Saguaro Cactus Scene UPDATED 2012-11-10
Added Composte Nodes and made a couple of minor adjustments. I think the improvements are fairly significant.
Key elements of the scene:
The sand and colorations are improved variants from two of my previous scenes (Sand Landscape and Beach Scene). I assigned the faces for the mountains to a separate material to give them a more purple and red-ish tint based on various reference images of desert mountains in the distance.
The main Saguaro Cactus at the left front is modeled and UV unrapped. All of the other Saguaros in the scene are based on several variations of the model grouped to the right side of the ground plane and distributed by a particle system.
Other cacti in the scene are billboards except the one with the yellow flowers--that's a detailed model that turned out well.
For some reason, I had a lot of difficulty getting the rocks to rest on the ground. About half would end up floating in the air. I finally solved the problem but I don’t know how. Some combination of adjustments finally worked. Also the particle system seems to distribute models in crazy positions and it takes a while to understand which rotation options will get them into proper orientation. Sometimes the Rotation panel in the Paticle System will correct the orientation, sometimes the Global and/or Rotation in the Particle group option will correct it, and sometimes it takes a combination. Strange.
The grass is procedural and distributed by a particle system.
The agave plants are billboards as are the birds. The small blooming cactus is a detailed model with spines and flowers. The large saguaro cactus is not as detailed because the spines were much more difficult to place due to the specific pattern and they didn't show up well in the render to be worth the effort.
There are a number of different lights. The main sun provides the sharply defined shadows for the foreground.
Three large spot lights with volumetric halo settings provide the haze for the mountains in the background. The lights overlap and are positioned just above the ground with low energy settings. The middle light has a lower setting than the two on either side to reduce the doubling effect in the overlap area. Yes, I could have simulated haze in the compositor, but I wanted to experiment with other ways.
Another spot on the right side set to shadows only helps bring out the contours of the distant mountains.
There is a low energy blue sun to give the shadows a bluish tint.
There is a hemi lamp to illuminate the grass and other objects where the shadows were to intense.
There is a small AO factor of .1 to provide some ambient reflections but keep the shadows sharp as they would be in the desert.
While this may seem like a simple scene, for me it was a difficult one to get right. My job takes up most of my time, so it took a long time to finish it. I’m fairly satisfied with the results. I had a lot of ideas to make the scene more interesting, but it was growing too large.
I have a five year old computer with duel processors, a 64 bit OS, and a lot of RAM. This scene takes 3.5 minutes to render on my computer. It will take considerably longer on older/slower computers, but I think there is a lot of value in the models and techniques I used without having to render it.
As always with my models/scenes I give all away freely with no attachments. Use the models and textures however you like. No credits to me are necessary—this is just one of my many hobbies and my enjoyment comes from improving with each new scene.
I’d like more control over the shape of the spot light cone. I’d like to pinch it in the X, Y, or Z axis to illuminate specific areas.
I’d like a more robust mist function that would give me precision control over height, width, density, color, and placement of the mist.
I’d like more control over the shape and of procedural textures.