This image by Matthijs de Rijk caught my attention yesterday, and I asked him for its story.
Quite some time ago I watched the movie "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" and I was really amazed by the beauty of the owls In the movie. It made me in an instant a fan of owls, snowy owls especially. I wanted to portray the beauty of an owl in a render, but at the time I didn't had the skill to make an high detailed feathered animal. After some failed attempts I put my fondness for owls in the aside.
Some years later, the game Guild Wars 2, revived they idea. In the game you are able to play as a ranger with the ability to control a pet. A snowy owl was one of those. I got some new ideas of making an action scene of the owl grabbing for a prey.
Still there was a challenge, I did not really knew how to do the feathers, and there were no real tutorials to be found on the internet. The particle system gave to little control over the placement and orientation of the feathers. Then I noticed that there was the option to render hair as objects. After some puzzling I found the perfect formula. The big flight feathers were placed by hand, and all the small feathers with the hair particle engine.
After rigging the animal and the feathers, the finished result is as you see. It's not a perfect realistic scene, but I feel it doesn't have to be because it catches just that what I wanted it to express. I really enjoyed making this and there is still so much more to explore in the world of birds.
Check out my website if you want to see what else I made.