When portrait photographer Nicholas Busch first became interested in model making two years ago, he never imagined where it would lead him. Now, he spends his free time creating landscape dioramas based on his favorite films and shooting stunning tabletop photographs. The result is a collection of incredibly detailed scale model photography that recalls the most memorable scenes of classic films.
Starting with a foam base, Busch uses a wide variety of materials to build out the familiar environments we see in movies like The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, and—his personal favorite—Lord of the Rings. The photographer’s first project was The Wizard of Oz, a film that captured his imagination as a child. It was a welcome challenge for him to build out and explore Dorothy’s world, and the results only pushed him to continue.
Once Busch finishes a diorama, which can take anywhere from one to three months to complete, he’s on to the photography portion of the project. Occasionally, this means going back and forth between adjusting the set and taking photographs, depending on how it turns out on camera. “The most challenging aspect of creating dioramas is making sure the landscape will provide me with proper composition in my final image,” Busch tells My Modern Met. “Unfortunately, if I miscalculate the height of the ground and it blocks certain parts of the image, I have to start all over. Getting the dimensions right can be extremely tedious with going back and forth with my camera and sculpting tools. Everything has to line up just right for the image to work.”
After taking numerous photos of the diorama, Busch uses focus stacking to create the depth of field he’s after. Then it’s off to the studio with his models to bring a human element to the scene. By using the same lighting setup and camera equipment, the portrait photographer completes his shoot and composites the model into the final scene, which ends up looking life-size.
For Busch, the personal project has been a way to stay creative and keep his love for scale models alive. “My intent has always been bringing back the authentic feel of a real set piece. There are truly gifted CGI and digital artist in the world; however, the art of scale model photography is something I wish I was able to see more of. I hope my art can open up the door to others to explore what is possible with scale model photography.”