What lighting or modeling am I missing?
EDIT: I use cycles, so preferably I want a solution in blender cycles.
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Here is what I got:
According to the result, there are some evidences that the author might very possibly take AO pass into account:
So the basic idea is to multiply AO pass with Image pass something like this:
Then it should come with a few color related nodes such as Color Correction, Color Balance, RGB Curves, etc. to mimic the tones for each channel, something like below:
Materials are very basic, no magics I bet. Just use Sun lamp with a very small size value to get sharp shadow:
There are generally two methods to model poly mountains:
You are not just just limited to the material and lighting,A process you all forge about is post production you can change the mood and the look of the image completely in post.
Here is an example for contrast enhancement for your image just by using a single node:
What is also useful is the extra passes you have like the Normal pass which can be used to do exactly what you want in here.
Here you can see what I did to make the image more contrasty and appealing:
you can see the original in the render layer node.
I added a vector Normal node and choose a good angle and then overlayed it on the image to get the contrast based on the geometry.
I can also see some fog in the scene which can be done using the mist pass.
Which will give something like this:
It is barely seen, because the scene is just too small but in your scene it will look good.
To make the mountain you can use an addon called ANT landscape which is in master so just enable it.
Add this landscape and play with the options to get what you want.
Edit the mesh to suite what you need,I flattened the top of the mountain and made it circular.
Then I added a decimate modifier and checked trianglate,decrease the ratio to get what you want.
And then you have your mountain:
Buy using the all the techniques,We can get this result:
And here is the blend file:
No one mentions baked Ambient Occlusion into textures, that's what makes it look like it looks. Here is explained what that is:
Here I marked the areas where you can clearly see it (it is noticeable everywhere though). Btw. AO makes the model look dirty, it put's shadows in areas that are lit and shouldn't be darkened:
The rest of the look is a filter post-process. With that you can match the colors, adjust tone of shadows, contrast etc. To analyze the filter-effect, you can look at the image histogram:
You can see that the contrast is lowered, with lacking blacks in all channels. Furthermore the blue channel is boosted in lower half so the shadows are tinted blue. Here are all the filter effects reversed:
But no amount of tweaking normal pass or filtering colors will add the very noticeable AO in the original.
You can use baked AO into textures, AO pass, or custom render using AO shader and overlaying over render. Here are some Ambient occlusion related questions:
As the question also asks about lighting, here comes the analysis:
You can use the normals to determine the colors of the faces.
The material is here :