While lurking on a model railroad site, I became aware of a program called Helicon which solves many of the problems in model photography. As many of you know, depth of field (keeping both the foreground and background in focus) has long been the major problem in closeup photography of model subjects. The classic "best solution" has been to close the aperture to the smallest possible (the largest numerical "f stop") on your camera, thus requiring lots of lighting and long exposure times. The old rule is to then focus about 1/3 of the depth into the subject for the best possible compromise. A computer program called Helicon Focus goes a long way to solving these problems by allowing one to take a series of digital photos starting with the focal point at the foreground and progressing to the background, then combining them into one photo all of which is in focus. The advantages are great. Since you don't have to "stop down" the aperture, you can leave it at, say f 8, allowing normal lighting and exposure times. You have to use a tripod and be sure to move neither camera nor model between the photos, changing only the focal point from the bow to the stern in steps of several inches. Depending on the length of the ship, 4 to 8 photos works well for me.
The example presented is a 1/700 Fujimi USS Lexington. I shot these demonstration photos at f 8 to deliberately emphasise the depth of field problem so that the results would be more dramatic. In my regular photography I shoot at f 18. 
The photos presented begin with the classic "focus 1/3 into the scene "rule. In this case I focused on the figures on the bridge. Obviously both bow and stern are out of focus.  The next six photos show the focus 
1- on the boat in the water near the bow, 
2-on the bow rail, 
3-on the figures near the boat on deck, 
4-on the figures on the bridge, 
5-on the planes near the stack, and 
6-on the stern ensign staff. 
The final photo is the Helicon composit of all six. If you look at it closely, you can find small areas which are still out of focus. If I had used 12 separately focused photos at smaller depth intervals, these would be much less. For more examples, all of the models in my section of the gallery were photographed using Helicon.

I am very much an amateur photographer, just getting used to my Canon Digital Rebel XTI. These photos were taken with the camera set for "aperture priority" (you set the aperture (f stop) and the camera sets everything else), ISO 100, Manual Focus (this is critical, your camera must allow manual focus so that you can select each focal point as you move from the bow to the stern with each successive photo), f 8 (if you want to use a smaller aperture (larger number f stop) and brighter lights you will need fewer photos, as each will have more depth of field in it), tungsten lighting balance, and the timer set for delay so that any tripod motion induced by pressing the exposure button will be gone by the time the photo is taken. The lighting used is two ordinary tungsten light bulbs 150watt in cheap aluminum reflectors from Wallys. I know there are much more sophisticated photographers than me on this board. Please comment, criticize, and teach me what you know! 

Thanks, John Leyland

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