Great challenge once again, and some really great starts so far, I am looking forward to being able to finally post some work in this one once again.
As I said, nice renders everyone, but I think one of the things that is looking just slightly off to me is the coloring of the candle light in most of these. It seems to me right now to be fairly whitish in color, when in reality candle light can be quite reddish…in my experience, even with indoor balanced film, it still appears quite orange/yellow rather than white. Anyways, just my 2 cents, but I really like some of the lighting that is going on here.
MasterZap, nice renders, however in your last one the DOF looks off to me, too great of a difference between the non focused and focused areas considering the actual distance that it is convering. Otherwise though, very nice starts.
Folgore, nice start. I would say that without the AO as you mentioned, your objects lose a great deal of connection with the table, try to add this in, or adjust your curent shadows to help give us some connection. Also, you are right about the shadows looking slightly off, try using some slightly softened shadow maps or soft raytraced shadows to help blend them a little bit better, I also feel that most of the shadows could be made to be a bit darker, rather than just upping the umbra, or coloring of the shadows, try to add some bounce lights to help lighten them up, this will aslo help to illuminate some of the pitch black areas of the unlit sides of your objects. And lastly the thing that looks the strangest is that the wicks of the candles are casting shadows on the back wall, this makes it appear as if the candles are not lit. Anyways, nice start, keep it up.
Nice job everyone.