took were taken with the camera on the 'P' Setting. This is like full Auto but with more control. So for instance I was able to adjust the exposure of the pictures without going near the AV (Aperture) controls. Similarly I could adjust the speed or ISO setting when desired, not that I did that much. One of the reasons I choose the P settings rather than the Full Auto (green square) mode was the ability to turn off the flash and shoot with available light.

Lighting : Most cameras have a built in flash and my 500D is no exception. However I found the pictures I took with flash were too harshly lit. Flash lit pictures are also not suitable for scenes that require large Depth of Field. I chose to shoot most of my pictures with the flash off because the lighting at salute was very good compared to some shows I have attended.

Composition : The Rule of Thirds is a principle of composition that helps you keep your images dynamic. It gives you eight elements to work with -four lines of intersection and four power points. Placing points of interest along the lines or at the power points tends to create a more interesting composition.

Stability : I decided not to bring a Monopod or tripod to Salute, partly because I didn't want to get in other peoples way but also because I knew I would be mixing photography with shopping and didn't want to be weighed down with equipment. I compensated by adopting bracing my arms and legs in a ridged frame (arms tight in and locked against the body) to minimise camera shake. I also took advantage of any available object (a chair back, a display stand or a table edge) as improvised tripods. Finally I briefly exhale and hold my breath when I press the shutter to keep myself as stable as possible.

Innovation : Having said "here are the rules of composition" you need to break them occasionally. Try something different instead of having all your pictures from head height try some high shots, low shots and weird (angled) shots.

Get snap happy : Take lots of pictures. My camera has an 8gb memory card and at maximum resolution I can shoot over 1200 photo's. So I shot loads of pictures knowing I could edit out the rubbish later. I also looked for the picture within a picture. Many of my photo's are cropped from larger pictures that didn't work compositionally but held within them a good image.

Depth of Field : I like to take advantage of Depth of Field (DoF) to emphasis one part of a picture over another. I wanted to focus on the Aircraft in this picture but still be able to see some of the background. So I zoomed in - which shortened the DoF - and manually focused on the plane separating both elements without loosing all detail.

Technical Stuff : When I got home I downloaded all my pictures and started the first edit of pictures, discarding obviously blurred or pointless shots. I then looked for the pictures within my pictures and cropped those pictures that would benefit compositionally from a trim. I then adjusted the brightness on some pictures and I also slightly adjusted the colour temperature of the finished pictures to compensate for the halogen light inside the exhibition centre. Other than that the finished pictures are as they were taken without any complex digital darkroom wizardry involved.

I must stress again I'm not a pro and I have no aspirations or allusions to being one. The tips I have listed here are the things I keep in my mind when taking a picture and, on the whole, they seem work for me.

Salute 2010 : The Video

Having posted all my pictures from Salute 2010 on Wednesday its now the turn of video. I can't take all the credit for this though as my daughter, who came to the show with me, shot all the film. I edited it together using Windows Movie Maker, added a soundtrack and some transition effects and here's the finished film.
If you watch the video closely you'll see me getting a photo of the Muse or Bust table. Talking of which, I'll be posting the promised article about my approach to Convention Photography later today.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Salute 2010 : Full Photo Report

I've finally sorted out my pictures from Salute and have whittled the original 600+ down to a more manageable 330! As I mentioned on Monday I thought the standard of the display games was better than ever which is why I took so many pictures. I have to say that I do like convention eye-candy and even if I don't play a period I still love to see these displays. Every year I leave Salute bubbling with enthusiasm and dozens of project ideas, and this year is no exception.

Here's a slide show of all the Salute pictures which you can sit back and watch. Alternatively follow the link to the album on my Picasa page and see the pictures 'embiggened'. Please let me know if any of the captions need amending or correcting. I've tried to ensure accuracy but typos always seem to slip in somehow.

On Monday I mentioned my purchases (refereed to as 'loot' by me and 'stuff' by my wife). I got some excellent bargains from Marquee Models who were selling Flames of War Boxed sets at 20% off the RRP. I only stuck to items I already had on my list (King Tiger and some 88's) otherwise I would have run amok with the credit card and bought more than I could ever paint in one lifetime.

Here are a selection of pictures from some of my favorite games at the show. First off a massive Armies of Arcana battle featuring a huge fort and several Giants.

Some games stand out for the quality of their painting or the originality of the game. The Battle of Blenheim by Matt Slade & Martin Holmes had these qualities in spades but it was also massive and featured hundreds of miniatures.

Another huge game and one I have been particularly looking forward to seeing was this recreation of Zama and Hannibal's face off with his old adversary Scipio. I've been watching this game come together on the excellent blog BigRedBatCave and I have to say the finished game didn't disappoint. This game won the Most Impressive Troops category at the show.

Another visual feat was Ride the Divine Wind by Whitstable & Hern Bay Wargamers. This game won the Challenge Shield.

One game that caught my eye was Glider Assault by Honnington Wargame Group. This game won the Best Demonstration Game award.

There were so many great games to see this year and I tried my best to get pictures of them all. If I missed your game my only excuse was utter exhaustion. I finished my first tour of the hall at 4:45 and had to run around for the remaining 15 minutes to hit the traders. A great day out an great value for money, especially after I picked up some bargains.

Monday 26 April 2010

Salute 2010 : First Impressions

Here are the first few of my pictures from the weekends SALUTE 2010 event. I took over 600 photo's and needless to say its taking a while to process and sort them out. I'll try and get them all available to view by the end of the week. In the meantime here's my first impressions and a few key pictures.

The warlords changed the way Advanced Tickets and the prize draw were handled this year and this appeared to impact on the size of the so called Q-Buster queue. I suspect that many more people bought advanced tickets and having done so decided to take advantage of the early entry this normally brings. The result was the biggest queue for Salute that I have ever seen. It wound down the concourse, across into an empty unit and then snaked back and forth several times. there were several jokes about the Queue being so long we were in a different postcode to the show... S8 presumably.
Having said this everyone seemed in good cheer and once the queue got moving we were processed swiftly and soon found ourselves inside the show. I didn't take part in the painting competition this year, instead concentrating on taking pictures and talking to as many people as I could. I have to say this year everyone I met seemed to be particularly gregarious and friendly. So much so that by the end of the day I really thought I might not have time to visit every stand and table. I finished my tour of the hall with just 15 minutes to spare and then whizzed round again and made some last minute purchases.

I came away with loads of 'Loot' including the new "Bridge too far" game by Battlefront. I also bought several units for my growing Flames of War Panzer Lehr Tank Company. As usual I also took advantage of so many traders in one place to stock up on all my modelling and painting supplies.
Unfortunately some items were not for sale, such as this truly awesome remote control King Tiger. Even if I had the money (which I don't) and even if I could convince the wife I needed it (which I couldn't) I'd have never got it on the back seat of the car. Maybe I could have ridden it the 4 miles home?
I thought the Warlords handled the whole event with their customary professionalism and good humour. The handling of the presentations for instance was slick and well organised. They streamlined the presentation process and brought its timing forward slightly which I felt worked better. This is especially true if you happen to be the lucky winner of the £500 prize draw. In previous years the winner has had less than 30 minutes to spend the Salute cash whereas this year the winner had a much more relaxed 90 minutes.
On Wednesday I'll post pictures of some of the games at this years event. I thought the standard was very very high and every table was a visual feast... which is why I ended up taking so many pictures.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Big Picture : The Grace Spitfire

This weeks Big Picture was taken as a special VE day event at the Royal Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey in 2008. I panned the camera as the aircraft shot past and got just a couple of usable shots. Wow its fast! I'm looking forward to training my new camera (and its 15 mega pixel awesomeness) on the The Grace Spitfire at future events.
From The Big Picture

Saturday 24 April 2010


Back from this years Salute and for my money it was one of the best I have been to. I took somewhere in excess of 600 pictures so it may take a while to process them! I spent a little more than I planned but less than normal. Everyone I spoke to was friendly and I spent a lot of time talking to people and meeting new friends. Consequently I nearly ran out of time to get all the way round.

I'll try and start working on my pictures tonight and will post some as soon as I can.

Friday 23 April 2010

Salute 2009

The 2010 Salute is tomorrow and over the last couple of weeks I have been showcasing all my pictures from the last six years that I have attended. Today is the turn of last years show pictures. This was my favourite event and a very busy one for me as I entered the painting competition.

With luck I'll start posting my pictures from tomorrows event from Monday onwards.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Poll Results - New Posting Schedule

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my desire to step back from the daily posting schedule I have maintained through the first 16 months of this blog. Its been challenging and very enjoyable but I have slowly come to the realisation that I needed to ease the pace somewhat. Work commitments have made it difficult to work on the blog during the day and consequently blogging has taken over from gaming or painting in the evenings. Quite the opposite of the raison d'être for creating the blog in the first instance.

The accompanying poll (results below) has helped convince me I'm not about to commit the blogging equivalent of Harakiri if I stop daily posts. Three quarters of the poll respondents - and the vast majority of commenter's as well - support, or at least don't object, to a downscaling of the posting schedule. My favored option would be to split the difference between the options presented and aim for four posts a week with more if time or news allow. I'll continue the weekly feature Big Picture which seems to be popular and has a comfortable slot at the weekend. Regular posts will follow the pattern I set while on Holiday (Monday, Wednesday & Friday) with additional posts if I have more time and stuff to write about.

Thanks for all the feedback while I considered this change and I hope you continue to read and enjoy my ramblings and musings.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Salute 2008

The 2008 Salute show was one of my favourite events and not least because I spent so much money and came away with lots of goodies! With only days until this years show today's slide show continues the theme of past events by showcasing my pictures from 2008.

Last years Salute pictures will be posted on Friday. If the wind is in my favour (and the god's smile on me) I'll have loads of pictures from the 2010 event posted by Monday next week, if not earlier.

Back to Paper Mountain

I'm home from my holiday but now I have to pay the price. I got back to work on Monday and found my desk had been replaced by a mountain of files, invoices and reports... and don't even get me started on my email in-box!

I've now dug deep enough to find my phone and keyboard but it may be some time before I hit bedrock. Pretty much all gaming activity has been put on hold until the weekend (it's Salute on Saturday!). I also have over 700 pictures from the holiday that need to be sorted through, edited, labelled etc.. I visited several interesting museums and I'll post pictures when I finally get a chance.

In the meantime there are more old Salute pictures on their way for you to enjoy.

BTW The comic is my edited version of a sketch by the cartoonist Leigh Rubin.

Monday 19 April 2010

Salute 2007

Continuing the theme from last week here's my pictures form the 2007 Salute. This years event is less than a week away and I can already feel my wallet vibrating with anticipation!

On Wednesday I'll post my pictures of the 2008 show.

Friday 16 April 2010

Salute 2006

There's just over a week to the Salute show at Excel in London on Saturday the 24th April. On Monday I posted a slide show of my photo's from the 2004 show and on Wednesday I posted the 2005 event. Today is the turn of the 2006 event, the first Salute in it's current home at the Excel Centre in London's Docklands.

I'll post my pictures from the 2007 Salute on Monday.

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Salute 2005

There's a little under two weeks to go to the Salute show at Excel in London on Saturday the 24th April. This is easily my favourite event of the year and I'm looking forward to it with growing excitement. In celebration of this years event I'll be posting all my pictures from the last six years. On Monday I posted my pictures from the 2004 event and today its the turn of the 2005 show at Olympia.

Keep your eyes peeled for the 2006 show pictures on Friday.

Monday 12 April 2010

Salute 2004

There's a little under two weeks to go to the Salute show at Excel in London on Saturday the 24th April. This is easily my favourite event of the year and I'm looking forward to it with growing excitement. In celebration of this years event I'll be posting all my pictures from the last six years. Today here are my pictures from the first show I went to in 2004.

Look out for my pictures from the 2005 show on Wednesday.

Sunday 11 April 2010

Big Picture : Breacourt Manor

Todays Big Picture is a shot of an excellent display and Participation game from Rampage 2009. This was the Horchurch Wargames Club recreation of the action at Breacourt Manor in Normandy 1944. This was a recreation of the famous Brécourt Manor Assault which was immortalised in the HBO Miniseries Band of Brothers.
From The Big Picture
Click the picture to embiggen! The level of detail and work that went into this table made it one of the most memorable and enjoyable displays of the year.

Friday 9 April 2010

On Holiday - Back Soon

The posting schedule will be a bit erratic over the next few weeks because I'm going on holiday! Long term followers of this blog will know that my track record of staying well and vertical on holiday hasn't been good. Last year my 40th birthday got lost in the delirium of a serious infection that cut the holiday short by a couple of days. I'm hoping that won't be the case this year.

The blog won't go completely dead while I'm away. I've scheduled a few posts to keep things ticking over. Next week I'll be starting a series of posts showcasing all my pictures from the last six years of Salute. These are scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the next two weeks leading up to this year event on the 24th April.

If I can get near an Internet connection in the meantime I'll try and post extras but I can't promise anything. Have fun while I'm away, play nicely and no wild parties.

Thursday 8 April 2010

Zombie Victory!

I spent a very enjoyable evening at my Brother-in-Laws the other day, and we got a game of Zombies! in. My daughter also joined which made for a very challenging game (she's a ruthless player!).
This was one of the longest games of Zombies! I have ever played. The balance of advantage shifted from one player to another constantly and the betrayals and stabs in the back flew thick and fast. However I eventually saw my chance and prepared to make a mad rush for the Helipad and escape. Luck was on my side as I had an awesome combination of cards that got me past the insane number of zombies blocking the exit route. Victory was mine! I tried to be gracious with my win... but the mad laughter and victory dance could not be contained. Bwahaha.

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Post Frequency

I've just read two excellent articles about blog posting frequency. The first is called What is the Ideal Post Frequency for a Blog? and the second was How Often Should a Blogger Post? Both articles touch on a subject that I have been ruminating on for some time now and I've decided to gather some feedback from you, my readers. You'll notice that a new Poll has just been put up to the right of this column and I'd be interested in your honest opinion. But first let me explain some of my own thoughts on this issue.

I've been struggling to keep up with my self imposed daily posting schedule for several months now. This is partly because work pressures have meant I have less time during the day to write. The knock-on effect of this is that I'm writing more in the evening... when I should be painting or gaming instead. Something has got to give, because I just can't conjure more hours in the day. I have to stress that I have no intention of abandoning the blog - I love it too much - but the prospect of cutting back my posting frequency does have its attractions.

As both the articles mentioned earlier have stated, a lower frequency of posts can mean better quality writing. I have to admit to occasionally throwing in a quickly knocked together 'filler post' in moments of last minute desperation. Personally I don't think that's fair to you and I would much rather write better articles less frequently. I do try to keep several items "in hand" against such moments, but when the schedule demands daily posts its easy to eat through these very quickly.

Interestingly I reviewed all the gaming blogs I subscribe to (nearly 70 at the last count) and found that the vast majority don't update on a daily basis. About 25% post up to once per day but the remaining 75% post about once every two days or less. Over half only updated more than three times a week, and that included some very popular blogs indeed.

You've probably already guessed that I'm trying to justify to myself reducing the number of posts per week. I think the real issue for me is does my current daily schedule impact on my ability to paint miniatures and write games... and the answer is a resounding yes. But before I make any major changes I'd like to know what you think. I'm about to go on holiday so the schedule will slip a little for a short while but I won't make any permanent changes until I have some feedback from you, the readers. Please take a moment to register your opinion and as always feel free to leave your comments below.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

RAF Museum Hendon

As promised here's my pictures from my visit to the RAF Museum at Hendon. The last time I went there I was about 9 or 10 and went with the Cub Scouts (showing my age now). Quite a bit has changed in the intervening thirty years!

We missed out the Battle of Britain Hall because time was limited, the kids were getting restless, and... I didn't know there was another building to explore!!! The Museum is free to enter so we were just waved inside by the reception desk and never picked up a map or leaflet. Inside the museum there weren't any maps (that I recall) indicating additional buildings on site... all of which adds up to a very poor excuse for missing an entire building. On the plus side, the museum is free and its only about 40 minutes drive from my home, so a return visit is definitely on the cards at some point in the near future.

The museum itself is well laid out and every exhibit is clearly labeled and in context with the aircraft around it. The Milestones of Flight hall was particularly interesting as it held some of the most important aircraft of the 20th century including a model of the Wright Flyer, a Bleriot XI, a Sopwith Camel and Fokker DVII and one of my favourite aircraft of the second world war, the Messerschmitt Me262.

Some of the aircraft in the Bomber Hall are truly awe inspiring when seen up close. The Lancaster is a massive plane and rightfully takes pride of place in the centre of the hall. However one of the most interesting exhibits was the Handley Page Halifax. This plane has not been restored and so bears the scars of its crash landing and sinking in the icy Lake Hoklingen in central Norway 25 miles east of Trondheim. This plane took part in a failed attempt to bomb the Tirpitz and was damaged by flak over the target.

The Historic Hangers Hall contains a lot of helicopters but for me the most interesting plane was the Heinkel He162. This was one of Germany's war winning weapons that an increasingly desperate Hitler thought could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Built largely of wood due to light alloy shortages the He162 had some alarming handling characteristics and could only claim two unverified kills during it's whole service life.

This is easily a museum where I could spend a whole day and more besides. It will definitely be revisiting it later in the year (to see the bits I missed!) although next time I may go on my own so I can linger as long as I like.

Monday 5 April 2010

North Weald Airfield Museum

Yesterday, quite by accident (even if my wife doesn't believe me) I stumbled upon the North Weald Airfield Museum and Memorial. The museum is in the village of North Weald and is situated at what used to be the entrance to the RAF North Weald fighter base. This was established in 1916 by the then Royal Flying Corps and became an important part of Britain's air defence network during the Second World War.

Inside the museum are several rooms packed with interesting memorabilia, photographs and models. One room contains the Alan Luton collection of models. For this weekend only, further models from this collection are on display in an upper room. Over 200 aircraft are represented in exquisite detail and the builder is on hand to answer questions.

This is an extremely interesting and friendly museum (I've never been offered Tea and Biscuit's in any other museum!) and the staff and volunteers are very knowledgeable. Open from 12:00-5:00pm Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays entry is a modest £2 for adults and £1.50 for concessions. If your stuck for something to do today and you live close enough then I thoroughly recommend this excellent museum.

Sunday 4 April 2010

Big Picture : Firepower

This weeks Big Picture is from the Woolwich Firepower Museum. I took this at the South East London Wargaming event at the museum in May last year. Aside from being an interesting and friendly event the location was quite stunning.

From The Big Picture

Saturday 3 April 2010

Daytrip to Hendon

I've been out with the family today. We went to the RAF Museum at Hendon. I took loads of pictures and will post some in a day or so, when I've had a chance to sort and label them properly. In the meantime here's a picture I took inside the Milestones of Flight hall.

I thought this was an excellent day out, especially on a rainy day like today. The whole museum is under cover and entry is Free. Keep an eye out for more pictures and a full write up in a few days.

Friday 2 April 2010


I've been painting some troops carrying Panzerfaust and decided to look for any video showing them in action. I found these two YouTube videos that illustrate how easy this weapon was to use. They certainly look effective.

And this Nazi propaganda film shows several infantry anti tank weapons in use.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Watchers in the Sky

I've just read about this new adventure by Graham Walmsley and I may get myself a copy for some light Easter reading. The Adventure may be bleak but boring it clearly isn't. Various reviewers have described this as a cross between Lovecraft and Hitchcock.The tag line says all you need to know about this story "Your friends cannot be trusted, your knowledge means nothing, and everything you hold dear turns to dust." (Source:

Sold as a PDF download from various online retailers this new scenario for Call of Cthulhu looks to be truly creepy. There is an interesting review and discussion of this scenario on the Yog-Sothoth forum.