This is just one of those "countless hours of lost sleep" projects. I'll give you some details as of what were the methods used in this project. First of all I scouted the net scouring some nice juicy subject to portrait in one still and I ended up with the idea of doing a lost civilisation type of image, kind-of a Stargate meets Stonehenge thing :)
Right! Next I did some conceptual sketches (unfortunately I have no scanner here so I couldn't scan them) and after that got into looking for reference pictures for my landscape. As I couldn't find something to really like I looked into Terragen, a very simple piece of software but with an amazing creation freedom.
After about 2 days I succeded in constructing my environment.
Here are some screenshots. I'll comment them loosely. First of all I created the terrain and then I modified it in the SCULPT
With the help of the Canyonize thingy the terrain gets more abrupt and rockier.
As I wasn't satisfied with the surface maps I decided to do 3 renders with different materials I can combine in post: grass, gravel and foliage.
Terragen is a freeware software for which you can find countless textures, plugins and surface-maps.
The clouds were a bit trickier to set-up. For this purpose I used the low-quality preview. The clouds take quite some time to render so that's why lo-res images are used for previewing. For the final image and hi-quality I checked 3D clouds and the render time tripled. Once I set-up the cloudscape the next step ins configuring the atmosphere.
In this case I used some predefined setting that came with Terragen as I was too excited to fiddle with the settings as I was about to get in Max and start working there. I chose the Standard_average preset.
With the atmospheric conditions set, the lighting gets intresting. I chose 25 Sun altitude as a strong light would have diminished the scene realism, seeing I wanted something a bit mistical.
The camera position it's a breeze to set-up from the Rendering Control Panel of from the Modifier/Sculpt menu where you can see it bigger.
The final render should have all the quality parameters set to their maximum values.
To my dismay Terragen un-licensed version doesn't allow image-sizes bigger then 1280(As I was using it for non-commercial work it wasn't licensed).
Here are the 3 renders composited in Photoshop.
The clouds were also rendered in a separate pass for an easier compositing.
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