Photographer blends reality with CG to produce amazing surreal landscapes

Mar 7, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Photographer blends reality with CG to produce amazing surreal landscapes

Mar 7, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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We’ve all had that feeling of being in a beautiful or dramatic landscape, wanting to capture it, and then found it was missing just a little something once we got it home and saw the images big on the computer screen.

German architectural photographer, Andreas Levers has also felt that on occasion and decided to do something about it by blending the real with the computer generated.

DIYP spoke to Andreas to get a little more information and some insight into his work and process.

On what first sparked the idea of compositing 3D objects into the real world, he told DIYP…

Having seen some amazing artwork by Filip Dujardin and Victor Enrich I began experimenting with 3D compositing, focusing on impossible architecture.  Some of the results are available online.

While I like architectural photography a lot this seemed to be to close to commercial previsualisation.

So, I tried to transfer the things I learned into landscape photography, to add a twist to otherwise very minimal photos I had taken, but which I felt were still incomplete.

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Andreas uses a Canon 5D Mark II to create the original photographs, but that’s only where the journey begins, what about the software?

I use Adobe Camera RAW to develop the RAW files I shot.  Creating a unique look, mostly with subtle color and contrast adjustments, is more intuitive in ACR for me.

Most of the work is done in Cinema 4D with only minor clean-up-work in Photoshop.

Additionally, I use Photoshop to create the textures that I use on materials in Cinema 4D.

We asked him of there was a particular reason why he chose to use Cinema 4D over other 3D applications for this project.

I already use Cinema 4D at work, so it was an easy choice.

Simple as that.

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Andreas tells DIYP of his general process…

The photo is the first step.  Most of the images I have used so far were taken months and years earlier without the result in mind, to be honest.  When I start the process I only have a vague idea what I am going for.  The idea comes to life within the software.

Technically the first step is developing an overall look for the photo in ACR.

This is a lesson, folks.  Don’t delete those images you’re not immediately happy with.  You never know where or when you might find a use for them in the future!

Importing this result in Cinema 4D I reconstruct the environment, creating a virtual camera, a physical sky that matches the conditions of the photo and objects that represent the landscape.

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This is still rough around the edges but enables me to quickly try different abstract objects and helps me decide on the composition.

Once the overall idea is in place I refine the detail of the scene, closely matching the lighting, creating materials and accurately adjusting the camera.

DIYP asked Andreas what the most challenging part of creating this type of imagery has been, and this is what he told us…

Patience.

Recreating the scene in a virtual world quickly gets me to 80% of the desired result but the remaining work takes exceedingly more time. Fine-tuning parameters, re-rendering the scene only to discover some minor defects takes some perseverance.

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And is the project now complete?  No, it’s most definitely not, and Andreas told DIYP a little about how his process is evolving and his future plans.

Liking the results I achieved so far, I recently started taking photos with the explicit purpose of using them in the series, trying to imagine floating objects and optimizing the shots to be suitable for this.

The next step will be the addition of a 360° camera to capture accurate environments for better reflections and lighting, too.

DIYP wishes Andreas all the best for the future of this project, and we can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

You can see more of Andreas’ work on his website, and Behance.

3D software has come a long way in the last decade or so, as has camera technology, and with very capable 3D software out there now with prices as low as free, it’s always worth trying out new things.

Have you dabbled with combining photography and 3D?  Or do you prefer to capture only the real world?

Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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6 responses to “Photographer blends reality with CG to produce amazing surreal landscapes”

  1. Vertex Avatar
    Vertex

    there is a running gag in 3d artist circles…. “spheres on a checkerboard floor”.. insider will know hat i mean.

    1. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
      Gvido Mūrnieks

      Don’t forget about teapots. :D

      1. Kaouthia Avatar
        Kaouthia

        And monkey heads, don’t forget about Blender. ;)

  2. Adam Frimer Avatar
    Adam Frimer

    love love love this

  3. John Flury Avatar
    John Flury

    I started with 3D last year, first Cinema 4D, then ZBrush and now Vray. And I actually feel my photography has profited as well, especially composition and lighting. Cinema 4D is a great tool to get into 3D. It has only 2 big limitations in my opinion, its renderer is very slow and it can’t handle very complex scenes very well (aka lots of polygons).

  4. Paul Klosterman Avatar
    Paul Klosterman

    There’s an iPhone app that does just this… it’s called MATTER. Look it up. It generates drop shadow, etc.