Sharp Turn Ahead

I had posted in the work-in-progress, but there isn’t much of a response. This is my first attempt at a photo realistic scene and I wanted some input as to what could be improved. Something about the cliff on the right doesn’t seem right. Maybe more detail in the texture, or more detail in the topology, I’m not sure.

Any input is greatly appreciated. And feel free to tear it apart.


I changed up the colors of the cliff, dried grass, and plants. I added some additional lighting to decrease the contrast on the cliff and brighten up the warning signs. And added a material to the curb.

I’m thinking that I may do a night version that shows headlights going up the hill or coming down the hill. Either way the vehicle would be out of view, just the headlights would be visible.

Any suggestions?


The road and the metal barrier look really good, but there is something about the rocks on the right…they seem to draw my attention as unrealistic…The little shrubs are perhaps too green too. Hope i helped :slight_smile:

Great improvement!

The picture is a bit small to see the details. Any way, what jumped to my eyes: The dirt on the security fence is obviously repetitive. The concrete on the sides of the road should be made of several straight bars with cement in between. The color of the plants at the bottom of the cliff is too uniform. The soil should also reach the concrete bars from place to place, even go over them. Think “erosion”.

There is obviously a blinding sun in the top right. It is as it would appear in the picture if you move the camera just a bit… Then the shadows are wrong. They should come toward the viewer. And with that sun ready to jump into the picture, the colors lack contrast.

I also think that the scene lacks of depth. Change your focal in order not to crush the perspective. Raise also the camera. (Is the photographer a hobbit?) So we might see some reflections on top of the fence.

Is that torn apart enough? :wink:

So far, it’s quite impressive.

I think your lighting is too diffuse, so you are not getting any nice shadows on the rocks, which will give them some depth. As it is, is simply does not match the sky. It needs to be brighter, as the sun is in the top left-hand corner of your background, just out of sight. From the shadows I can see, you have your lighting in the right place, just too diffuse and not strong enough.

The rocks are a little smooth, though. Bump-mapping them will make them look rougher. If you have the budget, a high-poly displacement will give you an awesome edge for where sky meets rock.

The mountain curb needs some filth. Filth, dirt and garbage makes this scene more realistic, basically.

The curbs are constructed out of separate pieces, so either use a bump map for that or put some geometry in.

You want some gravel strewn around at both edges of the road (there are dozens of ways of doing that without working too hard, such as using particle objects on an non-rendering mesh).

Lastly, use DOF very carefully to get you some instant realism.

Otherwise, keep on going. This looks really cool. Someone is going to composit a car into this at some stage!

Very reminiscent of the tutorial from Andrew Price. http://www.blenderguru.com/videos/how-to-create-realistic-rain/

peter18, Kaluura, danilius, and dadougler,

Definitely similar to the Andrew Price tutorial. Although my intention and concept came from a need for a website and the images I used for reference are here: mountain road curve and PCH Santa Monica

Thanks for the input. Here is a list of what has been changed since the previous update. I plan on getting to the rest of the suggestions.

  • Changed the camera angle, focal length and added DOF
  • Removed part of the rail texture that made the repeating so obvious.
  • I already had some pebbles along the edges of the road, but they were too small to see, so I increased their size. I weight painted the edges of the road object and applied a particle group. I didn’t use a non rendering layer. Is that bad form?
  • Added a slight bump map to the cliff. The texture still isn’t detailed enough. I may add some more resolution to the topology, which might take care of portion where the mountain and sky meet.
  • I rendered at a higher resolution so you can see more detail, however I will be using this image on a company website and the previous resolution is what the finished product will be.
  • I’ve continued to mess with the lighting. The shadows are angled more towards the viewer.


Nice progression here.

Note in the reference image that the dust and stones at the edge of the road are a similar colour, and much lighter. You can paint the dust onto your road texture I suppose. Bad form? No. It works for you in this case, so that’s OK.

You need another area light to fill some lighting into the front of the scene (the signs are way too dark).

The rail is way too straight. Put some gentle kinks in.

Also, each sign should be slightly rotated randomly on all axes, just a few degrees.

I like the changes. Maybe a few too many particles on the edge on the road. The left of the image is very bright on the left and dark on the right.I think you can back off on DOF just alittle but it still looks good as is. It needs a focus, right now my eye is drawn to the sky in the top left. A lot of the time these types of turns are banked into the turn some.

Thanks again for all the help. I agree danilius, the rail should have some uneven lines. I will work on that. Regarding the placement and rotation of the signs, I will double check the current Caltrans standard placement and just match that.

dadougler, you took the words right out of my mouth. There were too many pebbles on the road. I had already decreased the amount in the current update. I will probably back off the DOF a bit before its completely done. And I should bank the curve a bit.

In this update:

  • Increased the resolution of the cliff mountain mesh and added some more detail.
  • Added a noise texture bump map to the cliff
  • Added a slight noise texture bump map to the road
  • Decreased the amount of pebbles on the road
  • Brightened up the sign texture


Looking good so far :yes:

There are a few things that stand out to me that you might want to change:

1.) The lighting in the sky is too focused. One part of the sky is significantly brighter than the other part. Now, of course there are variations in the brightness of the sky, and since the sun is closer to the left, it makes sense that that part of the sky would be brighter. I just don’t think it would be quite that noticeable.

2.) This is the biggest thing that stands out to me (but it’s the second on my list, for some reason :confused: Ah, well); the lighting is still way too dark. It’s daytime; the sun is still out, and you can see it in how bright the clouds are (I know that’s just an image texture, but you should do your best to match your scene to it anyway). The sunlight wouldn’t be that dim; at least, not with shadows that sharp. Don’t be afraid to crank up the brightness. I’m guessing it will probably mess up your sky background (I think I can sort of see how it’s set up based on how it’s been changing with the rest of the scene up until now), but focus on brightening the scene first, then work with the sky.

3.) There aren’t enough pebbles. Now, I know you just removed some of the pebbles, but there needs to be more size variations in the ones that are there, and maybe a few piles of them on the side. Right now it’s like there’s one pebble that’s scattered across the scene, no size location or variation in distribution.

Other than that, I would tend to agree with everyone else in that the road and the rail are too straight/uniform, and need to be a bit more bumpy/deformed.

And as far as the idea behind the image goes, I suggest you create one. You could have a part of the guard rail missing and skid marks on the road, implying that a driver missed the turn. Or maybe something else that’s not quite so morbid :stuck_out_tongue: As long as it tells a story, this image could be improved drastically.

I’ve created a really, really, simple mockup of what the new lighting setup might look like. This is about the brightness that I would expect an image at this time of day would look like. Excuse the poor photoshop job; I didn’t have much time to work on it :spin:

That’s all I have to say; I hope this helps, and good luck on your image!


I think maybe the reason why the rock to the right looks so odd is because it seems different in size compared to the rest of the scene. It looks more like a far off mountain rather than a rocky formation close to a road. You could either make the rocks bigger so they look closer or add other bigger plant elements to compensate for the weirdness in size. Try brightening it up a bit more like in SSImpossible’s example.

Other than that its looking pretty cool. The road texture looks great I really like it. Maybe add some tire marks so it looks like a road well traveled.

You are really getting this done! It will never be finished, BTW. That’s the nature of the beast.

What I meant about rotating the signs was that it is mimicking the imperfection we expect to see. After years of sitting there and enduring weather and so on, one would expect every sign - even if perfectly aligned at the time of installation - having moved slightly from its original position. One might be bent forward a little, the other rotated and so on. Giving each one a very slight random rotation gives you that effect.

SSimpossible is a bit on the bright side, but not far off the mark. You desperately need to match your lighting with the sky, or tone the sky down a little.

Totally agree with CGSiino, the rock has some issues with scale (plants bigger is a good start). Also I’d make the right concrete (dunno how to call it) “ledge” from different parts? You made a path there I suppose, so just try to apply some single blocks with a curv + array modifier - this would enhance the feeling of perspective and scale because you’d have something to compare sizes to.

For example:


Edit: also are those shadows parallel (sunlight)?
I have the feeling of a “smaller” lightsource, dunno why…

Thanks everyone. Got some new people helping today which is great. I’ve been working on it, just didn’t have as much time today. I’ve done a few things that have seemed to help.

Before I get to the updates, I should mention that I know the image is boring. The end result will be on a website of a company that manufactures signs. So the signs need to be clean, straight and easily visible. They also can’t be the reason someone didn’t turn and drive off the cliff. That would be cool, but it doesn’t work in this scenario. Maybe I’ll do that once I get this image finished. (And the final image will only be 1000 px X 300 px)

The updates:

  • I’ve increased the brightness. I’m not sure why I didn’t see it before, but it definitely needed it.
  • I increased the samples. Increasing the render samples gave greater detail to the cliff texture. At least I think it did.
  • I added more pebbles. A lot more. I increased the variation in size of each pebble (I had three different rocks) and increased the particles from 4,000 to 40,000. I think it helped somewhat. They may be too big so I will try another render that decreases the size and increase the amount between 60,000 to 80,000.
  • I have noticed that the desaturated version looks better (In my opinion). I think it has to do with the transition between the background image and the render. Upon closer inspection, the desaturated version has less contrast and cloud detail. Not sure why it looks better exactly, but that is the difference that I see.

Thanks again for all the help. As always, feel free to tear it apart. I’ll take it to my OC Blender meeting tomorrow and see what they have to say.



I can tell you why your desaturated version looks better for you: it’s because your contrast range gets nearer to that of a RL-Camera. In RL you have a range of 6 to 12 apertures depending on your camera/sensor (if you shot nonHDR). Without lighting in your above image your street should be way darker or your sky should be way brighter.

In the desaturated Image the sky feels actually really bright, in your color version it feels way to dark for a normal camera.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if you just make the foreground mountains etc darker and leave your sky as it is or make it brighter. In your color version: Could you try this? I’m just curios how different it will look (if my thinking is right).

Thanks forelle. I brightened up the sky. Bright enough? Or should I go more?


Cool tried something myself (with photoshop):



For my eye this is a more likely behaviour (if you think about photocameras)
Edit: What do you think?

You might try making the shadows darker. Right now, they’re really bright, giving the illusion of an overcast day; however, that doesn’t make much sense since the shadows are super sharp - more like they would be in direct sunlight. So it all boils down to whether you want it to be overcast or sunny. If you want it sunny, make your key light more yellow-orange and darken the shadows. If you want it overcast, soften the existing shadows (and possibly make the exposure difference between the land and the sky a bit more like what forelle is depicting in the image above).

EDIT: Upon looking at the image again, it seems you brightened the image by increasing the strength of your background. Try increasing the strength of the key light instead, and leaving the background the way it was before.

Forelle, that glow effect is too strong for my liking and the cliff is very dark.

I looked again at the hdr I was using and it was a mess. I had selected the wrong file. I’m using a much better one now and I think the results are better.

I’m not sure why I can’t get it. Probably been staring at it too long. If I’m not on the right track, its probably back to the drawing board.