Lighting Challenge #17: Natural History


Thank you so much for your comments Jeremy. I’ll work on those changes. Also, compressing it in Photoshop so that it could be posted made it very low quality, nothing like the original image.



Hey everyone, I’m having a little trouble getting any visible reflections to show in my Natural History scene.

I’m using Maya 2008 with Mental Ray. My scene has raytracing enabled, I have a plane Blinn shader on the ground plane with Reflectivity cranked all the way up, but still I can’t see anything reflected from the rest of the scene.

I believe I have everything setup properly so that reflections should be seen, and I’ve tested these same settings in a different scene that I’ve been working on (and the reflections worked as they should)…

Has any one else had this same problem with the scene file?

A strange thing that I’ve noticed is that if I create a polygon sphere object in my scene and bring it near the ground plane that I’ve set to be reflective, I can see the sphere in the planes reflection, but I still can’t see any of the other objects that were originally in the scene (the sign boards, the dinos, any of the arhitecture…)

Anyone have any thoughts on how I can fix this? I’d appreciate it if you could either post here in reply, or email me at

Thanks everyone!


Daniel -

It sounds like you don’t have the objects set to be “visible in reflections” (in the attribute editor, under render stats.) Maya’s obj import doesn’t turn this on for you unless the obj file specifies a reflection object.

You can use the attribute spreadsheet window to set this flag for many selected models at once if you need to.



You were absolutely right about my render stat settings. Your solution worked like a charm! I’ll post an updated version of my scene (with reflections) as soon as I can.


  • Daniel Pendzich


I´m testing the afternoon to find a correct light position and ambience, next step find some good textures and lamps for indoor lighting.
The stained glass window has mia material with caustics enable and I´m working in the texture for a soft multicolor effect in the walls,floor and dinosaurs.
Thanks for comment.

Maya 2008 mentalray beautypass: 1.50 hour
mayasoft volumlight: 30 sec.
Dual opteron dualcore 275 8gb ram.


octane52 - Nice scene! I think the floor is dominating too much, maybe reduce the diffuse or base color on the floor to half what it is now. Put some reflectivity on the floor and glass. The dinosaurs could use some rim light to highlight the tops of them. I don’t see the “stained glass window” you’re talking about yet, it looks all white to me.

Chowda - Nice scene. It seems strange that the bottom of the walls get brighter where they meet the floor, some occlusion there would help create a sense of contact. Reflections on the floor and glass would help too. When you put the sun on the t-rex, you need to put some fill light on the other dino to balance things out.

syp1102 - That’s a great start! The t-rex reads very clearly because he is brigth on dark. The other dino is almost there, maybe if you slide him backwards a few feet you could get him to clearly be visible as a dark form against lighter background. Some of the building in the upper left is confusing, one surface near the top looks transparent or inside-out somehow?

cyberville - Good, very solid start! The sun usually would be brighter compared to the fill light, or else, if you’re trying to make a cloudy day, at least make the sunlight much softer. Looking through those two lower doors, I’d like to see some ground continuing outside the building, since we’re looking downwards. The set doesn’t seem to be getting much light from those back windows or doors, I’d expect at least some rim light showing the bright illumination behind one of those columns.



Thank you for your comments Jeremy. I’ll work on those changes.

Best regards



Gah, I redid the uv’s from scratch and grouped the entire model into
more work-friendly sections, took a while but now I am back on track.
Some of the uv’s arent 100% I’ll fix that next, and yeah I know Jeremy,
you want something outside those owl-like dooropenings I’ll get to that as
well :wink: Or more likely I’ll change the cam-angle…

So on to more texturing, the dinos are next, and I still need to model something
for the light-fixtures.


repositioned the trex did some basic uvs and procedual texturing not finished yet…
the composition could be better specialy around the head area of the dino
more volume lighting to come


Hello Jeremy,


And here is the Second one.


Hey guys. I’m very excited about this challenge, unfortunately due to time constraints i couldn’t get into it earlier. But here is a quick blocking of lightning I did yesterday, with a little post work just to play around with colors and mood. I used maya/mentalray for this one. I still havent worked on textures yet, the one it has is a simple automatic projection. Off the bat I noticed I have a bunch of undefined shadow areas (like under the arc), so Ill work on that next. Basically I am looking for a late afternoon, golden hour type of shot, but I am undecided still on the amount of artificial lighting I want to add. In a way Im trying to get a temple/cathedral type of shot going. Please any comments/critiques are highly appreciated!!


Wolfganng - Those two doors seem to dominate the composition, maybe putting more ground or another background outside there would seem less like the building was floating in the sky? The dino, the glass, and his base are all about the same tone now, maybe the glass could become more clear, and the dino could be brighter with more light and shaping on him. If you keep the doors that bright, then rim light from the doors could hit him. If the doors get toned down, then you could light the dino from above more. Either way the upper left side of him facing those skylights shouldn’t be black. On the right side I wonder if you could arrange the displays in a more interesting way, maybe put the skulls close to camera, show a more interesting part of the other dino, something like that? I don’t see where the deep red colored light is coming from, that hits part of the upper left wall. Is that supposed to be some red light fixtures, or some kind of natural light?

MartinRomero - Nice job, especially on the 2nd one! The foreground could use more consistent rim light along the top of the railings, not just that reflection. In a hazy environment, light usually gets soft, so I’d like to see a softer outer glow around the sunbeam, so the sunbeam doesn’t just hit the left wall and then cut-off without a trace above or below. The right-side upstairs hallways could use some natural light, even extending to the inside of the arches.

Fex - Good start. The whole shot looks underexposed. Even in a night scene, some of the highlights or rims should be as bright as the Houdini logo.

visua - Nice job on getting everything textured. Some parts of the dinos and even a few parts of the set are looking overexposed, going so bright that we can’t see detail in some areas. In the foreground, you could take the sunlight and blue light off the foreground stairs so it becomes a darker form to frame the shot. Those two doors are very bright, maybe putting a ground surface outside help it seem less like the building was floating in the sky?



Hi everybody,

This is my second try on this challenge, I added some effects & did more detaled textures.
Comments & critick are welcome.


Here is the new draft. I added some texture to the stone. I am still really struggling with adding contrast without under-exposing the whole scene. Any tips about that or other areas are welcome.



Thanks for your comments Jeremy! I’ve changed some surfaces and the camera angle a little.

Here’s the new result… Click here for the high-res version.



I have done this new take and individual dino are lighted seprately for getting there definition out



In general the scene is underexposed, maybe you need to adjust your monitor a bit.

I think you should use more evident keylights for each dinosaur. For instance place a couple of spotlights at first floor level pointing the dinos, one spotlight for each dinosaur, with a relative big spotbeam. Look for nice shadows from the dinosaurs.

When you are happy with the results, change the spotlights into arealights and see what result you get.

Also place very dim point lights in each first floor lateral chambers

Also some fill lights at the top of the central hall.


Hello everybody !
This is my first challenge and im very excited about that ! :slight_smile:
I am trying to do as the museum is , trying to match textures and items as they really are on photos. How it’s going for you to decide :deal:
Oh and i am using 3D Studio Max 2009 and VRay 1.5 SP2 , also PS for textures. By the way no post-work in these images, i will do some at final renders in After Effects i think.
This is pure render , with fair GI without Ambient Occlusion or other “fake” passes.
Here are my tries with lighting and textures :

and this is a bit later version


Here is my latest attempt. Probably a little bright, but I think the light is much more inviting then my previous render. I am learning a tonne doing this.

Software: Modo 302
Render Time: ~2hrs
Lighting Setup: I am using GI with physical sky and sun along with a luminous polygon hidden in the ceiling to provide a nice overall light to the scene.

I still need to add some light to the two archways at the far end and find something to do with the floor. So far, every attempt I have made at adding a texture to it has failed. I can get the colour to show up but not the image or bump detail. If anyone is using Modo for this and can offer some advice I would greatly appreciate it.

Comments and Critiques welcomed and appreciated.


My latest try :

This is my first CG challenge :slight_smile: Thanks for this opportunity ! :applause: