Old West Environment - WIP

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Old 10 October 2012   #16
One of the things that trips up a lot of otherwise good environments is when the flora doesn't properly match the environment. These leafy trees seem too big, green and healthy, which looks odd in the setting of a dry old western town. Sure, sometimes those towns were built in the foothills with more water and trees, but yours looks pretty flat and desolate, like Arizona or California desert. Sure, there could be an unseen stream running behind your buildings causing a whole bunch of old oaks to grow, but it looks strange and out of place, and more importantly, you don't get to explain that feature to every viewer who sees your image. It will just look odd.

Also look at the type of tree. Your looks like some kind of generic oak, but the pics that show up in a Google image search (for "old western towns") look scrawny and scraggly, with thinner trunks and even thinner branches.

You should also look at your trees as a way to help sell the authenticity of your image. Adding a wimpy tree with a little shady spot with someone resting under it would help tell the viewer that's it's hot (like this person standing under this tree is obviously doing).


Old 10 October 2012   #17
thanks for the thoughts.

I was looking for the larger type of trees in order to use them to help frame the image. I have done some research and decided on the Arizona Black Walnut. Those trees tend to have a lot more leaves and tend to look a lot more like a "typical" tree.

I see your point however. I may look into twitching those out - at least the one in the back. That tree took forever to work on so am not looking forward to starting another from scratch. HA!

Maybe I will switch out to a Pinyon Pine, Whitethorn Acacia, or Ironwood.

Any further thoughts?

Last edited by JasperCG : 10 October 2012 at 06:22 PM.
Old 10 October 2012   #18
your trees need to be smoother. too edgy now.
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Old 10 October 2012   #19
Hey man,

I really love the piece so far! Absolutely fantastic work.

As far as the trees go, your spot on about altitude playing a role in the thickness of the vegetation. I lived in Arizona for a number of years, so I might be able to help out a bit. Look up images of the Sonoran desert There are not many tress in this area, but there are the massive Saguaro cactuses that are native only to the Sonoran. You also get all kinds of neat plants like the Ocatillo and the Prickly Pear cactus.


Arizona was full of small copper mining towns that were built in the hills and mountains. There are lots of big pine tress up there. Look up Mount Lemmon or the Santa Catalina Mountains for reference.

Also google Old Tucson for some old west town reference.

Hope this helps, and keep us posted on your progress!

Old 10 October 2012   #20
AJ - thanks. I lived in Phoenix for a summer and had grandparents in Tuscon. I loved to visit Old Tucson.

I think I am going to work on a mesquite and then some cacti. My research in the last couple of days often have those 2 growing together - with the Mesquite sheltering the cactus as it is young.


I may try to still use a leafless Mesquite to frame the shot on the left side. I really like the idea of those branches coming in from the left. I may try switching out the tree over the fence with a large cactus.
Old 10 October 2012   #21
Cool man! Glad your going for the Sonoran look.

Definitely should throw in a giant saguaro with lots of arms. Undoubtedly the most iconic symbol of southern Arizona.

Also, don't forget about Tombstone! Theres lots of great black and white photos on google.

Good luck and keep us posted!

Old 10 October 2012   #22
Updated Scene
  • Added texture to some buildings
  • Swapped out tree with Mesquite tree
  • Added Cactus

I came across some reference that Mesquites often have a bunch of cacti that has grown in the protection of the branches... this is what I used for the far tree.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg OldWest_Texture_post_03.jpg (95.5 KB, 61 views)
Old 10 October 2012   #23
I like the framing of the smaller, scraggly mesquite branches. Looks better (and more appropriate) for the scene. What might help out the framing a bit more is adding another wagon in the lower right foreground that's mostly out of frame (so just one end or corner shows). Then have it shadowed by an unseen building off to frame right. This will add detail while at the same time vignetting your scene a bit by keeping it in shadow or partial shadow.

Overall, I love the background hill and the general composition. Are you going to put a cemetery on that hill? Not sure if it was intentional, but the (large in frame) saloon on one side and the diminutive church on the other is a clever subtext. You can just imagine what the poor preacher has to put up with.

Old 10 October 2012   #24
Added Texture to Church, Post Office, and Barber. Also added a few extra models to those 3 buildings. I still need to adjust the roofs of all three.

also added the extra wagon as was suggested. I like what it does for the foreground, but I am not sure of it's placement.

I have 2 more buildings to texture and then I am going to start working on the lighting.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg OldWest_Texture_post_04.jpg (82.2 KB, 27 views)
Old 10 October 2012   #25
Well your camera is like on a crane so you can't really add some thing in foreground as defocus.

At the end, forget my suggestion except if you want to drop the camera in a different way. Put then you have to add some others elements surely.
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Old 10 October 2012   #26
Looking good! I think the wagon works well there. Maybe scoot it back a bit. Don't be afraid to tweak proportions or cheat the position a bit if needed, like making the wheel a bit bigger so it shows at the edge of frame.

I knocked up a draw-over to make a few notes. Not sure if you're already planning to do this, but at some point you should tweak the straight edges that would naturally be wavy or sagging in that environment. If you're using Max, just add some FFDs here and there, always considering how the building is constructed (in real life) and look for those spots that get less support. Generally, roof middles, awning edges, places like that tend to be sloppier. Also, the wagon should be pretty roughed up and have bowed sides from carrying loads and such.

Also, I'm loving the scraggly tree at the left and would probably bring it a bit closer to camera.

When you're all done, I'd add a bit of lens distortion or something like that in PS, just to help break up the alignments even more.

Keep up the great work!


Old 10 October 2012   #27
Artbot - thanks for the image! I will take a look at that in detail next week.

I am not sure of the final light direction so although I like the idea of the shadow in the foreground, the point may be moot if the sun comes a different direction. I have tossed around the idea of the sun at dusk/dawn and having it come right over the top of the church toward the saloon.

I fixed the roofs. I couldn't let them go.

I also adjusted some of the positions of the buildings on the right side of the street.

As per Scote's comment, I dropped the camera a little lower so it is more of a point of view shot.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg OldWest_Texture_post_05.jpg (85.7 KB, 30 views)
Old 10 October 2012   #28
Yah! Good shooting angle. Love the perspective now.
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Old 10 October 2012   #29
Had a chance to do a bit more this evening...

Aged some of the buildings a bit more.
Modified the texture and model of the foreground wagon.
Moved around tree a bit
Attached Images
File Type: jpg OldWest_Texture_post_06.jpg (79.7 KB, 34 views)
Old 10 October 2012   #30
Looking really good. Personally I'd scootch that tree on the left juuust out of frame so maybe half the main trunk is showing (as well as all the braches). Right now it's fighting with the edge of the frame and draws my eye there. Also, the cactus is a bit too perfect and vertical and also competes with the tree trunk shape.

Love the warping on the wagon walls, though the endpiece is a bit hard to understand what's going on with it. Not sure what it's supposed to be.

Looks like you have a drape hanging out the window which is a great idea. Made me think, since those rooms were typically, ahem, bedrooms, maybe having a couple of socks or a non-descript piece of night clothing might be a nice little "story" touch.

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