I went to see the Mystical Landscapes exhibition at the AGO last week and it got me thinking about light. Specifically how I was lighting the layout. What got me going on this theme was the series of haystacks by Monet. The series is known for its ‘thematic use of repetition to show differences in perception of light across various times of day, seasons, and types of weather.’
Up until now I had been using the standard 4′ fluorescent fixtures above the benchwork. At 5000K they do a good job and they work well at making colours look natural, but they only provide the look of a bright sunny day. Not always the average lighting in late October on my prototype. What if I wanted to explore how a scene on the railroad might look in early morning, or at dusk? As Monet’s haystacks revealed, changing the light creates a whole new scene. Changing light also creates new emotions associated with that light.
For example, recently I found the image pictured above on Tom Vaughan’s Facebook page. It struck me in a way that no other photo of a train had. It’s a powerful and gloomy image full of emotion. The photograph conveys the sense of the damp and cold. It was taken on a cloudy short winter day, in an isolated and northern landscape. Not the prototypical train porn shot usually taken in bright sun. The focus of the picture seems to me not to be the train at all. The train is simply part of the landscape. Indeed I would call this a landscape photo with a train in it. That’s what I hope to recreate on my layout and light is one of the ways I hope to achieve this goal.
While I was at Costco picking up some New Year treats, I noticed a great deal on a multi-colour LED strip. With 8 different colours in addition to white (red, purple, blue, green, yellow etc.) and 4 different light levels, this gave me 36 different lighting options to play with. At $40 for 24 feet, this worked out to $1.66/ft. Reasonable enough for a bit of fun.
Initial results have been quite positive. I really enjoy being in the layout room and running trains with different and dimmer light sources. While perhaps not achieving a 100% realistic version of a night scene (above), the soft, diffused light, muted tones and hazy outlined objects introduce the strong sense of mood that I had not previously experienced on my layout.