In night scenes, as in sunsets, a visible moon in the sky will usually enhance the picture. The key to getting the night effect lies in changing the colours of the atmosphere settings and adjusting the levels, and especially in reducing the strength of the sunlight from its default 150 to about 50.

nightIn this scene, I have left the simple haze, both colour and levels, at the defaults. Atmospheric blue has the default settings, but the colour is set to red 0, green 0, blue 21. Redden/decay, unlocked from atmospheric blue, has the levels at the default settings, but the colour adjusted to red 256, green 256, blue 230, a very pale cream almost the colour of moonlight. On the lighting control, the sun's altitude is 4.5, sunlight strength is 50 and effect of atmosphere is 44%. On the background light tab, shadow lightness is set at 34.81 and I am using multi-directional shadow lighting with no change to the colours. The base sun colour is changed to a pale grey, with all three colours at 184. Under sun's appearance, disc diameter is 1 and corona size 0. In lighting of atmosphere, the glow amount is reduced to 66%, and glow power unchanged from its default setting of 100%.

These settings give a hint of blue in the sky and in the shadows on the water, with the moonlight itself silver.

night2In the picture on the right, the only settings I have changed are the colours of atmospheric blue and light decay. Atmospheric blue is now set at black - red green and blue all at zero - and light decay is a medium grey with all three colours set at 120.

The result of this is a much darker scene. The clouds are now indistinguishable from the tops of the mountains. The streak of moonlight across the sea is less luminous. And the whole scene is more monochrome. The shadow parts of the sea have a hint of blue, but the rest of the scene is almost colourless. Both scenes are acceptable as night scenes, and it is a matter of personal preference whether you wish to retain some dark blue in the sky and/or a brighter moonlight.

night3But having the moon so low in the sky is a little unnatural in a night scene. In this picture on the left, the only change I have made is to raise the moon in the sky, to an altitude of 12.0306.

Because the program reacts as for the sun, this has made the moon unacceptably bright, and although we have the corona set at 0, there is a glow around the moon which makes it look like the sun. Also, since there are scarcely any shadows on the sea now, the blue we had in the shadows has also disappeared and the whole scene is now virtually black and white.

night4In the scene on the right, I have put the blue back into the sky by raising atmospheric blue to 21. On the lighting control direct sunlight tab, the effect of atmosphere is raised to 150%. On lighting of atmosphere, glow amount is at 80% and glow power at 75%. These changes restore a little colour into the scene, and allow the clouds near the moon to glow a little, while at the same time reducing the moon to a disc.

Again, these can only be small samples of the wide variety of effects you can get by changing the colours, the light settings and the various levels. There is no substitute for experimenting for yourself to see what each change does, and what it does in combination with other settings.

Finally in this section, I want to chage the scene I am working on in this tutorial to a night scene, not because I wish the finished scene to be a night one - I have already determined that it will be a sunset one - but so that you can see how night scene settings may be applied to an existing daylight scene. I shall start from the settings in the last daylight rendering on page 5.

scene 8

Firstly, I moved the sun to the top right corner of the picture, so that it would be visible as the moon and would cast a moonlight streak across the water.

The snow in this picture posed special problems. If I used the settings I used for the last picture in the series above, it looked as bright as day, even though the sky was dark. These were the final settings used:

Lighting control. Direct sunlight tab. Sun altitude 16.2202. Sunlight strength 30% (lower than in the pictures above to compensate for the effect of the snow). Effect of atmosphere 150% (higher than above to make certain the sun was a disc, and to reduce some reflection from the snow). Base sun colour red and green 256, blue 230.
Background light tab. Multi-directional shadow lighting, shadow colours unchanged. Shadow lightness 20.25 - to deepen the shadows in the snow and reduce some of the glare.
Sun's appearance tab. Disc diameter 1. Corona size 0.
Lighting of atmosphere tab. Glow amount 81%. Glow power 75%.

Atmosphere. Simple haze. colour default setting (all at 128). Density 15% (to reduce the halo round the moon caused by the atmosphere). Half height default (64).
Atmospheric blue. red and green at zero, blue at 18. (The blue is darker than in the picture higher up, again because I wanted to reduce the amount of reflection from the sky in the snow. Even though the visible part of the sky is black, there is sufficient blue reflecting from the parts of the sky which are not visible in the image for the green showing through the snow to be visibly green, and for there to be a hint of blue in the shadowy parts of the clouds and in the shadows of the mountains at the edge of the lake. At the same time, reducing the blue has give shadows in the snow which are not the intrusive blue which would suggest the harsher light of the sun in the scene.) Sliders are at the default levels.
Light decay/red. Lock colour with atmospheric blue unchecked. Colour edited to light grey (all colours at 124). Levels at the default settings.

I had not changed the terrain in any way, so it was only necessary to save the world file and the atmosphere settings to be able to recreate this scene at a later date.

scene8aFinally, to show you the special problems of a night snow scene, I have moved the moon out of the picture into the position occupied by the sun in the daylight version of this picture, so that the moonlight is coming in from due left, with the moon, now invisible, quite high in the sky. Although the sky and the water are still dark, most of the snow is now in direct moonlight instead of in shadow, and looks as though it is in daylight. This is perfectly natural, because on a bright moonlight night in snow it is light enough to read, but it does not look convincing in a picture.

scene8bIn order to darken the snow, I have lowered the moon in the sky, to altitude 8.91493. This has the effect of decreasing the power of its light. Since it is out of the picture, we do not have to worry about whether it looks strange to see it at that height. I have also taken the shadow lightness down to 14.44, and increased the blue in atmospheric blue to 25.

The cumulative effect of these changes is to darken the snow because the moonlight falling on it is less bright and the shadows are darker. The extra blue stops the scene from becoming too monochrome - keeping a little blue in the shadows on the snow. The scene does now look like a night scene, with a fairly convincing soft moonlight lighting it. But the sky and the water are now unrelieved black, and the clouds are dull with none of the luminosity they have in the scene with the moon visible.

There is no doubt that the most attractive and convincing of these scenes is the one with the moon in the sky, where, by backlighting the scene, it puts most of the snow covered mountains into natural shadow so reducing the glare from the snow, and gives texture and interest to the water.

We move on now to explore scenes with mist.