Stefan Menzel - Terragen and photography
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Terragen is a freeware program that allows you to create artifical landscapes on the computer in a near photorealistic fashion. Despite being freeware, it is so powerful that countless users have created fantastic pictures with it. For me, its main strength if it comes to serious photorealistic renders is snow covered blank mountains. It is also fairly easy to get good results in this direction, because Terragen is highly specialised in realistic atmospheres. For a blank snow covered mountain with blue sky, I would actually still use Terragen instead of VUE, since the result is obtained much faster due to the specialised outfit of Terragen. For example I still bow to Terragen for the arial render with the logo below, which to this date is one of my most photorealistic renders. But this said however, snow covered mountains are actually the only thing that can be done in Terragen for serious projects, but then it is a freebie after all.
Below are a few pictures I did.
An useful feature of Terragen is that you can create animation scripts for it with other programs. My favourite here is Campath, which is easy to handle and very versatile. Using either program together is like taking a thousand photos (or better: frames) by moving the camera a little bit between each photo.
Blender is a free 3D modelling application. It mainly focusses on raw 3D models instead of entire scenes. It can be used for UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, water simulations, skinning, animating, rendering, particle and other simulations, non-linear editing, compositing, creating interactive 3D applications and so on. Blender has a robust feature set similar in scope and depth to other high-end 3D software such as Softimage|XSI, Cinema 4D, 3ds Max, Lightwave and Maya. These features include advanced simulation tools such as rigid body, fluid, cloth and softbody dynamics, modifier based modeling tools, powerful character animation tools, a node based material and compositing system and Python for embedded scripting. (from wikipedia)
Some of my creations include glass work and logo modelling. Glass is a very good material to demonstrate the light-material interaction capabilities of the program, and logos by blender, which benefit from the full 3D modelling, just look a lot better than the usual 2D logos.
I also use my real camera every now and then. The photos I like most are below.