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Life in Lodi, only smaller

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Posted: Friday, May 20, 2011 11:06 am

I've been fascinated with miniature things for longer than I can remember. I try to think back to what it was that originally captured my interest for diminutive stuff — whether childhood toys or my mother's fascination with dollhouse furniture — but I was hooked.

From an early age, I would convert cardboard boxes into houses and skyscrapers, then populate said buildings with little clay people. 

Movies like “The Incredible Shrinking Man” had my rapt attention. I wanted to know what it was like to be a tiny person, living in these wee worlds. Miniature models and sets built specifically for movies by Hollywood craftsmen awed me.

So it's no wonder that I fell in love with model railroading.

One year during my formative years, my family took a vacation to Seattle to visit my aunt. While there, we did all the touristy things. We visited the Space Needle. We strolled through Pike's Place Market. We took the ferry up to Butchart Gardens. We stopped in a model railroad shop.

I don't remember the name of the shop, but I vividly recall one entire side of the business dedicated to a model of a mountain railway, winding through small villages, under waterfalls and so detailed that there was something new to be discovered around every corner.

Over the years, I've built various models, created my own little villages and generally retained my love of life at 1:87.1 scale.

These days I lack the space and funds that would keep me immersed in the small hobby. Although, now and again I'll stop in at Roger's Railroad Junction and pine. 

But one discovery has led me to enjoy miniatures on an entirely virtual level: Tilt-shift photography.

Do a Google search for tilt-shift and you'll find an abundant number of examples. Basically, the method or lens type allows the photographer to take ordinary scenery and make it appear as a model landscape.

Using Photoshop, I'm able to reproduce the effect (seen in the accompanying picture of Downtown Lodi from years ago), building my own virtual miniatures.

I was so excited about the method that I was able to teach it to coworkers Julie Govette and Lauren Nelson in only a few minutes (see the sidebar).

Until that day when I have a basement or barn that I can dedicate to building real-life small scenes, I will continue to experiment with the tilt-shift method.

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