Never Look Past


If you are a builder of small worlds you must never look too far past your feet. The Thousand Yard Stare is all very well, and useful in certain circumstances, but not for a miniaturist.

When I was a child in Alberta this often struck me during car journeys. We travelled during the winter and our roads were the lesser back ones between construction sites and small towns. Frequently they skirted wintered-in wheat fields and the fences, ditches, and natural barriers surrounding them. A ploughed field is a ploughed field but the bits that the farmer has to leave are the fascinating ones.

As the wind carved the snow around small bushes and rocks I started to see tiny re-creations of real landscapes. Frozen streams added to the realism, and the light effects from hazy winter sun made a perfect setting for it all. Had we had time to stop and a few accessories, I think I could have made them perfect. The joy of it all is to think that they still exist – all done by nature – and they re-appear every winter.

Japanese people have also seen that small landscapes have their own charm. They discovered how to tame plants and trees and to compel them to make miniatures of themselves in artificial gardens. Bonsai. They deal in greenery rather than blown snow, but they are just as skilful.

I seized upon the skill of a friend of my daughter’s some years ago to capture a few scenes from her bonsai garden. I am sure there are many more available everywhere as there are societies and schools devoted to this art throughout  the world. In my case, of course, I benefit by being able to capture digital images of the landscapes for inclusion in my model car scenes but I would bet that there are other glamorous opportunities as well.

As usual the bugbear is shallow depth of field but if sufficient light can be brought to bear upon the trees and a short focal length used, you can stretch reality quite a ways. I am pleased to see that some modern cameras have computer programs to reduce the diffraction effects of small apertures.

I admire the skill of military modellers and model painters and railway landscapers…but there is something about real nature that makes a photo better.


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