Internet Ray Tracing Competition Entries

Nov-Dec 1999 - Gardens

Monet's Garden at Giverny

The image

Claude Monet was one of the leading lights in the impressionist movement which swept European art in the closing years of the nineteenth century. He spent his latter years living in a villa in the small town of Giverny, not far from Paris. There he perfected his artistic style, painting many beautiful pictures of his equally beautiful gardens.

This image show the famous gardens at Giverny as Monet saw them. Paths lead through beds of irises in the foreground. Groups of roses occupy another flowerbed at the left. Reaching above, majestic trees filter the sunlight of the Paris countryside and reveal glimpses of gates and buildings in the background.

How this image was created

Ever since I began using POV-Ray, I had wanted to do something leaning much more in the direction of the traditional visual arts than the usual mathematical modelling and accurate 3-D simulation. The topic for this round gave me the perfect opportunity. Gardens have been a subject for painters for centuries, and who better to try to emulate than the person who has painted arguably the most famous garden pictures ever?

For inspiration I studied many of Monet's works. Initially I was drawn to his famous water lilies series of paintings, which really show the maturity of impressionism late in Monet's life. A bit of experimentation revealed this apparently simple goal contained more technical and modelling difficulties than I had first thought. I turned instead to what at first appears to be a more complex scene, but which has fewer technical problems than trying to simulate lilies floating on the reflection of a fairly complex sky in a water surface.

The image is based on a painting of the artist's garden painted by Monet in 1900. The modelling is really quite simple, since the blurring effect added to the scene to give an impressionist style hides much of the modelling detail. Macros define the irises, roses and trees, and each is placed many times at random in the appropriate places. I used fairly bright lighting and a high ambient level to mimic Monet's bright colours.

The trickiest part was getting the impressionist blurring right. I experimented early on with placing a thin refractive sheet with a bumpy normal between the camera and the scene, and focal blur. Eventually I found that just a camera normal with appropriate texture worked fairly well. Exhaustive trial and error tuning once the scene had been modelled gave the final effect. I think I did about 30 complete renders with different combinations of normal patterns, scalings and turbulence parameters to get it looking right. The end result looks gratifyingly more like an oil painting than a raytracing, in my opinion.

Development history

Oh no! I'm not sure I can generate very good plants yet. Oh well, this is my chance to try.

I've just started getting into bonsai, and I thought rendering something approximating my bonsai collection would be a good idea. Since I live in a unit, I don't have a private garden of my own in the normal sense, and the bonsais on my balcony sort of become one. Another aspect is that my balcony overlooks the grounds of the apartment building, which do have quite nice gardens, so the spaces in this preliminary image will also be filled with plants.

This is quite an accurate recreation of my balcony. The textures and so on are still a bit raw, but I'll leave those until I get some plants in there!

Here is a palm tree that I'm working on. The leaves are all sections of torus, scaled, chopped up, rotated and translated into place. The trunk is just a cylinder at the moment, and may stay that way, depending how much time I have later on.

There are several palm trees in the garden outside the building, so there will be a few of these visible through the balcony window openings.

And here is a result of a tree branch macro I'm developing. This is a recursive macro, so each branch is a slightly randomised fractal copy of the whole tree (except it bottoms out eventually). This is looking quite good... I just need to add some leaves! Another nice thing would be to use torus sections or something more curvy than the cones being used at the moment. Oh, and better textures.

Okay, here is a tree with leaves.

And now for a complete change of pace.

Spot the image painted by Claude Monet in 1900, and the image raytraced by me in 1999!

This is an attempt to actually portray a garden in this impressionistic style. As you can see, my rendering is based on an actual painting by Monet. I'm not trying to do anything like an exact replica - that would just be far too hard. I'm aiming at a similar feel, and at producing something that looks more like a real garden than geometric shapes. I still have a fair bit of tweaking to do. I think however that the "impressionistic blurring" effect is working nicely.

At the moment the irises are still a little obviously cylinders, and the red and white flower beds look more like giant mushrooms. The light level needs adjusting too.

Here are two more attempts at getting that impressionism right. The first is just more blurry, the second is looking more like an oil painting, which may the feel I am after. However, these look rather different at 800x600 resolution, and it's not as clear cut which one looks better at that size.

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