Some years ago, I developed techniques for making miniature models come to life. These involved simulating different lighting conditions to imitate weather, and composing shots with false perspective. I hope you like the results. I think that the same techniques could have many applications.

Pick the genre of model in which you are least uninterested.

Model fantasy scenes ▼


Here is presented a set of examples of my photographs of miniature models. The exact techniques used are a trade secret, but they involve many multiple exposures, and the use of a lot of filters.

Gates of the Underworld

This is the very first of these shots I ever took, and still one of the best. I have another version with a purple sky, but this one beats it by a whisker. The skull is that of a sow, which I took home from a medieval-style banquet, and from which I got a saucepan full of meat. Good stuff, too. I tried using fishermens' bait maggots to clean the skull up, but found that the maggots sold in fishing shops are what fishermen would want them to be: fat and sated; not what I wanted them to be: thin and hungry. The maggots weren't interested in my sow's head, and so I buried it in the garden for a few weeks, and the worms did the job instead.


In all my notes, this shot is referred to as "MOASU". This stands for "Mother Of All Set Ups;" and was called such because it took AGES to build the set for this. For a start, it is a complicated set, with the various roof beams, pillars, the large floor area, the doorways, and the like. The next problem was that it was very difficult to get the set light-proof. Any light leaking in through the join between the walls and ceiling, or other such places, took a lot of keeping out. Of course, every time I wanted to make a tiny adjustment to the placing of a piece of furniture, perhaps to hide the base of one of the figures, this meant taking the roof off the set and then having to put it all back again, during which operation I'd near- invariably jog something out of place. To catch the light, I got neighbour who smoked to come in, and breathe tab smoke into the room. I took lots of shots of this set-up, as I never wanted to have to set it up again.

Last stand of The Crimson Sons

This is one which took a lot of exposures to get the effect I wanted. I tried another version in which I moved the skeletons between exposures, leaving the masked cultists where they were, but the picture came out too busy. Like this, it is busy enough. The figures are by Citadel. The cultists are painted as RuneQuest Gloranthan cultists, and by sheer coincidence, happen to look exactly like the initiates of Danfive Xaron, and I painted them as such before this cult was even published.

Gently does it

This is a Britons farm-yard bull figure, adapted for use in my fantasy orc wargaming army. After an unfortunate experience in the first game I tried it in, I painted up another figure of a little goblin/orc holding an enormous shield, with which to protect the bull handler from enemy archers, while the handler points the Bull of Oblivion the right way and lets it go. I like the nervous pose of the orc handler, which seems quite apt.

Sorcery in the storm

This shot shows a Prince August sorceror, about to cast a fiendish spell at an orc by the same manufacturer (hand cast from a bought mould by me). He stands atop the tower from the kids' game Village of Fear, and in the background, the brown swirling clouds are a photograph, blown up large and tinted, of a real sky. I tried a few versions of this with sparks and the like coming from the sorceror's staff, and with a scarlet sky, but they were just too corny. I have a low corniness threshold.

Versus the Scorpionman

Scorpionmen are creatures of chaos in the role-play game RuneQuest. Interestingly enough, they are described exactly as one is depicted here, in the ancient Sumerian legend The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is a nice and short book which I would recommend to anyone interested in legends. It includes a tale of a time when there were still hunter- gatherers living near cities in Mespotamia, and a version of the tale of Noah and The Flood, which, though written 1700 years before the Old Testament, is the same in every detail bar the names.

Ghostly apparition

I took a few of this scene, and each time the ghost came out a bit too opaque or a bit too transparent. I suppose that soon this sort of trick photography will wane, as computers allow for such see-through effects to be done a different and more easily controlled way. Still, it was good to use the old fashioned method. I'll tell my incredulous grandchildren about it one day. The scenery is scratchbuilt, partly using plaster moulds by Prince August.

At the bloody altar

It's corny, but I quite like it. Chaps with frog-mouthed helmets (in reality only worn in late medieval tournaments - the wearer can see only upwards) were a favourite of mine when I was about twelve. Horns on helmets are not historical either, and are pretty silly, since they would catch a blow that might otherwise glance off, and strain one's neck. A combination of horns on a frog-mouthed helmet therefore transends even the usual degree of fantasy silliness. That shield would be murder to hold too. From its thickness, I'd say it'd weigh about six stone, and it is flat, so it would keep wanting to fall forwards, since the handles wouldn't be at its centre of gravity. It'd be hell to hold straight.

The idol is by Grendel, and is resin, a joy to paint. Ditto the pillars. I like the light in the archway.

It's behind you!

Both figures are by Citadel. The man at the front I have painted for use as a RuneQuest Praxian nomad.

Testing the water

I'm not sure I'd advise that action, still, even though this is fantasy, I suppose it could be safe to stick a finger in the water coming from a giant skull-shaped fountain. Fountain by Grendel.

It's coming!

A motley band of adventurers prepares to meet whatever it is that creates that amount of light. All but the archer are old Ral Partha RuneQuest figures.

Mother dragon returns!

This was one of my first of these shots, and I always think to say "Mummy!" when I see it. I suppose other captions might be along the lines of "'Ere, Burt, don't look behind you, just start running." The dragons, mother and child, are by Citadel, the men are by Fantasy Forge and Alternative Armies.

Model historical scenes ▼


Except for one photograph, all the figures shown are about one inch high (25mm or 1/72nd scale).

Nubians running at dusk

Wargames Foundry Nubians, by the wonderful Perry twins. At this level of magnification, you can see specks of dust on the figures. It is amazing that these sculptures still look good when magnified so much.

Nubian warrior group

Wargames Foundry Nubians. I said one weekend, that I would paint these up for a game the following weekend. I was naïve enough to think that they would be easy to paint: brown skin, white loin cloth, a few details, finished. They took ages. Visit my modelling tips section to read how I painted them to look like this.

Nubian sunset

Wargames Foundry Nubians, this time by a ruined temple, and just so that I can show off my lighting skills, by sunset. Yes, it is doubtful that bronze age Nubians would ever have been seen hanging around a ruined Greek temple, but did I label this section " Accurate historical miniatures"?

Punic confrontation

A Wargames Foundry Roman officer is confronted by a legionnary. The latter appears to have some Celtic style shield pattern, so may be a Spanish or Carthaginian legionnary, in which case one might imagine that the woman needs protecting from someone. This is a good one for a caption competition. Why not send in your suggestion for a fabulous prize? One so far suggested is "Quick, over there soldier, and join that fight - but first, take those baguettes off your head."

The ballista

Wargames Foundry Ballista and crew, with an old Airfix wooden watch tower. I like the low dawn/evening light in this shot. The crewmen are in late Roman or Byzantine costume. The ballista was an artillery device, a bit like a big crossbow, which involved two cylinders in which were long wound ropes of hair or sinew, which would provide torsion for a bar thrust through the ropes. Modern reconstructions of these have proven to be not just powerful, but very accurate indeed.

Persians keeping watch

I was trying to get a dusty dusky desert sky, and I think that I got close enough for jazz. The building is by Hovels; the palm trees by Irregular Miniatures; and the figures by Wargames Foundry.

Persian speeches by fire-light

Wargames Foundry Persians. The intent of the lighting was to make the main character look as though he were lit from below by a fire, with a night sky behind him. I wish I could show you all the original photographs, taken with my beloved Pentax, because I fear that the colours have suffered a bit in the scanning.

Arthur in all weathers

Beautiful Wargames Foundry figures of Arthur and two other Arthurian cavalrymen. Here we see them on a sunny day.

The same scene, but with a more spectacular sky. Personally, I don't like this one, because it looks like what it is: a studio shot. If the sky looked like that, the light on the men would be different in reality. Many people, though, say that this is their favourite.

This is my favourite. Here we see an overcast sky, and the trio in near-silhoutte, just as they would look in reality if you were looking up at them against the whiteness behind them. Some people seeing this photograph have mistaken it for one of real people dressed up, not models. That tells me that I achieved what I was aiming for. I should add, though, that the original photograph has subtle detail in the sky which has been over-looked by the scanner.

True, one could argue that Arthur is not strictly an historical figure, but I thought that he was better classified as historical than as fantasy, and I didn't want to have to create a category just for him.

Sir Kay

This was my first attempt at a stormy sky, and I like the shaft of sun coming down from the heavens. The title "Sir Kay" is of course, not historical, as the idea of Arthur's having "knights" called "Sir" is a much later medieval one, but the central figure holding aloft his spear is sold to romantics like me as "Sir Kay" and so the name sticks. These are Romano-British cavalrymen. In the back-ground are 6mm high Irregular Miniatures cavalry, some at a bit of a slant. Some may argue that these figures should not be portrayed as using lances, but the evidence is not conclusive either way. Arthur's cavalry may have used lances, and so I have them using lances, because that's what I like, and that's what I'm like.

Carnyx by day and dusk

Here we see some figures which were sold to me as Celts, but I suspect might be more accurately categorised in the fantasy section, because I've seen no evidence for belt buckles like that. The figures are old Fantasy Forge figures, now produced by someone else. The columns are from a ruined temple by Grendel. I can't help feeling that if the carnyx blower has been stealthy up to this point, then the spearman is about to get the shock of his life.

As before, but with different lighting. Note the angle of the shadow of the spearman's shield. The sun is low in the sky.

Boy and dogs in autumn

Irregular Miniatures Boy, with Ral Partha dogs (actually sold as "blink dogs", which are monsters in the game Dungeons and Dragons, but I just use them as dogs). The corn stands in stoops, so it must be around harvest time.

Tiny bazaar

These figures, by Irregular Miniatures, a friendly company with a first-class mail order service, are only a quarter of an inch high each, about 6mm. This explains the very shallow depth of field in this photograph, i.e. why so much is out of focus. These are highly magnified. The things you can see in front, behind, and to the side of the bazaar, are camels, honest.

Trojan Wars scenes ▼


I couldn't decide whether these shots were fantasy or historical, so I give them their own section.

Helen of Troy

When I showed this to another photographer recently, he said "I thought hers was the face that launched a thousand ships." Redoubt Enterprises has taken what is a commercial but justifyable decision to portray Helen wearing a Minoan dress. It is likely that the Myceneans and Trojans of the time wore similar dresses, which leave the breasts exposed. I was going to do a big close up of the face, for obvious reasons, but when I looked through the view-finder, I felt that the face as sculpted here, looked too closely akin to that of a blow-up doll, which I saw in the film Wilt. She is described as "fair", whatever that means. The hair-colours in Homer tend to be fairly north-European sounding. Menelaos is the "red-haired king", while other characters get called "tawny". Aphrodite is "golden".

Priam in front of the Megaron

Here we see King Priam, father of Hector the Trojan champion (and, according to Homer, seemingly the husband of every Trojan woman, and the father of most of the children of the city), on the front steps of the megaron, with two attendants. Priam by Redoubt Enterprises, attendants by Wargames Foundry. A "megaron" was a building which most large settlements in the region had at this time, which was large and high-status, involving a huge porch, and a main room with a central hearth. It is thought that this would be the place where the grand story-telling would take place, and where important guests would meet the local rulers. The building is a heavily-modified resin casting by Monolith Designs.

Ajax in his chariot

I was confused when I first read Homer's Iliad, by the fact that there was no character called Ajax. There were in fact two characters called Aeas, and both of these translate as Ajax in latin (the fact that there were two characters with the same name suggests to me that the men were real - a poet wouldn't invent that). Anyway, the larger and slightly more famous of the two is pictured here, in his chariot, wearing "Dendra" armour, which is based on a suit of bronze armour found in a place called Dendra in Southern Greece. I hope that you like the dusk lighting.

Lukka allies on the roof

Here we see Wargames Foundry figures, by the Perry twins (actually just by one of the pair - apparently they usually credit the pair even when one of the two did all of a range) of Lukka warriors. King Sarpedon joined the Trojan cause and with him came his Lukka warriors, who were of the Sea Peoples, and who wore headresses of some sort. Some reconstruct them as being made of feathers, others as of leather. Some assume that a metal helmet was underneath, others not. Anyway, here are two of them on top of a building, with one of my scratch-built palm trees in the background. The tree took blinking ages to do. The branches are lengths of that sort of wire which comes inside a plastic ribbon, for tying climbing plants to frames. I stuck book-covering film sandwiching the wire, and cut slits in the film to create the leaves, and then painted the result green. Looks nice, but don't try making many trees this way.

Aeneas on the battlements

Aeneas, a Lukka hero, was one of the few men to escape from the fall of Troy, and he has an entire epic poem written for him, many centuries later, by Virgil, The Aenead. Here, we see him with a five-o'clock shadow, and he doesn't look happy.

Odysseus fighting on the battlements

These are Redoubt Enterprises figures fighting on a modified battlement by Monolith. I would hesitate to recommend Monolith because the two times I ordered from them, they took many months to deliver, and that was after several telephone calls and letters, nor do I think that I am the only person to have had trouble getting stuff out of them. Anyway, the lighting effect here is for a bright sunny day, which, though not as attention-grabbing as sunsets and the like, is actually one of the harder lighting effect to get just right. Odysseus is on the left, by the way. Homer once mentions his boar-tusk helmet, and so he is often depicted wearing one. His hair, according to Homer was xanthos, a word which is also used to describe the colour of honey, and is often translated as blond, and sometimes as auburn. I don't know who the other chap is meant to be, but the chances are that he has only moments to live.

Duels, men and beasts

Here we see two men having a go at each other, fire-lit, in the corridors of the megaron. On the wall is a Minoan-style mural of a lioness bringing down a deer.

Beginning of the end

A dramatic night sky seemed necessary for the backdrop of this shot. Apologies if it seems over-corny. An Achaean hero climbs down from the belly of the Wooden Horse. Soon, the guards will be slain, and the gates thrown open to Agamemnon's returning army. I was a bit disappointed when I first read the Iliad and the Odyssey, not to find the bit about the wooden horse in them. The Odyssey has a couple of flash-backs to it, but neither of these books deals with the tale directly. Virgil's Aenead has a version of the tale, but this was written many centuries later, and I imagine that this has no historical accuracy whatsoever. Even so, for a  wargame I staged at a couple of wargame shows, I developed a scenario in which twelve Greek heroes descended from the horse, and then tried to open the gates, and capture Helen. Amazingly, none of the players ever thought to look in the back room of the megaron, where Helen was. I'd spent days painting that room, and no one went there.

Anyway, the figure is a Redoubt spearman, converted to a climber, the buildings are mainly Monolith and the horse is scratch-built from matches. I designed the horse so that it looked as though it could support its own weight. The back legs are vertical, and the main beams all intersect in nice structural ways. I pressed the end of the tube of a propelling pencil into the planking ends, to put circular dents in them, hoping by this to suggest wooden pegs holding them in place. Alas, these don't show in this photo'.

Showdown in the megaron

The Redoubt Enterprises range of figures has many named figures, and here I am using them not as the sculptor intended. Amazingly enough, the range does not include a figure for one of the main characters, Menelaos, but here the figure for Hector stands in for him, on the right. Helen is on the left, presumably confident that she will not be killed, despite the appalling slaughter around her. Deiphobus, the new husband of Helen, after the death of Paris, is played by the figure intended for Agamemnon. The figure on the floor is sold as a figure for a dying Achilles, and the old man pointing is a chariot-rider figure for King Nestor. Note the large hearth, with cold embers, and little red flames painted around its edge (after an example excavated in Pylos); and in the ceiling, a large roofed hole for the smoke.

All the Redoubt Enterprises figures are based very closely on the excellent book by Peter Connolly "The Legend of Odysseus" which also served as the reference for the Monolith buildings, and my painting and modelling guide. I've met Peter, and he's a top chap, so buy his book.