I happened across a very interesting tabletop gallery the other day. It really caught my attention as it went above and beyond simple painting and terrain techniques to create an amazing looking atmosphere that really gave me a sense of immersion that I had not felt with tabletop gaming before. This was Jon Law’s Atmospheric Wargaming gallery. Through the use of smoke effects and localized lighting he was able to create some amazing looking scenes.
I have been intrigued by the idea of using non-conventional means and methods of expanding a wargaming table for a while now. However, until now I’ve never seen it used in this capacity with a full table. I was just blown away by the whole thing. As is usual when I find something so great, I secured an interview with the man behind it so read on to find out more!
What is your real name?
Where are you from?
Originally, London. I’m now in the Midlands
What is your occupation?
Computer Games Designer
How did you achieve the lighting effects in the Atmospheric Wargaming pictures? What type of lighting did you use?
There are two main setups I’m using at the moment; localized lighting and studio flash. For localized lighting I’m using Heidi Ott lights – designed for use in doll’s houses. They’re small with very fine wires and all run off a 12v power supply. I’m in the process of wiring up all of my buildings at the moment. The images I’ve uploaded to Flickr so far are temporarily lit with white wires draped all over the place! For the studio flash setup I have two Interfit EX150 heads on tripods. One has a softbox to diffuse the light (also fitted with a pale blue gel to cool down the ambient feel) and the other is plain, arranged on the opposite side to give warmer highlights.
When shooting with the doll house lighting I generally use a tripod so I can close the lens down and get a longer depth of field. With flash, they pump out so much light I can hand hold at f18!
What did you use for smoke effects in the Atmospheric Wargaming pictures?
I got a Fogtech VS-400 smoke machine. It was only about £35, though the juice you fill it with isn’t cheap. Thankfully you don’t need much to fill a room my size! It doesn’t leave any noticeable residue, so I don’t have a problem with blasting it all over the table with the miniatures in place. Once your done, just open the window a crack and the smoke darts for freedom. Just don’t let your neighbours call the fire brigade!
What made you decide to try and create this atmospheric setting?
We spend all this time building and painting, making everything look great – and then just take photos with on camera flash. It’s such a shame. There are loads of amazing painters and modelers out there, and quite a lot are now photographing their work properly, using light boxes, lighting, backdrops, etc. These are great, and there’s no way I can compete on an individual model basis, but there’s a severe lack of scenes being created.
As soon as you add the battleground to the shot, there’s a lot more to look at. Now there are a bucket load of battle report shots, but they’re focused on relaying the events, usually from way up high where the picture is clearest. But this is a battle – nothing should be clear! Getting down at ground level lets you see the action as the troops might see it. It’s far more exciting.
In the real world, when we get those mist mornings and a low sun I want to take my camera out and catch sunrays piercing through the mist. Something I’ve always loved. Having the opportunity to have mist any time I want is just a dream! I can set lights up, position obstacles and play to my heart’s content. Hopefully people will be inspired to create their own atmospheric shots – even if it’s just getting down low!
How viable would you say it is for someone to use atmospheric lighting for normal play?
You could pump out some smoke – just don’t go over the top or you won’t be able to see your dice! You can even use the lighting, as long as you have the room lights dimmed to the right level you’ll still have atmosphere, but also enough light to play by. Some people won’t want to play in all that gloom. I have to be honest – I’ve not yet played with all the lights on – so far it’s just for the photos, but there’s no reason why you can’t.
How long have you been interested in the tabletop hobby and how did you get into it?
Forever. When I was a kid I used to line up those little Airfix troops and shoot them down with elastic bands. My mum hated standing on the ones that had pinged so far that I missed them when clearing up!
I then played a bunch of board games like Risk and Escape From Colditz. Then I got hold of Cry Havoc and Siege. I loved those games. Then it was Dungeons and Dragons and Traveler. Those little lead figures were awesome! I used to paint everything with enamel – a habit from my Airfix kits. It took a long time to move over to acrylic! Funny how you can get stuck in your ways.
Then quite a while later I discovered Necromunda. That was an awesome game. Still is. The idea that you could progress of your gang really grabbed me. It’s a great shame that it isn’t supported still. GW have an absolute gem there.
What games do you play? What armies do you play in those games?
40K – Tyranids, Blood Angels, Sisters of Battle, Tau, Eldar
Warmachine – all the factions
Necromunda – all the base gangs
Bloodbowl – Space Marines (as Dwarves (don’t ask!)), Humans, Orcs
Do you have any rituals while modeling/painting such as listening to specific music?
No, not really.
What are some of your influences or where do you draw your inspiration from? Are there any books, movies, art, or other sources that have had an impact on your work? Whose work has had an impact on you and your projects?
There are loads of people on Flickr that have amazing skills – and many of them are into photography as well, so the images are often very good. There’s loads of inspiring pieces there. A few of my friends have gorgeous armies:
When you’re fighting against an army so well painted, you try to up your game. I’ll never match his quality, but I can try!
What is your favorite piece that you’ve done or what are you most proud of? What do you like about it?
I’ve just done a Stormraven, put troops inside and added a LED strip light inside. I still need to weather it properly, but it’s fun to do that little extra. Also I’m working on the Bio Titan. It’s so big! Oh – and the Hierodules are tasty. How can you not love ‘em?
What is your favorite piece that someone else has done? What do you like about it?
Oh – here you go-
Mortarion, by Will Palmer. I met him at Warhammer World a few weeks back. He’s got a most gorgeous Nurgle army headed by this beautiful scratch built chunk of gorgeousness.
What is your favorite part of the hobby? Do you prefer working with terrain or miniatures?
Oh I guess it’s the miniatures by a nose, but really it’s a shame to have one without the other. I need to spend more time on scenery – I find I rush it and never really finish it.
What technique has given you the most trouble? Do you have any tips for someone else who might be struggling with it?
Weathering. I’ve been using layered inks. I’ve just got hold of some weathering powders but haven’t used them yet. I got the Advanced Modeling Techniques book from ForgeWorld, and that has some amazing examples in. I have no advice yet, other than try it. Remember – I used enamels once!
Are there any areas that you’d like to improve on?
Anything and everything. Patience – I tend to rush things – especially with horde armies! For that extra hour with the brush in your hand, you get a better result whenever you take that figure out of the box.
What projects are you working on currently? What would be your dream project?
Building my Nids up to 10,000 points for an almighty Apocalypse clash of 100,000 point total. Also helping Brian with the boards when I can. Here’s some great vids he’s put together showing the creation of the boards…
Subscribe – it’s gonna be fun!
What tips, tricks, or advice can you share with us? Are there any special brands or materials that you use that other people might not know about?
Deluxe Materials do a range of two part clear resin that has <1% shrinkage. You can lay this stuff thick, so all those deep water effects you’ve been looking to achieve are within your reach!
What other hobbies do you have outside of tabletop gaming?
Video Gaming, obviously, photography, wildlife – especially squirrels!
Anything else about yourself that you care to share? Do you have a website that people can check out if they are interested in knowing more about you or seeing more of your work?
My Flickr Account…
And more specifically for you guys, the Wargaming Collection…
Well, I hope you were as impressed as I am by this interview. Jon has certainly taken some amazing photographs! The photos I’ve shown here are really only a small sample of all the amazing pictures that he has posted and I highly recommend you go and check out the full gallery.