Now we can turn our attention to the landscape itself. The look I have in mind is photorealistic but with a sort of hyper-real edge. We’ll be attentive to realism and detail during scene construction and rendering, and add the “edge” during post-processing – more saturated colors, higher contrast. It is an illustration, after all, and I want readers to be aware of that.
When we last left our landscape, it was a basic Terragen heightfield with a leveled area for the observatory.
Additional color nodes give the landscape a bedrock surface, and displacments are added to increase detail on ridgelines and on the surface of the lava flow in the center of the frame.
Now a light dusting of sand and soil, something appropriate for the extreme altitude and cool, dry environment . . .
. . . and then a layer of scrub, grass, and small rocks.
The date I’ve selected for the rendering is May 1, mid-spring, so we need to provide a snowcap for the volcano.
This area of Mexico is home to several species of trees, including the Mexican White Pine. A search of my plant library and online, unfortunately, yields no commercial 3D models of this nor any other native species. A generic North American white pine will have to do. (The trees will be placed in the mid- to far distance, so that should be fine.)
Tree densities are controlled with a grayscale mask painted in Photoshop. White represents areas of maximum density, and black represents no trees at all. Areas of gray represent all the possibilities in between. So, for example, 50 percent gray means half the maximum density. Most things in Terragen can be controlled with masks; the technique gives you a surprising amount of control. (The size and shape of the level observatory area is also defined with a mask.) Here is the tree mask . . .
. . . and here is the landscape with the tree populations in place.
And, finally, a layer of altocumulus clouds completes the landscape for now. I’m not sure whether I will keep these – I suspect that they will interfere with the text that will be placed on the illustration, but we’ll see. It will be easy enough to change later.
Time to turn our attention to the observatory itself.