Nice one! There are parts I really love in this image, others though can benefit from additional work. Let's start with the positive things.
Impeccable sky!! One can almost say it's a photo, as we first saw your technique applied in Cloud Cover image. Sun lensflare, leaf transparency, sky gradient, hill shape, amount of haze in the distance - all of this works as it should. Really natural rigged "play of the Lions"! Must've taken its fair share of time. That is the part which can hardly be improved.
However, there's a number of things I can classify as "incomplete" and not entirely thought through. The most obvious thing is the grass. Even if we leave the terrain spike noise alone for its non-curved appearance (foreground compensates a bit), the material used is too uniform in color everywhere. The rocks bring some faint level of randomness but their "story" is also incomplete due to the high contrast against the grass. More to the light brown will balance those out. The trees were rotated and scaled, but the branch distribution stays the same everywhere giving away that this is a copy of 1 tree. You did afford to put a tree trunk close to the camera, but the procedural (and again uniform) pattern just begs for postwork and the followed imperfection (or UV mapping). This could have been done only for the nearest of trunks. Others should only match its final color.
Lighting... As of the last several months you show a remarkable skill of arranging the lights in a given scene bringing it to "life" the most natural way, interiors and exteriors alike. But, alongside the lighting, did you considered the camera itself and the possible exposure and contrast influences over the final image? With the sun positioned this way, shining in the camera lens, you can get either beautiful sun with the clouds and darker and more contrast ground elements or an overexposed bright sky with only few noticable clouds and bright ground as it is now. Again, that's not a quibble of some sort, just something I try to remember myself and eventually correct a final render in such a way when realism is of the essence.
p.s.: And you're right, feedback is somewhat hard to get lately, buddy. Feedback is needed. Later!
Join Date: 03.21.2009 Comments: 183
Really cool subject matter. I would have changed the "trunk" sizing a bit. The trees look like a bit fat towards the bottom. Also, I find that if I use the same tree in a scene, I rotate each tree to give them the appearance of being "different" trees.
Join Date: 06.04.2006 Comments: 2622
Wow, much thanks Richter and Rebel.
Darned trees! Correct you both are and I should have known much better. I fully intended to specify them, make them individual after copying them into their locations, literally forgot to go back and fix that before the final render. Naturally, the trees are rotated, but there are only so many ways a tree can be rotated before the rotations all look the same, individual unique tree models is the only way to go. Also, the far hills could use at least a couple of trees.
Naturally, I ran into memory limitations. Grass is very expensive in terms of polys, so I played it safe with other things, such as greater vegetation variation, as a flower or two would not have gone amiss. The grass color seems right to me, as I view most Savannah images the grass is very dry looking of a very similar tone of tan from blade to blade, there is no real reason for much hue variation as all blades experience similar stimuli. Technically, the grass is all wrong for a much greater reason, because these tall grasses should be attached to stalks, and the top of the stalks should have seeds, or heads. Very different than the trick I used here where all blades rise up from the soil. Due to the foliage transparency of the leaves and the grass, this image took 3 days to render at high priority, IBl was only quality 64, very low for my usual tastes. Otherwise I would re-render the scene and fix all issues. Funny how complex a seemingly simple scenario can be. The issue comes from the clouds. One of the bad things but necessary issues with highly detailed cloud planes is that though the clouds themselves render very quickly, the ground beneath them renders very slowly, because light (sunlight and IBL) pass through the clouds effects before striking the ground and other models, adding a great deal of calculation work for each ray of light. Without the clouds or foliage transparency this scene could be rendered in just a few hours.
I have not yet decided how I feel about the camera lens effects, a very important consideration as Richter points out. I am becoming convinced that at this time it is difficult enough just to produce believable bright sunlight and properly balanced skylight. In fact, I would say that I never think in terms of the camera's eye, as cameras vary so greatly, I am always working for the feeling of a real human eye, which does not behave as a camera lens. In real life the eye compensates for brightness, the iris opens in dimmer lit situations which cause items lit with direct sunlight to appear very bright by comparison. The real human eye picks up many more colors than most cameras, especially in darker regions. In brighter regions, the real eye can still see colors, but a camera would read full white, no colors or features visible.I want to give the feeling of really standing there, not so much of a picture. So I have tried to alter the light intensities so that the brights are not fully burned out and the shadows are not fully black. It is a cheat, but I think it leads to a more hdr feel instead of the ldr feel. The "jury" is not decided on that, so feedback such as this is very useful. This shot does not offer much in the way of direct, the entire scene is backlit. I think that from other viewing angles the brightness of the sunlight would be more apparent.
Great feedback. Very much appreciated!!
Join Date: 05.26.2004 Comments: 4581
I won't comment on the sky, it's imbecable. For the trees, if you copy them, give each one another Randomness value in the Tree Lab and rotate, as you did. This is cheap and may deceive richter ;) Grass is a problem for Bryce due to memory limitation and I must say, you did a great job considering this. Though you might have the colour uniformness from a photograph of a real savanah, I agree with richter that a bit of darker patches wouldn't have been amiss.
My main quibbles are with the light. A first glance, everything looks perfect but after beholding this a bit closer, we see that it is not photorealistic, neither would the eye perceive it so evenly lit. Consider that this is nearly a backlit scene. Maybe our brain would keep this in memory the way it is here, but the eye would not see it like that as a whole (upper half alone, yes; lower part alone, yes). The parts in the shadow would be much darker because we are partly blinded by the sun. This could be a multiple exposure assembled to an HDRI and tone-mapped. No camera will be able to show the light as it is here.
Of course, this is a piece of art and as artist, you're free to create a picture that looks as you "remember it was when you took the shot". Richter made a very important remark: camera angle. This is an integral part of a picture. Savanah - I'd gone for a wider angle. I just don't believe anybody was so near to the (excellently posed) cats to take this shot. You could have gone for a tele-lens impression and using DOF in the foreground.
Nevertheless, an excellent picture, Rashad. Better as I ever could do. Even though there are many things that could be changed for the better, I thinks you do deserve a 5/5 for this from me.
Join Date: 06.04.2006 Comments: 2622
Thanks Horo. Yes, Horo, you and Richter are correct. I have been looking today at pictures taken by a friend who is living in Africa for the next year. She just arrived a few weeks ago and recently loaded the images onto facebook.
Join Date: 10.21.2008 Comments: 113
Really love this one Rashad, especially the way you have one of the lions lying on it's back.