Making up pages 5-6 of Book One, this dark caustic water drama introduces us to the dwarf Alberich for the first time (discounting a minor sneak preview in the previous scene). For this layout a darker feeling was desired, so while the base background is the same one used for the previous page (albeit cropped, resized and flipped to give us Alberich's perspective), most of the brightly colored plant life was removed or darkened, and the architectural ruins were made more prominent in the foreground.
In fact, the only new elements used to build the scene were additional watercolor Photoshop brushes and grunge overlays, plus a new caustic water gel texture. Otherwise the same props and models were used to render the new set elements. In order to make the transition between scenes less jarring, the bright colors of the previous layout was toned down somewhat.
The render of the dwarf Alberich was completed first, as the focal point of the scene. It was later darkened to create a more mysterious ambiguity to the new intruder in the Rhinemaids' home. Here you can see the caustic light effect reflecting nicely on the brighter rocks, as well as on Alberich's clothes and props. Much of the detail was lost in the process of blending the figure into the shadows, but our dwarf will step into the light soon enough.
Both the Alberich vignette and the three Rhinemaidens were rendered backwards and flipped horizontally in layout. This was done entirely to allow Alberich's hammer and pouch to be on the viewing side, since it was how the digital model was made. The dwarf pouch on the other side was less interesting, compositionally, than the angular lines of the hammer's handle and the bloated bulk of the ore sack. Additionally, these two props lend a better sense of who the dwarf is, and what he has been doing, as alluded to in the accompanying text. It was far easier (though less accurate) to do it this way than to rearrange the props themselves on the Alberich character model.
While the base 3D renders used in the final image contain nearly all the final light and shadow data, eight separate renders were created and composited together to create the final blend. The main reason for this is that it allows for better control over each light pass during the composite stage; rather than having to completely re-render a figure or scene element just to brighten or dim a single light, each individual light pass layer can be adjusted independently of the others, allowing for completely customizable post-render lighting.
Meanwhile, five additional "sketch" renders were completed for each figure to accommodate the particular requirements of the black and white eBook editions. Due to the current limited capabilities of the eInk screens used on many Kindle, Nook and Sony eBook Readers, full color images don't generally translate well to the 16 shades of gray available on these devices. Consequently, black and white versions of the art were created using line art and sketch render settings, to which simplified color overlays were applied, with the backgrounds removed and only selected foreground elements chosen for inclusion on these smaller screens.