Comprising the copyright data and page 1 of Book One, this two page layout introduces us to the underwater world of the Rhinemaidens, beneath the rippling surface of the river Rhine. In this opening page spread we see the youngest of the sister nymphs waiting anxiously for the coming dawn.
The image to the right is, in fact, the starting point for this piece. It is from the Sunstrokes Sea & Sky Backgrounds set by Dantescanto, available from Renderosity. The image was turned upside down and color shifted to create the base on which the rest was built. Grunge paper textures and water ripple overlays were added using various blending modes and adjustment layers in Photoshop to create the final background plate, the color and texture being treated to additional filters in order to achieve the watercolor look.
Photoshop Brushes Used:
Damned In Black - Br76-Swirls / Br79-Splat
Designfera - Grunge Borders
FrozenStar - FS Water
Ron's Flourishes 2 / Stain Splatter Drips & Washes
Set Props Used:
KSS - The Zombie
Judith - Halls of Poseidon
Judith - TransPond Sea Sculptures
Poisen - Swizzlers
Serrge Karanta - Drakkar
To create a sense of depth for the central figure, a depth of field mask was rendered using GlowWorm, a Poser add-on that allows for creative multipass rendering well beyond what Poser is capable of itself. The depth of field mask (seen below) is applied as an Alpha Channel that controls a Gaussian blur layer to selectively create the effect of distance (or it can be used as an opacity mask). Here the effect is very subtle, but by slightly blurring the feet it throws the facial features into greater focus.
The ghostly effect above is the Occlusion Pass, which only renders out absence of light. This is different than an actual shadow render, where the light acts upon surfaces to cast areas into darkness. Occlusion is caused by the exponential weakening of light rays as they bounce from one surface to the next, being both absorbed and refracted into different directions. This is why the corners of rooms get darker, even when illuminated by a steady lamp. In rendering, this gives you the ability to control how much contrast and detail is given in an image.
Here the Zombie is shown with only a simple diffuse render pass. A detailed multipass render was not necessary for this model, since it was intended from the first to be all but invisible, sunk into the mire of the riverbed and covered over in weeds. The image layer was slightly desaturated and merged into the mist with a soft eraser.
For the temple ruins and Viking shipwreck seen in the background, previous renders done for the cover art were simply put to new use. The shipwreck used in this scene, however, is actually the earliest test render done for the cover art (which you can see on that page), desaturated and color adjusted fairly heavily to blend in with the rest of the scene. This just goes to show what Photoshop can do.
Originally the idea for the opening page spread was planned as a watercolor wash with white space fading into the full color facing page, to give the impression of the underwater environment spilling out, or bleeding onto the page. However, the outward momentum of the paint splatters inevitably drew the viewer's eye away from the focal point of the composition, and in the end was done away with.