The Steam Room

http://home.greywulf.net/images/light/steam.jpg

Sometimes, one light just isn’t enough. Ok, make that most of the time. Even when your only light is the sun, you’re not just using one light, but lots and lots. Y’see, while light might travel in a straight line, it also bounces. That sidewalk, wall and dodgy t-shirt you’re wearing are all bouncing the light around like crazy ass bouncy things. It’s the reason why shadows aren’t pitch black all the time and we can see detail in all but the darkest places. There’s always light coming from somewhere.

It might sound like all this light causes something of a problem, but it doesn’t. Your camera handles it automatically (as do your eyes, for that matter). In the world of 3D it’s just a matter of turning on Raytracing and your computer will happily work out where all the stray light goes. Go and grab a coffee. Raytracing adds to render-time like nothing else, but the end result is almost always worth it.

What you need to do though is be aware of it. Do that, and you can use it creatively. A common photography trick is to lay a piece of white card on the lap of your subject. This bounces the light back underneath the chin, magically softening wrinkles and making the subject look 10 years younger. All without them rubbing puree’d beaver testicles into their faces every night. Clever, huh?

The Poser image above is a good case in point. There’s just two lights on this shot; one around 11 o’clock and the other diametrically (good word, that) opposite at 5 o’clock. That should create a thick band of shadow across the centre of the image but all those lovely water particles scatter the light like…. well, like light scattering light particles. Net result: lovely textured shadows. Ok, I’ll admit I cheated and added the steam in Photoshop after rendering using the brilliant (and cheap, until the end of today – only $1.80!!!) Ron’s Fog brushes. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Seriously. And kudos to the promo images – they gave me the inspiration for my own Steam Room shot.

Coming next: The Colour of Light

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