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The Lost Island

Posted by sberry on 24 May 2021, 16:59

INSULA DESERTA - The Lost Island

We are in the year 100 A.D.
A Roman naval mission, starting from the province of Lusitania, ventures into the Northern Atlantic Ocean.
The expedition force discovers an unknown island which is inhabited by miraculous creatures surpassing even anything reported in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder…

But before the main show begins, let me introduce two particular creatures first. Usually, I don’t give names to the figures in my dioramas; but in this case, I had to make an exception. This guy here is Dundee:

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… And here we have his pal called Plissken:

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I can exactly date the beginning of this project: Our forum member Mixus Minimax started to present his dinosaurs in September 2014, and on March 24, 2015 I wrote:

sberry wrote:There is quite a number of nice dino models available – but dinosaurs in 1/72, that’s quite another thing. Inspired by your fascinating work here, I have ordered some of these creatures just yesterday.

And voila, merely six years later the diorama is finished. (In geological terms, this is less than the blink of an eye!)
In the following days I will present a number pictures, together with some information on the models etc.

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All right, let’s start our little lecture on palaeobiology. But it’s OK if you skip the text and look only at the pictures!

I. The Island
The basic idea is that the Romans discover an island where plants and animals have survived the end of the Cretaceous period (145 – 66 million years ago). Such a survival is impossible, and yet I had the ambition to present this impossible scenario in a “convincing” way (whatever that means).
The Cretaceous is the youngest period of the Mesozoic era (251 – 66 million years ago), and the main challenge of this project was to recreate a more or less plausible Mesozoic landscape. I wanted vegetation that looks sufficiently “primordial”, but not exactly like a modern jungle.
Our “jungles” are tropical rainforests which are no good templates at all for understanding Mesozoic vegetation. Temperate rainforests, growing for instance on the North American Pacific coast or on New Zealand, are somewhat more similar, but there still are differences. One of them is that, in contrast to modern rainforests, Mesozoic forest structure was more open than today and there was no closed canopy.

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The background photos that I used are Mogollon Rim Panorama (36683571563) © Coconino National Forest / Public Domain and Panorama of Blodgett Basin, West Clear Creek Wilderness area (5988201412) © Brady Smith; Coconino National Forest / CC BY-SA 2.0.
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sberry  Germany
 
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Posted by Kostis Ornerakis on 24 May 2021, 17:22

Amazing stuff!! :love: :love: :yeah: :-D
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Kostis Ornerakis  Greece
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Posted by Peter on 24 May 2021, 18:06

Fantastic diorama and great story of course! :-D :thumbup:
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Peter  Belgium

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Posted by Egbert on 24 May 2021, 18:16

What a wonderful full projekt Stephan.
A very unusual and exciting idea and very nice what you show us here.
Another jewel of your models.
I particularly like the perspective of your photos.
You feel as if you have been transported into the story and as an observer of the roman expedition.
Model making at its finest!
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Posted by Wiking on 24 May 2021, 18:54

Great that you do your idea after so many years. :yeah:
That is a a bit of, live your dreams.

Top Dio.
The fauna, flora looks nice.
I own a book "The world we live in" (Die welt in der wir leben) from 1952.
The pages with the dinosaur and the landscape in there they are similar to your Dio.

In your 4rth pic I first see a rabbit. By the second visit I realise that it is a ... little bit bigger animal.
Will be a shock for the troops as for the horse and donkey.
If the defense option "turtle" will help in this case?

Hmm, it look like that Dundee is watching me. :shock:
Please tell me that you have feed him up, today sberry ?
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Wiking  Germany
 
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Posted by sberry on 25 May 2021, 15:16

Thank you for your kind remarks!

Egbert wrote:I particularly like the perspective of your photos.
You feel as if you have been transported into the story and as an observer of the roman expedition.

Due to those many plants of different height in the scene, photography of this diorama was quite challenging: I had problems with light/shadows. I had problems with the white balance of the camera, because of so much green color in the scene. And of course there are many photo angles where a clear view of the figures was obstructed by the plants.
On the other hand, by taking pictures through the vegetation, one gets this nice effect of really “being there”, which is I think exactly what you mean.

Wiking wrote:Hmm, it look like that Dundee is watching me. :shock:

I think you can call yourself lucky as long as it is only Dundee who is watching you – he is definitely not the creature with the biggest appetite in this jungle (and I am not talking about rabbits here)!

So here comes lecture #2, with some more photos:

II. The Romans
The Roman soldiers in the diorama represent “classiarii”, which means soldiers of the fleet or, in other words, Roman marines. Most of the figures have typical legionary gear (rectangular scutum, lorica segmentata, gladius & pilum), which may be inaccurate – perhaps equipment more tpyical of Roman auxilia would be better. But on the other hand, it is known that legionary soldiers could be used as classiarii.
The figures are a mix from different manufacturers: Art Miniaturen, Caesar Miniatures, HäT, Italeri, Strelets, and Zvezda.

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Posted by Peter on 25 May 2021, 15:27

You made a wonderfull landscape Stephan. I also like those Roman "marines", and it's good that you used some other color as red for them. Can't wait to see some more pictures of this great diorama. And some with a global overview of the diorama. After the story is complete of course!. ;-) :thumbup:
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Posted by Santi Pérez on 25 May 2021, 19:01

Ugh, sberry, this is a really BIG diorama. Apart from its originality, there are a lot of elements and details here and there. We will need many more images to be able to get a complete idea of the whole scene. :drool: :drool: :drool:

Great work, my friend. :thumbup:

Santi.
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Posted by C M Dodson on 25 May 2021, 19:13

Really different and wonderfully executed work.

The groundwork and vegetation are superb and add to the overall composition.

The photography is excellent generating a real atmosphere to the setting.

Wonderful.

Best wishes,

Chris
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Posted by Bill Slavin on 26 May 2021, 13:16

A truly imaginative diorama. You have done so much work on the terrain - it is beautifully executed. And such brave Romans - I think the dino with the floppy hands would have sent me scurrying back to the ship!
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Posted by sberry on 27 May 2021, 16:32

Peter wrote:I also like those Roman "marines", and it's good that you used some other color as red for them.

Arrrgh! I have totally forgotten to mention this point: The color of Roman military tunics is highly contentious, giving rise to what some scholars have called the “Tunic Wars”. But the one aspect that seems to be clear about this whole topic is that classiarii wore blue. So I did not have much of a choice here.

OK, let's continue:

III. The Animals
In the early Mesozoic, all continents were united in a single, gigantic landmass called Pangaea, which then gradually broke apart, giving rise to the distribution of continents of our own time. During the Cretaceous, the North Atlantic opened up, and my scenario is based on an island that once had much closer ties to the surrounding continents.
So I needed dinosaur models that are in 1/72nd scale, belong to the Cretaceous period – preferably the Late/Upper Cretaceous epoch – and represent species from the northern hemisphere. In addition, I wanted the ordering process as hassle-free as possible, meaning I wanted to buy all dinos for the diorama with a single order from one shop. (I had no idea if I would ever really use them, so I did not want to embark a lengthy process of collecting).
These combined criteria yielded the following three species, all resin models that were available at “Urzeitshop.de” back in 2015:

- Afrovenator by David Krentz
- Styracosaurus albertensis (the one with the horns) by David Krentz
- Therizinosaurus cheloniformis (the one with those really impressive claws) by Mixus Minimax

And we also have a snake and a crocodile, two indispensable creatures for any decent “jungle” scenario. The snake is from an unknown manufacturer, but the crocodile is an old friend: It is from Airfix’ historic Tarzan set, re-released by HäT.
Interestingly, serpents are quite a young group of animals, much younger than dinosaurs (or mammals): They arose during the Cretaceous, just in time for inclusion in this diorama.
Crocodiles, on the other hand, occurred like dinosaurs already during the Triassic, in the early Mesozoic. Together with other, extinct reptile groups such as pterosaurs, both crocodiles and dinosaurs belong to a large group of related clades collectively called archosaurs or “ruling reptiles”. Since birds are descended from dinosaurs (depending on the taxonomic system you prefer, you may also say they actually are dinosaurs), crocodiles are the closest living relatives of birds. I never ate crocodile meat, but when people tell me it tastes a bit like chicken, I find this utterly plausible. Yeah, it’s the genuine archosaur flavor!

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Posted by Iceman1964 on 27 May 2021, 17:32

Unbelievable :o :o :o
Marvellous details in such an huge diorama, and the background you reported in the text show how deep you went in designing the project.
Will next arrive a bloody battle between roman testudo and dynosaurs ? :-D :-D

Best, best, best compliments
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Posted by Konrad on 27 May 2021, 18:07

Now I read so much about Romans and their history and I didn't know
that the Romans met dinosaurs.
I can still learn something from you. ;-)
What a work.
Stunning.
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Posted by Kostis Ornerakis on 27 May 2021, 21:11

Wow! After the new series of photos, I like it even more! :yeah: :-D
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Posted by Ben90 on 27 May 2021, 22:07

Very cool project! It looks great. But could you give us some close-ups on these nice Romans? :-D
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Posted by Rich W on 27 May 2021, 22:50

The terrain is simply stunning! And some very nice photos of it all!
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Posted by Santi Pérez on 28 May 2021, 23:00

Kostis Ornerakis wrote:Wow! After the new series of photos, I like it even more! :yeah: :-D

Me too. ;-)

Santi.
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Posted by Egbert on 29 May 2021, 09:33

Santi Pérez wrote:Me too. ;-)

Santi.

Me also too :notworthy:
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Posted by sberry on 29 May 2021, 17:57

Guys, I’m really glad that you like this bizarre little project!
Yes, little, it is really not that big – about 50 x 50 cm. Here are two photos, showing the setup during the photo sessions:

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Ben90 wrote:But could you give us some close-ups on these nice Romans? :-D

To be honest, I think I am not one of those painting geniuses who can transform each single figure into a real masterpiece that deserves to be showcased in close-ups.
There is also the problem that the forum software strongly shrinks the pics, making details appear a bit small at times. Perhaps you may have a look at the gallery in the original 1200 x 800 px resolution at my homepage.


Kostis Ornerakis wrote:Wow! After the new series of photos, I like it even more!

I tried to have a certain dramaturgy in the presentation of the pics: The star of the show – the carnivorous Afrovenator – was the last to enter stage.

Today, I have some more photos, but first some more (and final) remarks on the design of the diorama:

IIII. The Plants
Most members of this forum will not be surprised when I tell you that there are quite a number of available figures in 1/72 to represent Imperial Romans. Dinosaurs in 1/72 are much rarer, but they exist, too. Thus, the biggest challenge of this project was to get the vegetation right.
The Mesozoic was the age of naked-seed plants or gymnosperms, such as conifers or ferns. Some groups have become extinct; others exist only in strongly reduced numbers: the ginkgos for instance are limited to only one species today, THE ginkgo.
Likewise, the cycads and their relatives were once abundant; today they are considered a sort of living fossil. Their German name is Palmfarne (“palm ferns”), which describes their appearance quite well, but is totally misleading – they are neither palms nor ferns. The sago “palm” is one of them. When I was a kid, my grandmother made tasty desserts with sago; I would have been even more delighted if somebody had told me that this is “food from the age of dinosaurs”!
However, about halfway through the Cretaceous, the flowering plants (angiosperms), which dominate most modern ecosystems on land, started to rise continually. Therefore, vegetation in the Late Cretaceous was a peculiar mix of older, typical Mesozoic and modern flora.
In order to get a nice Cretaceous landscape, I took whatever seemed suitable (see also the WIP where you can see the plants of this project grow, metaphorically). Palm trees by Pegasus were converted into tree ferns; I also used plastic jungle plants distributed by Fredericus Rex. And I also came across some cheap, toy-like “palm ferns”, which I bought immediately, of course.
The use of static flock to create areas covered with grass, always a convenient way to make a diorama landscape look life-like, was prohibited in this project: Landscapes dominated by grass like steppes or savannas occurred only much later, about 25 million years ago.

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Posted by Peter on 29 May 2021, 20:06

These were the pictures I was waiting for, the overview ones! Your landscape and plants look very natural! :thumbup:

I like the broccoli trees! :-D
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