Pedro Fernandes explains the process behind his eye-catching image
It all starts with a low quality raw render, simple and without overdone textures or 3D elements. It’s important to develop a sense of light and shadow; this is the starting point for the rest of the drawing. I say drawing as it’s still an initial art concept with all its flexibility.
These are our base elements that are used for facilitating selections, for enhancing light and atmospheric lighting conditions. Once again these aren’t set in stone and depend on the creative use we give to them, for instance in this case we used a Raw Shadow pass to control the bluish tones of the shadows, having set this to Screen mode with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer attached to it.
From the very first initial sketches and mockups, the distinction between foreground, midground and background was always an important element, not only because of the one-point perspective, but also to give as much of a storyline and the maximum visual interest as possible.
We adjust the white and black points to match the plate or depth values. For instance, the further back in space an element is, the less contrast and saturation it has, due to the haze and atmosphere in the scene. This of course can vary in accordance with climate, time of day and geography – that’s why having a solid photo reference base is essential.
Generally once we have the value set we then adjust saturation values (generally creating less saturation with a Desaturate adjustment layer) and then colour-correct. As a very final touch we add a dodge layer, which we paint black and then brush in with little bits of light to emphasise.
The foreground has quite heavily contrasted trees, which project dark shadows with a mix of light. This helps to frame the main building’s form and gradually provide steps to lead our eye to it. Behind the main building, in regards to the vegetation, we elevated the black value with a Curves adjustment and then added more colour in the blue channel to match the tint that the sky would project onto the vegetation.
We can also use this phase to add extra lighting effects, be it dust or particles in the air, painted with a brush that has scattering activated or simply painting the lens flare effect on bright spots with a Soft brush. This can also be applied to water effect glare.
As with any film footage we usually add our final grading at the end. Grading is one of our preferred phases, as it very quickly enables us to give a totally different feeling to an image within a matter of seconds. We usually use a Hue/Saturation layer set to Colorize and with the blend mode set to Soft Light. This will enable a very quick grade, which we can then fine-tune through Color Balance and Curves adjustments.