Desolation: Drought in Australia

I’m taking a break from my Antonov project to try something different, that will hopefully take less time to finish! I’ve decided to create a drought themed Australian outback landscape scene, which will mostly involve texturing, rather than lots of mesh detail.

The idea is a lonely stone cottage, long abandoned in the middle of nowhere on a hot, dry, endless Australian summer day. The focus of the scene is really the landscape, so I’m planning to put the camera fair way back from it to show how flat the landscape is.

The cottage is based on a real one, the Assayers residence in Artlunga, Northern Territory, which was formerly a mining town, now abandoned.

At this stage, I’ve got the cottage done. The sky is finished and there won’t be any clouds at all, which is business as usual during summer or a drought.

The main things that I think still need to be done are:

    1. The cottage stone seems too dark to me, I need to work on lightening it up
    1. The horizon needs some low, distant hills
    1. Put in a prop, maybe some sort of wooden cart near the cottage, quietly bleaching in the sun
    1. More small stones, 500 isn’t enough!
    1. Perhaps scatter a few isolated treesI’m open to crits. The objective here is realism.


Nice one.


  • composition… almost… maybe rotate the camera left a little? You could try applying therule of thirds
  • the sunlight should be harsher. Desert light is very vivid.
  • the sand texture is too large and I’m not sure it’s quite the right tone.
  • the grass should definitely clump, (…maybe try for some spinifex?)
  • the uv mapping on the stone building isn’t quite right, especially on the non-vertical faces. Also, the repeats are visible in the texture.

Overall a very good start.

Yes, put in a (small) clump of trees or two. Have one near the house, too.

Ah yes ‘The Big Dry’ there was a report about Australians woes on UK TV last night. As for your blend, it’s a good start, do you have any AO? One possible suggestion would be to make/get a good desert texture with some bump mapping for the ground. Agree with freen, clumps of grass would look good.

Dead trees.

The abandoned house won’t be sitting in the middle of unvarigated landscape. While it was occupied, there was an effect on the land immediately surrounding the house the scars and marks of which would still be visible.

In the first two treeless landscapes, the occupants planted trees or a lawn surrounding the house. In the third, forested landscape, there are no trees near the house.

You can see marks from paths and roadways near the houses, and the remains of fences, outbuildings, wells, etc. would mark off the near house landscape from the rest. Even if the occupants did nothing more than maintain a small flock of chickens and a watchdog, their droppings would have added fertilizer to the soil near the house, which could change the vegetation that grew there.

Wow that is a great image that has been rendered. A photographers envy.

Good idea,blendhead.
My crits would be:
The bricks appear to have very square corners, I’d round them off a bit, to give them the appearance of weathering. I’d use more goldy, blond colours for the house materials, than darker tones. In the pic. below, it looks like a mix of bluestone and sandstone. this the joint you’re talking about? Luxury. :slight_smile:

freen - thanks for the link, that’s handy. I’ll dial the sunlight up a bit and see how that looks. I read somewhere that weight painting can be used to clump particles, I’ll see what I can do. The ground looks a bit like sand at the moment, but I want to go for a more rocky, dirt look, so it’ll change.

orinocco & J09 - that dead tree shot sold me on the idea. I’ll put a dead tree or two near the house, and maybe a couple of live ones, struggling, off in the distance.

skip - yeah, we’ve finally gotten some rain here in Adelaide, it’s been a few years since my car wasn’t covered in dust! We really need lots more in the rural areas though. I have got a little AO, I’ll turn it up a little bit more.

fatfinger - well done, you found my reference photo! That’s the look I’m going for with the walls. The current texture that’s on the wall came from a photo which I’ve been working on tinting, but it’s still too dark. I’ll try beveling the vertical corers to round them off a bit.

I remember driving through South Australia, not many trees in the desert there! some salt bush perhaps. Sand piling up against the side of the house. Definately less bricks remaining in the house, some salvaged, some fallen out, the iron from the roof laying around half buried. A desicated wooden cross marking the final resting place of the farmers dog, just before the he left (the framer that is).

The door step would have been worn down a bit with use and the chimney a bit blackened, don’t know what the would have burned though (no trees to choose from).

There are often some timbers remaining in the roof area after the roof itself has gone, maybe just a fallen beam? And definately clumpy grasses, and other weeds too.

I hadn’t noticed how dark the image was till I increased the sunlight intensity. I’ve got a decent looking dirt texture now, though it still needs some roughness courtesy of lots of small stones.

David Mcsween, you’re right, there will need to be more stuff lying around the house to show someone lived there, though I will be keeping the walls mostly intact. I’ve removed a couple of stones to make it look a bit run down, might remove a few more later. I beveled the corners of the walls so they don’t look so tidy, and I’ve had a go at hiding the repetitiveness of the wall texture, it’s almost right now and I think I’ve nearly got the colour where I want it.


Good work, its quite good. Only thing is, i dont think the grass looks too real…you might wanna do something about that.

your progress looks good.
You could try to break up the building a little more…the long shot is fine but up close the clean edges detract from the illusion.

As a fellow South Aussie, I really get where you are coming from. The best way to help your grass would be to add gradient textures to the alpha values. ie. Grass fades out to be transparent at the tips. You could probably vertext paint the ground plane to try and clump up the grass a bit, round the edges of the building, random patches etc. Variations in length would be neat, but other than manually cutting it, I haven’t figured out how to do that well with the new particle system.

Suggestions for stuff to put near the house - ![file:///C:/DOCUME%7E1/Family/LOCALS%7E1/Temp/moz-screenshot.jpg](file:///C:/DOCUME%7E1/Family/LOCALS%7E1/Temp/moz-screenshot.jpg) broken down cart, or just the wheel maybe, outhouse, metal windmill, animal drinking trough connected to a pump, large rusted out water tank, old wheelbarrow, dog kennel, that sort of thing. A decaying wooden beam along the top with a sheet of rusted up corrugated iron hanging off might look fitting, depends on how ‘old’ this house is I guess.

Also, the tracks in the dust is a good idea - a half worn out path leading to the door or something at least.

BenDansie, thanks for the info. I spent a few hours messing around with the particle settings and I think I’ve found a setup that looks pretty good, though it needs some tweaking. Surprisingly, there’s actually a lot less grass in this shot than the original ones, just 3,000 particles, versus 40,000 from the previous shot. I played with the particle Children settings to create the clumps and messed around with the strands setting for the material which allows the grass to start off thick and narrow a bit towards the tip.

I added a tree - this is just a placeholder since I downloaded the model from Blender Greenhouse and removed the leaves. I’ll shortly create my own tree using ngPlant I just need to


Grass is much better now, but the camera change knocks a lot of the contrast right out of the image. Might want to try moving the sun (camera angle itself is nice) to an angle that gives more shadow on the house from the viewers perspective.

Horizon looks very ‘flat’, as much of it is for sure, but perhaps some hints of red dirt mountains in the background. Just something subtle to break up the orange/blue definite line.

The camera is only there for a quick close up of the tree. It’ll go back close to one of the positions I used previously, but I’ll probably set the house off to the right a bit, since I want the landscape to have more of the focus.

I’m planning on putting some low, very distant hills in, (though I still have to figure out how to do that convincingly) and they’re probably going to be that blue/green colour of distant scrub, though maybe red will provide more of a contrast, have to try it and see. The tree(s) near the house will be dead, but there will be the occasional live native dotted around.

It’s all in a flux, but I think I know where I’m going :eyebrowlift:

OK, a spindlier version of the elm tree with fewer small branches since it’s dead and some have broken off! It also might be a bit tall, but I’ll worry about scale when I’ve got the scene closer to completion.


I didn’t realise elms survived in the desert… Also trees are a bit stiffer than that. The sun really dries things out in the desert (personal experience on that one) and everything goes hard a sticklike after a while.

Krayon, I’ve tweaked the tree a bit, made it a bit “stiffer” and more stick-like. Is that what you meant?

This is a scrubland scene, not desert, as I it want it to appear as if it’s a failed farming attempt. It’ll hopefully become more apparent once I get the background hills in and a few live native trees into the scene. Elms can survive in drier scrubland areas of Australia if they are looked after by people, and historically, Elms have been quite popular ornamental trees here since settlers brought things that were familiar with them, even if they didn’t really belong. And we’re lucky to be free of Dutch Elm disease too.


A windmill, not in it’s final position.