The first obvious question, why the hell didn't I address this in an orderly planned way before I started building the layout? The short answer is that I was too bloody impatient and wanted to get track down and run trains. As a plea in mitigation, the layout evolved over time to fit the available space. When it started in 1996, Philip's Creek was a continuous run loop and the viewing direction was inwards. A few years later, it became a point to point operation and the viewing direction was reversed as the layout started to run around walls. So even if I had installed a backdrop before laying track, it would be been superseded as the layout evolved.
Currently, the two primary methods of installing backdrops are to glue or fix some combination of panorama photos or to paint an appropriate scene on a blank sheet of timber. Having said this, I can foresee the day when both methods will be a thing of the past and we have some combination of wide screens behind the layout showing a backdrop where clouds move across the sky as well as vehicles, people and animals move in the background, all linked with appropriate sounds.
But back to the present, I wrestled with the decision as to whether to install a photo panorama or attempt to paint a scene. I believe that a good photo panorama, properly scaled provides the ultimate backdrop. However, these work best if installed first before track is laid. Terrain features such as creeks and hills can then be aligned with the panorama. As I said, I didn't have willpower to do that so, in essence, I'm playing 'catch up football' . A few years ago, I did experiment with a panorama which I photographed near Armidale. After some 'photoshop' work I did a test printout, taped it together and installed it near the Phillip's Creek coal mine. I was able to align a creek but it didn't seem to fit with other terrain features. For me, this represents the ultimate problem with a photo backdrop, the challenge of matching the backdrop with existing topography already in place on the layout such as the Hall's Creek module shown below.
So I decided to have a go at painting a back scene. I am certainly no Michelangelo or Albert Namatjira but there is plenty of advice around. There is a great article in Issue 6 of the Australian Journal of Railway Modelling together with numerous items and video on the internet.
One consistent theme in most of these is the need to work from back to front or the distant to the foreground. Another is the need to dab with a bristle brush rather than paint when seeking to create distant vegetation. All part of the learning experience.
As the painting moved to the foreground, there was the challenge of how to transition horizontal elements onto a vertical face which can be viewed from several angles without loss of perspective. For this module, the creek is that major element.
I sought to achieve this by representing a bend in the creek which then disappeared behind folds in the terrain. I painted a small portion of water on the backdrop which then appeared to disappear behind other hills.
The other thing that I have actively sought to do is to place trees on the terrain which has the effect of breaking up the backdrop particularly at corners.
The overall view of the module with the completed backdrop is shown below. This is another case where the camera presents a different view from what appears to the Mark 1 eyeball, particularly matching the colour of the terrain with that of the backdrop. The colours seems to be a better match than they appear in the photo below.
I'm reasonably happy with this as a first effort, but I suspect that I have done the easiest one first. The next one, Kingston Plains will probably be more challenging particularly with roads and probably buildings to be included on the backdrop. Work has just started with clouds added and a number of potential scenes identified. More to follow in another post.