I really hadn’t planned on entering another Newsletter Contest so soon. But the opportunity was too much to pass up. You see, I had already knolled out a big naval vessel when the theme was announced, but even that wasn’t enough. No, the real kicker was when I noticed that the model I was building was having me build a bunch of sub-assemblies without joining them together, and I joked with my friend, AnimateOrange, that it looked like I was building some wreckage. Amusingly, I didn’t actually make the connection until the next day, and it was a lightbulb moment! Wreckage is perfect for a “Wings and Water at War” theme, right? “Create a Metal Earth® battle scene in the air and/or at sea.” I just had to!

Below is a small animated gif that cycles through a few snapshots of the development process for this overindulged graphic (on the off-hand chance that you are insane enough to want to see a higher-resolution version of it, you can click here). I really didn’t mean to go this far with this, but it was sorta a natural progression of small steps that had me going totally overboard. And yes, that pun was fully intentional.

Now, my original plan was to just simply lay out a blue sheet and arrange the models on it, kinda like AnimateOrange’s green-sheet picture from last month’s challenge. Then I realized I didn’t have a blue-sheet of the right color. So, next, I went for some blue construction paper, which I was able to use to angle some of the wreckage, and block out the lower parts of the two metal earth vessels so they looked like they were actually in the water. I even grabbed a couple of magnets so I could suspend a couple of jets from the aircraft carrier on the back-wall construction paper.

Unfortunately, this left a lot of unsightly creases and shadows and I decided that I needed to pull out some of my aging photo-editing hobby-level skills and have some fun. So I attempted to smooth out / blend out the edges. That went… poorly. It was splotchy. So I tried adding some more blending and texture across that. A little better. And then I went for another pass, and was still not satisfied. Finally, I pulled a very basic, low-quality cutout of the structures, and blended the crap out of everything else (using a frosted-glass filter so it still had some texture), and blended that in over the cutout.

And decided that, in the end, it looked way too flat with all the smoothing that I’d done. So I got even sillier, and went out and found a public domain photo of the open ocean (harder to do that I thought it would be) and tried to overlay the texture onto the smoothed out “water” construction paper. It didn’t look bad… but it was also over the ships and wreckage. Which meant it was time to do some detailed rotoscoping (a term I’ve learned from watching the Corridor Crew channel on YouTube – it basically means cutting out what you want from what you don’t want in pictures or video).

After that meticulous and somewhat tedious step, I “removed” the part of the ocean photo that overlapped the models and it really started to look good. Decided to crop the photo in, given that the water of the picture I used only went so far down, and I couldn’t stretch it to fill because the perspective was already so bad that it still kinda bothers me (especially for the Missouri, on the right). I think the aspect ratio kinda makes it look cinematic.

Finally, after all that, I realized that I had stayed up past 2 am, hyperfocused on the fun little project. But I needed sleep. So I slept. The next day, I shared the picture with family and some friends, and then ended up working on it some more, so I could improve the color balance / saturation, and get the ships to more closely match the environment colors, tightened up the rotoscoping a little, and added some additional shadows / darkened water under and around the vessels and wreckage. I drew the line at adding smoke, given that I was originally planning this to be a “practical effects” photo, and it had moved way to far into the photo-editing realm. Still, it was fun to flex those skills before they atrophied away completely.