The Assembly of Day 23
Day 23 was simple in concept but a little more complex to execute.
I was never satisfied with 2009's Day 23, because I didn't treat the tree as a light source; as a result, the shadows of the minifigs are cast inwards towards the tree rather than outwards. I compenstated for this with some clever editing, but it's still readily visible.
This year, I vowed not to make the same mistake. This complicated the process, and final picture is actually a blending of three images. (1, 2 and 4). Here's how it breaks down:
1) The base image. I held a set of tree lights in between the minifigs, which functioned as a proper, central light source. Their shadows are cast outwards, and soft, varied lighting can be seen across the floor.
2) A second image was taken of just the background, with much less focused lighting.
3) This second image was used to remove the tree lights from the background of the first image. It took a lot of tweaking to get the subtle gradation on the wall to look just right.
4) A third image introduces the Lego tree into the scene. Using the same tree lights and a long exposure, I painted around the tree to light it somewhat evenly.
5) The tree was then masked and added to the original scene. Color and luminosity tweaks were made to make it blend seamlessly with its surroundings.
6) Lighting effects were then applied to give the tree (and its lights) more of a glow.
And that's it!