Association of


Railway Modellers

Talk on photographing model railways by Dan Evason of Tunnel Lane Model Railways

 4th May 2022

This was a truly inspiring talk by a very skilled photographer and modeller.  Dan explained how he came to model railways from military modelling.  He moved from amateur to professional during lockdown.  His main work now is painting figures and building complete layouts and dioramas.  A lot of his work appears in Hornby and BRM magazines and he does a lot on social media and YouTube.

He explained that mobile phones are very useful, you do not necessarily need a digital camera but a tripod is really essential.   Much of the effects are achieved by correct lighting.  You can either photograph indoors using artificial light or outside.  For working indoors, Dan uses B&Q Under cabinet led lights.  These allow you to have consistent lighting.  The lighting needs to be from the front, not behind and kept reasonably low.  Dan often uses a back scene from ID Backscenes set about 12” away from the back of the layout or diorama.

You can photograph out-of-doors.  This allows you to use a real back scene if you live in a suitable location!  He explained about not photographing during the middle of the day when the light is too harsh but using the ‘Golden Hours’.  This is about an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset when the light is more gentle and suitable for taking pictures.


He did not advise using flash as it is too harsh; if you have to use it, bounce it off the ceiling.


He emphasized the importance of taking time to select the view point and checking for unwanted items in the background.  Of course with a digital camera or phone, you can look at the photo straightaway and delete it and retake, if extraneous junk is spoiling the shot.  Dan prefers to take the shots from a very low viewpoint.  In some cases, this involves having removable buildings on a diorama which can be moved out of the way to make room for the camera.  He makes dioramas for Modelu to illustrate their figures which he also paints.  In these, he uses buildings and scenic kits from many sources including some of Andrew Vaughan’s Severn Models range of sheds and greenhouses.


There was some discussion about focusing and how good effects can be achieved by making sure only part of the picture is in focus.  You can focus a mobile phone by touching the part of the screen that you want in focus.  (News to me!)  You can increase the depth of field by increasing the exposure and reducing the aperture.  Dan suggested that some photographs look better in black and white.  You can easily do this using Google Photos on your phone.


Throughout his talk, examples of Dan’s photos were being projected and periodically he would describe something about the photo.  There was at least one taken from directly overhead which was very effective.


In addition to the information about photography, there was lots of discussion about his modelling techniques.  He had brought  a section of Little Burford, an 0 gauge layout which has appeared in exhibitions and on the internet.  The standard of scenic modelling was very high and left members feeling either inspired or deflated!


Here are some of his modelling techniques he shared with the meeting.  His trees and bushes are seafoam trees sprayed with clear car lacquer and rolled in a mixture of different flocks.  Bushes can also be teased-out rubberized horsehair, similarly treated.  He used a wedding veil for chainlink fencing!   He prints brick paper from the internet (Scale Model Scenery) onto the cheapest paper to avoid any gloss apparent on better quality paper.  He uses acrylic paints and dries them with a hairdryer which ensures they dry totally matt.  This is essential for figure painting.  One photo that caught attention was a garage with a rendered brick wall with the rendering falling away from the brickwork.  This was achieved by making the structure from embossed plasticard and covering it with Das air drying clay apart from where the rendering had fallen off.  His grass is built up on hanging basket liner with flock and static grass added.  This was very effective on the embankment of Little Burford.  Landscape uses carved Kingspan insulation.  Roadways around railway lines, as in a dock scene or his diorama of Weymouth, are made using mounting card.  The tops of the rails are painted with ink from a felt tip and the card pressed down on top.  The resulting ink lines can then be cut out leaving the card a snug fit around the rails.  Road surfaces can be made with Das smoothed over the surface and textured and painted.  The Little Burford coal yard has the roadway blending with the edge of the ballast, all covered with coal dust and looks very effective.  A tarpaulin over the coal heap is a single sheet of toilet paper suitably coloured and dampened to suit.


There is lots more to see on the Tunnel Lane Model Railways website and Facebook pages etc.

An inspiring evening!

Nick Coppin.