Hi everyone, For my first post of the year, I’m writing about this photography project of mine because it’s something special. It’s the highest budget diorama set I’ve built so far. It took months of planning, which is why it took me so long to come up with this set when the figure was released about half a year ago. Normally, my setup consist of a mix of handmade and pre-manufactured stuff – stuff that I bought directly online, because it’s more cost-efficient. And then I cut cost with extensive use of foam material wherever I deem acceptable to cut corners.
For this set, I leveled up the build quality of the props with less usage of styrofoam. Most of the setup are built from PVC foamboard, ABS plastic, plywood, and real bricks. The motorcycle is also a model kit I had to build and paint on my own. It comes with an elevated cost, but the reason why I did this is I wanted to preserve this set for exhibits in near future. It needs to be durable, and look good to the human eye in person. The second reason would be, I want to do my waifu some justice. I love Tohsaka Rin.
This article is in reference to this photo: PICTURE #2139395
Thought Processes, Ideas and Concept
Frankly speaking, I hate photographing race queen figures (yet I own several figures with this outfit, including as many as three Racing Mikus at one point), but they surely are pretty. The reason is because it’s hard to come up with ideas. If you go by common sense and start hunting for a large scale car or bike model, it gets expensive very quickly, not to mention 1/8 scale vehicles are so huge (especially cars) and outrageously expensive – assuming you are able to find one - it is very rare. I’m no stranger to using large scale model remote control cars in figure photography, though in both of those occasions I wasn’t really happy with the results.
For the case of this Tohsaka Rin, to make things short, the three photos below describes the sources of inspiration easily. A motorcycle portrait in an “American garage or warehouse”. Pardon me for my stereotyping lol; garages in my countrydo not have this kind of design. I learned about how garages look like this in Murica via movies.
Building The Props
The toughest part of this diorama wasn’t building it. It’s finding what you need in the first place. Tohsaka Rin’s scale is a pain in the ass to deal with when you want to pair the figure with a motorcycle specifically. 1/7 scale. 1/7 scale figures are a great match with Barbie dollhouse furniture, but a motorcycle? 1/7 scale motorcycles do not exist. It’s 1/6, 1/9 or 1/10.
1/9 is too small for a 1/7 scale figure. 1/6, meanwhile, is too big. I need a 1/8. After spending many weeks searching, I found a 1/8 scale Yamaha TY215 bike model kit made by Heller, which I ended up importing directly from an ebay seller from France. Anime girls are short in general. 150 to 160cm usually. This is why I prefer to go one scale smaller when I pair figures with vehicles; if both were of the same scale, the figure would look like a midget next to an oversized vehicle. I paired my 1/8 Racing Miku with a 1/9 bike. 1/7 Tohsaka Rin will be fine with a 1/8 bike.
Oh, this bike was a nightmare to work with. I do have experience working on traditional model kits (those that require glue and painting, unlike Gundam kits which are a lot easier), but this one contained so many tiny parts. I spent 4 or 5 days on this bike alone, from assembly to painting. Parts are glued together with (standard) Tamiya cement. Tamiya extra-thin cement can also be used - it is less messy.
I do own two 1/9 bikes and they are too small for a 1/7 scale figure. The second bike - the one Tohsaka Rin is leaning on behind her, is 1/9 scale - i removed the wheel and certain parts to make it appear as if it is under repair, but the actual reason is I want to hide the fact it is undersized.
It was a completed diecast motorcycle model which i took apart certain parts, and then selectively masked and repainted it to the colors I prefer.
The mechanic’s tool set were purchased online, imported from China. They are made for 1 / 6 scale action figures like those made by Hot Toys. I spent over $30 on these alone, they are not cheap, but the details are amazing.
The construction of the rear wall begins with the window. The window were actually multiple smaller ABS window frames that are used in building scale models of houses. I glued all of them side by side onto clear acrylic to create a large window.
Around the the window, I glued a 10mm thick styrofoam around it, intended to support the bricks. The bricks are glued onto the styrofoam using Loctite foamboard construction adhesive. It’s the perfect adhesive here, as it specifically glues anything made of cement or any of its derivatives onto styrofoam. I also used it to fill in the gaps between each brick. You can’t glue those bricks onto wood directly no matter what adhesives you use.
The bricks are about 8mm thick, while the styrofoam base was 10mm thick. So, around the bricks, two 10mm layers of closed cell PVC foamboard were glued on using silicone glue, surrounding the brick region, acting as a typical cement wall.
The second wall went through the same procedure as the first wall above, but not as thick because it was unnecessary (it is just a small part of the scene), and there is a need to cut down weight if needed.
The walls are spray painted and matte clear coat was applied. Masking was done to the brick area since the paint was intended for the white PVC board areas only.
Crack lines are then carved into the walls with a round bur, and then hand painted. The vertical dripping stains were also hand brushed.
The floor also went through the same process as the walls, but a lot simpler. Plywood base with 10mm thick PVC foamboard. However, careful measurements were made to construct grooves at the sides for the walls to slip in for a perfect and easy assembly. Lines for basic tile shapes are carved directly on the surface with just a penknife and then spray painted. There is a cutout in the middle for a metallic drainage cover on floor, simply for detail and aesthetic reasons.
The ceiling is just a sheet of wood with some simple designs, nothing much going on. It wont be a part of the photo - it is placed simply to keep the setup dark enough on the inside.
The setup is held together with screws after holes were drilled.
To simulate a real world scenario with evening sunlight coming in from a window, I decided to make use of real sunlight. I waited for the evening sun to come in from the window to create a backlit scene, used a mirror to deflect a bit of ambient surrounding light onto Rin’s face and then start photographing. Im only deflecting surrounding ambient light, not the sunlight itself, which is too bright. .
With the composition already in mind, the photography part was easy. 60 shots were taken at f/2.8, shifting the focus by millimeters for each subsequent shot starting from the rear end of the bike on the side, to Tohsaka Rin’s face and hair. The entire process is automatic and done by my camera, which has an automated focus shift feature built-in.
The first stage of editing is all the color and exposure adjustments in Lightroom. I’d edit just one shot out of the sixty, then copy and paste the same exact settings on the remaining 59 shots.
After doing adjustments in Lightroom CC, all 60 shots were exported as 60 layers in proper order from foreground to background to Helicon Focus and stacked on top of one another to create a final composite where the bike and Tohsaka Rin are both fully in focus, boosting detail at the same time.
The stacking process is not completely smooth unlike some of my other simpler works, which is expected given how complex the photo is. I spent 3 hours on cleaning up the mess created by the stacking software, cleaning up blurry areas and halos by manually blending chosen layers, as well as cloning out parts with artifacts. Sixty 40+ megapixel layers placed a huge strain on my computer, so I made sure to save my work progress repeatedly in case the software crashes, which thankfully didn’t happen.
That’s all for today.
Thank you for reading!