Mountains and Mole-hills


Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Wednesday, 13th June, 2007

mole-hillgoldfishFOUR OR FIVE mole-hills appeared around the meadow area a month ago. This one is surrounded by dog daisies, Yorkshire Fog (grass), yarrow and lemon balm (which spreads from the herb bed). A shoot of creeping buttercup has already emerged from the loamy soil.

Let’s hope that the mole doesn’t take a liking to the adjacent veg beds; we can cover the beds with netting to keep out the rabbits and pheasants but how would I stop a mole?!

This morning, at the dentist’s, I had time to do a pen (Stædtler mars professional) and watercolour sketch of the goldfish in the aquarium in the waiting room.

Design your own Fantasy Island

Bryce 5.5, the 3D landscape design program now marketed by Daz 3D, is currently available as a free download at

'Have you ever gotten the urge to take that nice 2d map you made for your fantasy world and make it 3d?' asks Kemp Sparky, 'Or maybe you just want your Bryce landscape to follow those mountain ridges and shorelines you crafted so carefully. Maybe you even want to make a landscape from a book, like Tolkien's Middle Earth, or McCaffrey's Pern. Well, then, this is the tutorial for you!'

I'm fascinated by maps and I've always been intrigued by three dimensional images so I tried it out Kemp's tutorial, Your Conworld in 3D. Here's my quick version of the process:

1. I sketched an island, including rivers and mountains.

2. In Photoshop I filled the surrounding sea area with black.

As I'd drawn an unbroken line around the coasts this was easy; I used the Fill bucket tool.

3. On another layer, using a reversed selection of the sea (see the tutorial for full instructions), I filled the island with a medium grey, feathering and blurring the edges to give a gentler tonal gradient.

The mountains were dabbed in in white with a soft-edged brush tool, the rivers painted in black and then smudged along the edges to blend them in.

4. Open up Bryce and, once you've added a terrain from the Create toolbar, go to the terrain editor and load your saved greyscale image (again, see the tutorial for details).

Go back to the main preview screen and press the Render button and you get a three-dimensional version of your drawing.

Scenic Effects

Puffin IslandcoastI find that magical; to go from a ballpoint pen drawing on a scrap pad to a fully three-dimensional model in 20 or 30 minutes. The end result reminds me of my boyhood interest in model railways which was largely concerned with creating papier mâché coasts and mountains as a scenic backdrop for the railway.

As with the model railways, the skill in Bryce comes in how you finish your landscape. I used to glue sawdust to the tops of my papier mâché cliffs and paint it with poster paints to represent vegetation. With Bryce you can add and modify a huge variety of colours and textures and also add water, clouds, mist, fog and lighting effects. Kemp goes a bit further in his tutorial than I did, adding a desert area to his green island.

I like the way you can zoom in to corner of your model (right) and, thinking of a use for all this tinkering about, you can save an image and, in Photoshop, add captions (left).

I'm sure I'll think of a use for it some day . . .