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Sci-fi Pistol Prop Build Log: Day 8

Day 8: Thursday, May 1st 2014

Lots done on day 8! So much so that writing about it all would take far too long to both write and read, so I’ll do more of a photo essay…

Photo May 01, 9 40 40

First thing to do this morning was attack the filler covering the holes in the vents of the front piece, since it stopped the magazine from slotting all the way in properly. I added superglue to the filler so that the thinner material wouldn’t get knocked out so easily. A simple piece of card or thick paper would probably have been better than wood filler, since the area is flat anyway.

Photo May 01, 9 43 21

Now I can’t really see anything else to do, I’ve basically filed and sanded every surface I could find, so now it’s officially time to Make It Whole!

Photo May 01, 9 43 28

Added lots of wood glue everywhere so that it would connect together over any cavities I’d missed, and hoped it would be enough at the front where it’s hollow above the magazine.

Photo May 01, 9 59 06

This was pretty exciting, seeing it all in one piece for the first time.

Photo May 01, 9 59 40

But then I found that the magazine had been grinding on the wood filler because that section leans to the side! I couldn’t sand the mating part any more- partially because I’d already sanded it too much and it was affecting the fit, and partially because it was now of course covered in wood glue. So I had to tilt the whole receiver area and try to hold it in place with little dabs of superglue and filler

Photo May 01, 10 00 09

This left a rather huge gap, which I tried to stuff wood glue in.

Photo May 01, 10 00 21

I also tried to throw in some little shims of scrap wood so that I could fill around them.

Photo May 01, 11 41 30

Except, after a couple hours drying like that… I realised that the entire receiver section wasn’t off at all, because now the grip was wonky. It was just the magazine! What an idiot.

Photo May 01, 11 55 55

So I had to crack out the wood pieces and then I slid the superglued parts by clamping it up and ramming that pressure until it was back in place, then left it like that for a good long while.

Photo May 01, 12 23 09

While it was clamped, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided that it looked too plain and I needed to add some dimensional decoration to it before final sanding and priming. So I dug the scrap box out again and started playing with random bits and pieces.

Photo May 01, 12 51 57

It came out of that little escapade unharmed, so now, I present to you, ta-da! The complete construction!

Photo May 01, 16 25 44

I was rather proud of it so I took another picture on a custom photographic background I’d been working on.

Photo May 01, 16 27 48

…Except it wasn’t quite the complete constuction. There was a fairly obvious piece missing….

Photo May 01, 16 41 33

Yep, the barrel. 1/2″ SCH40 PVC cut with ratcheting PVC cutters to somewhere around half an inch long- I just eyeballed it since I didn’t know how deep it was going to sit yet.

Photo May 01, 17 06 15

I then marked by eye a couple of parallel lines and divided them into eighths. I drilled holes at the intersections on the top line, and in the gaps on the bottom line. It came out… Ok. With a drill press I’d have actually taken the time to be accurate, since it wouldn’t tend to skate around like the hand drill does.

Photo May 01, 17 08 25

Next I eyeballed where it should sit on the front, based mainly on where the slide is, and drilled a 1/8″ hole in the centre. I worked my way up the drill bit sizes and the hole wandered around a little bit.

Photo May 01, 17 19 37

It took a number of attempts with the 1/2″ twist bit, sometimes at speed, sometimes from stationary, but I finally got it to bite dead-on and not shake the gun around or throw itself off. It just so happened that it bit dead-centre, too.

Photo May 01, 17 26 14

So I needed it to fit in the barrel like this, between the drilled hole and the marked circle. So I used a Dremel rough grinding bit. It was shaped like a brandy or port bottle with a crisp edge, so depth was easy to maintain. I just kept working my way around, and it came up nicely.

Photo May 01, 17 26 24

Then I needed to actually glue it in there despite its imperfect fit. I figured wood glue wouldn’t stick very well to the plastic, even after sanding, so I figured this stuff sitting on the shelf would do it:

Photo May 01, 17 49 30

I only used a tiny amount, but apparently it was way too much, so I had to come up with a use for the rest of it. I decided a nice sculpted curve by the front end would help tie the compound curve and linear design language together from front to back.

Photo May 01, 17 57 36


Photo May 01, 18 04 57

It was now looking distinctly impressive, for a first attempt, but my perfectionism knows no bounds, so obviously it needed some more detail at the front. Unfortunately, the Dremel router base doesn’t work as well as it seems it should. Or maybe you just aren’t supposed to use the keyless chuck with it. But the bit ended up drifting lower and lower for no apparent reason, so I ended up with this mess.

Photo May 01, 21 17 19

After the chaos of the receiver gluing, this was more stress that wasn’t really needed. However, I decided it could be rescued without too much effort, I just needed to fill the narrow channel in that I couldn’t continue routing out, and create a simple plate to fit over the larger section that would replace the wood I’d just removed.

Photo May 01, 22 35 19

It’s a little hard to see, but this is what I came up with, just superglued on, and decided I’d had quite enough for the day so I left it at that. I could complete it on day 9.


Sci-fi Pistol Prop Build Log: Day 1

Day 1: afternoon/evening of Saturday, April 19th 2014.

I took the initial photo of the sketch from my tweet because I was too lazy to get the higher res version off my phone, and brought it into Photoshop at a low opacity so I could vector trace it. This would give me a scalable blueprint to build with. I cleaned up and straightened the lines, and added more details like a slide lock and safety selector.

The scaled vector drawing over the original photo of the sketch I ripped from Twitter.
The scaled vector drawing over the original photo of the sketch I ripped from Twitter.

Continue reading Sci-fi Pistol Prop Build Log: Day 1

Sci-fi Pistol Prop Build Log: Intro

As is probably reasonably normal for those like me- that is, the semi-obsessive, autodidactic, pancurious folk who tend to hang out at the nerdier edges of the watering hole- I found myself streaming all of Bill Doran’s Youtube back catalogue last Saturday while rearranging the studio. His ability to create something from nothing- like any other skilled maker- is inspirational to me on multiple levels.

While I was taking a break at the desk, the idea for the gun popped into my head pretty much fully-formed. A single quick pencil sketch laid down the main lines, and it cleaned up nicely in pen. While looking at it, with the video on at the time playing, the back of my brain decided that it would be a good idea to attempt to actually build it.

I thought it looked pretty good for a quick freehand sketch!
I thought it looked pretty good for a quick freehand sketch!

I consciously agreed, thinking it would be a good challenge for me. Could I still build so precisely despite having not done it in so long? Could it be done over the remainder of the weekend? Could I make it out of whatever materials and tools are available, since I didn’t want to spend anything on what was basically a simple experiment?

It was just after mid day and the sketch lay on the desk in front of me. I decided to tweet it out, see if it got a response at all. Well, when Bill Doran unexpectedly RTed and responded, followed by a small slew of other favourites and responses, I decided to definitely get my build on!

The “shop facilities” were rather haphazard to do the spontaneity of the whole thing, but there would be time to organise later.

Day 1 tomorrow!


Update time!

How about a blog at the two month mark instead of the three month mark! Fantastic then.

Last time, I’d just started the music thing with Brad Taylor. I’m still on the hunt for musicians to shoot, hopefully that’ll happen more this summer- though since it’s the gigging season, I’m not holding out too much hope of availabilities lining up. It might be more likely going into the Autumn.

I did a business/corporate shoot with Ryan, nothing too heavy, just looking for a couple pics for his portfolio as part of his push towards lifestyle modelling.

This is actually partially what I bought my iPhone for... Prop use!
This is actually partially what I bought my iPhone for… Prop use!

I quite enjoyed it, looking for the angles to tell the story I was trying to set up.

Love love love the lighting in this footbridge.
Love love love the lighting in this footbridge.

I tried a fashion-y thing again with Brittani, I think it went reasonably well. This time, I was shooting a jeans billboard!

Super Twilight.
Super Twilight.

I still haven’t decided if that’s something I particularly want to pursue, though. It may or may not pay the bills- I’m not sure about the market around here- and it doesn’t particularly thrill me. It may just be that I haven’t found my style within the genre, though.

I'm not sure it's possible to get enough gridded beauty dish.
I’m not sure it’s possible to get enough gridded beauty dish.

What does, though, is sports and fitness. Remember that location shoot with Ryan last year? Well, now I got the chance to shoot with an ANBF/OCB figure competitor, Kayleigh Trumpower. This is her first competition season, aiming for her pro card.

Started off with a headshot, since that's what I do and she needed one.
Started off with a quick headshot, since that’s what I do and she needed one.
A shot for Beast Apparel, who make that tank top.
A shot for Beast Apparel, who make that tank top.
A shot for Scivation supplements, which she exclusively uses.
A shot for Scivation supplements, which she exclusively uses.

That’s about it for now in terms of shooting. A little slower than I wanted it, but more deliberate and directional like I had been intending.

I have a couple irons in the fire though, a headshot job booked and a second shoot with Kayleigh planned. Hopefully Brad may be available at some point for the fitness thing, because he’s been getting his shred on too.

I’m loving the gritty drama involved with fitness shooting, it’s as enjoyable as music shooting to do. Less about telling a story though, and more about selling an image and lifestyle. So I get to play with lighting to my heart’s content!

I’m also working on my own projects; right now I have a devious scheme involving propmaking, which is something I love and want to incorporate into my shooting in some way. I have a couple ideas for that, which I want to get to over the next few months- as time and money allow!

My first prop build I’m going to do a daily blog on here after this post. It’s a simple scifi pistol (which you’ll already know if you follow me on Twitter), a bit like the Mass Effect guns, but it’s a small, easy way back into it- it’s been years since I even made anything of any detail, never mind something which has to fit together like that! So hopefully that’s going to go well!

All for now.


Update Time!

I seem to be blogging quarterly. I do intend to do something about that, though it’s not particularly easy.

Anyway. So, what’s happened since November? Well, I closed out the year with some decent shooting, as I thought at the time…

Strobism, aiming for cinematic.
Strobism, aiming for cinematic.
More modelling headshottery.
More modelling headshottery.


Part of an attempt at fashion... Which didn't go horribly, but not fantastically either...
Part of an attempt at fashion… Not terrible results for a first go.

…but came to decide that I didn’t like it all that much, resulting in not feeling particularly inspired as the new year rolled in.

I played with some food photography, it was kinda fun:

Most of a full English!
Most of a Full English! (Start of Paleo diet in January)
Interesting concoction I made for dinner one day!
Interesting concoction I made for dinner one day! (Shot a few minutes too late, it looked juicier before)

While I didn’t particularly find my calling as a food photographer, it was enjoyable enough to keep doing and as the month progressed, the weather got brighter and warmer and thus I found my inspiration and determination returning.

So, lately, I’ve shaken myself off, booked as many models as I could make contact with for the next few weeks, and pressed on with new ideas. The couple of shoots I’ve done with Brad Taylor have been pretty fantastic.

I initially made contact because I needed someone fairly athletic looking for a fitness shoot…

I turned it into crazy alien zombie invasion though, because it was more fun!
I turned it into crazy alien zombie invasion though, because it was more fun!

…and it turns out he’s also a rather successful session bassist who knows many musicians all over the country. Now there’s a stroke of luck! So, naturally, I had to get him back in for music portraits. Here’s a couple of my favourites:




I feel like I’m finally starting to solidify a direction. I really enjoyed shooting these music shots, it felt “right.” I’ve wanted to add commercial music to my quiver for quite some time now, and this shoot definitely cemented that.

A busy few weeks ahead, and I’m not planning on slowing down any time soon! Many of these shoots will be article’d on Phototuts, so you can get more info on specifics later if you want.

All for now.


Time for a Recap

I didn’t exactly get a shoot-by-shoot blog going like I originally intended, it would seem. No worries though, regularity can be worked on. I’m not trying to apply any pressure to blog like I used to, since it seems to be a destructive force when I’m now also writing pretty much full-time.

I'd been looking for a shot like this for some time, so I was very happy with this result.
I’d been looking for a shot like this for some time, so I was very happy with this result.

Instead of recounting the time since the first post sequentially, I’m peppering this post with recent shots I’m quite happy with; at least given the amount of time I’ve been following this new path.

I bought a smoke machine for atmospherics; this was its first (and only, so far) shoot. Performed quite nicely for $30!
I bought a smoke machine for atmospherics; this was its first (and only, so far) shoot. Performed quite nicely for $30!

It’s been three and a half months now, so what have I accomplished in that time? Well, I think my direction has improved, my clarity of vision and communication. I started working with another model with some experience, invaluable to me when I’m trying to pursue more ambitious goals.

This was a candid from the shoot, between poses. I prefer it (and its Nik processing) to the main image from the shoot!
This was a candid from the shoot, between poses. I prefer it (and its Nik processing) to the main image from the shoot!

I’ve started working on clarifying my personal direction, both professionally and artistically, and coming up with ideas about what could be commercially viable in the relatively small city I live in.

Yeah sports! I really do love the aesthetic of commercial sports photography.
Yeah sports! I really do love the aesthetic of commercial sports photography.

Thus far, gyms and clothing boutiques have struck me the most as possibilities; they each strike different parts of my somewhat split-personality aesthetic. We’ll see how that goes once I have material to start approaching them with; the marketing budget may not be there, or perhaps they’ve just been waiting for a photographer like me to come along. Who knows?

Inflicting repetitive pain on the model for this shot yielded the expression I was looking for.
Inflicting repetitive pain on the model for this shot yielded the expression I was looking for.

After that, I’m not sure yet. I’m also still working on the headshots, just a couple so far but they’re relatively easy to knock out so I’m not too concerned. I’ve found that it’s fairly easy to be silly and get past the guard of a person when you’re posing them in the ways required for headshot work- it doesn’t lend itself to a serious tone of interaction.

A Brittani headshot.
A Brittani headshot.

I did a product shoot recently, the results of which are certainly a vast improvement over my previous attempts at products. This could be something worth pursuing, I’m going to try a few more different types of product- different sizes, shapes, materials, etc. and see if that’s a direction I could also go. I’ve found that shooting a static object isn’t significantly different to shooting a person, except you have to “pose” it manually. The attention to detail, the lighting and set design, all that stuff… Pretty much the same.

And one for Ryan.
And one for Ryan.

So, more immediate future plans? I’m just looking at working with more models to help fill up my portfolio, for the time being. The behind the scenes on many of those shoots will be on Phototuts as usual. Once I have enough content to show for myself, then I can start putting myself out there. That’s going to be hard for me, being British (:P), but gotta hustle, right?

Lifestyle-clothing-catalogue-something. I like it though.
Lifestyle-clothing-catalogue-something. I like it though.

I’m currently thinking if nothing else, this blog should serve as a warning to aspiring pros the sheer amount of time and effort that has to be expended on working towards your dreams.


Here we go… Again

So my blog is up and running again, for about the 5th time in the last eight years. This time, however, it has a purpose.

Those of you who know me probably know that I’m in the middle of a year-long transition out of nature photography into, in theory, commercial advertising and headshots. I don’t have the main site up and running yet, and probably won’t for a couple months while I get some images together, but I wanted to start the blog at the very beginning.

Well, there are many beginnings. I could have started it once I realised I had to change career paths, or once I started building some skill with artificial lighting, or even when I first started learning to light. I could have started it even further back, at the beginning of putting together a studio, into which my wife put a good amount of time and money before I took over once I arrived on this side of the Atlantic.

The process I want to document, however, is that of an artist who’s only just created his first showable work. Out of the education stage- there are many sites where that can be gotten, I work for one for a start- and into the process of putting it all together into a body of experience.

While I’ll always be showing and teaching here, I can never seem to put that down, the point is that I’m learning as I go along just as much as anyone else, so some of these learning experiences I’ll have to share will be on everyone’s part. Should be exciting!

I had my first “real” shoot last weekend, so now I have something to show for myself, and now this record of growth begins.

First up is Brittani, a first-time model with aspirations. That’s not a course of action I’d recommend unless you’re a nerdy obsessive sponge of a learner like me- if neither of you are entirely sure what you’re doing, the shoot’s going to be awkward, unproductive and discouraging. I knew what I wanted ahead of time though, so I shot that while tossing out direction and titbits of Modelling 101. This is a major improvement over my last headshot shoot a couple years ago, where I was very quiet the whole time, and naturally didn’t really get the best images.

It went well! I didn’t clam up, quite the opposite in fact (a shocker for those who know my quiet tendencies), and Brittani took direction well. I didn’t panic when the lighting wasn’t going to plan, just figured it out and kept talking and joking and generally not showing my doubts. Which to be fair were minimal, I wasn’t really put under any pressure at all by the minor tweaks required, but this level of sociability-on-cue is a milestone for me. Long may it continue!

The image itself is less than perfect, but for a first-time-ever shoot with a first-time-ever model, I’m quite content for the time being:

I love me some high-key.
I love me some high-key.

The setup was pretty straightforward, I just put her in a cage of V-flats blasted by horizontal clamshell:

"Back into the cage!" Hilarious, not terrifying, right?!
“Back into the cage!” Hilarious, not terrifying, right?!

Next up was Lane. While he had a very hard time taking hand direction, his head direction was excellent, and the planets aligned for a split second right here:

Badass commercial-music-style is what I was after, and I think I succeeded?
Badass commercial-music-style is what I was after, and I think I succeeded?

Again, simple setup, a staple of most commercial studios as I recall:

Blow out the background, and I got the beauty dish look with a speedlight zoomed into a shoot-through umbrella.
Blow out the background, and I got the beauty-dish-type-look with a speedlight zoomed into a shoot-through umbrella.

That’s all for now!