Nice going', Charles. Didn't know you had it in you...but of course you did! Congratulations!
I think you might want to consider: 1.How many dioramas you might want to make and 2. How much time you are willing to invest in perfecting the skills that an Eric Jarvenin has attained.
I decided to photograph my collection and describe each ship. Bob Wiringa's website was my initial inspiration and Bob was helpful in getting me started.
I have about 2100 ships in my collection and I decided that "blue cloth" was not the way to go.
My approach was based on articles dealing with creating seascapes published in Fine Scale Modeler magazine over the last 10 years (if you are willing to subscribe, you can access most of their old issues online).
I wanted to have a number of bases simulating water of different sea states and colors and I wanted to be able to simulate ships in motion ranging in length from 9 inches down to 3/4s of an inch. I also considered that my project was much bigger than just taking pictures.
I went to Lowes and bought a 2 foot by 3 foot piece of plexiglass used in fluorescent fixtures for $5.00. Its trade named "cracked ice." Using a box cutter, I cut out 15"X 24" pieces (smooth side up when cutting) giving me about 6 different bases. I sketched out the hull of a large, medium, and small model using a grease pencil on the smooth side. I painted a white bow wave and secondary white waves down the sides and a trailing wake on the "cracked ice" side. I tried feathering in some medium blue into the white to get more realism but did not consider it very effective. Then using navy blue or intermediate blue, I sprayed the entire surface with one or the other. The results were satisfactory but not "Jarvenin" quality (not even close).
On a second attempt, I pressed a sheet of aluminium foil onto the "cracked ice" side which give a good impression of surface waves in our scale. To give the surface some realistic depth, I cut thin batons of foam from the sponges that are using in packaging our models for mailing. I glued them with white glue to the smooth side in lines approximating the swells you see on the ocean (rows about 1" apart). I then covered the foam with my prepared foil and taped the foil in place. I sprayed the foil with navy blue and when dry, dry brushed a bit of white onto the high points simulating spindrift and also a bow and stern white wave for my medium and smaller size models. Behind the "ocean" I place a picture of clouds which I took and had Staples put onto foam core with a glossy finish.
I am attaching a few pictures to show you the results from the camera's eye view. I hope this approach helps you get started. Bear in mind dioramas for 1:700 or 1:350 models require a lot more detail than my approach but the results you see in the magazine are not what you are likely to create early on unless you are a trained artist to begin with.