Looking back at my original sketch, I feel satisfied with how close I got to it — though I did meld the two hills closest to the foreground together. I think the mood feels exactly as I planned it out: simple, nostalgic, and a tad romantic.
I think the vegetation is probably the weakest point of the piece — though I like the simplicity of the shapes, they don’t fully match the realistic tone of the textures. It would be great to find models with a bit more detail to them. I hope the lighting makes up for this — I’m very happy with the golden tone of the scene, and spent a considerable amount of time on Photoshop getting it just right. I added some 10 gradient layers using different blending modes in the compositing process, which I think made a big difference. Adding the chimney smoke, fixing the skydome positioning, and adding a slight gradient at the center left (to hint at some fog in the valley), were also key elements in the compositing phase that I was very happy with. My last step there was flattening the image so I could add a subtle tilt shift blur and give the scene some more depth.
Overall, I’m very happy with this piece, particularly as my first experience with 3D modeling, rendering, and compositing. Getting the hang of the Maya interface was challenging, but it made the end results really rewarding!