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korver

Southeast Asia

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Our journey to Southeast Asia begins with a trip through the scenic, mountainous landscape of northern Vietnam. For thousands of years, terraces have turned these hillsides into effective farmland - with rice being the staple crop for many. For as far as the eye can see, these terraces stretch on into the distance - a never ending showcase of simple, rural beauty.


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Our next stop is the mysterious Chocolate Hills of Bohol Island in The Philippines. Some 1,776 brownish-red hills dot the landscape for miles around, and a variety of wild myths try to explain their existence. Some legends state that the hills are the leftovers of massive pebbles thrown by giants many eons ago. Others believe that the hills have a cosmic connection, with each hill representing various stars and planets. No matter what the explanation, they still leave us in awe.
 

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The crater lakes of Kelimutu in Indonesia are one of the more remarkable destinations on our journey - the lakes are just as stunning as they are mesmerizing. The mineral rich water that fills each of these lakes changes color many times throughout the year, so each trip is truly a unique experience. Despite the ominous steam that emanates from the lakes, the volcano has actually been dormant for quite some time.


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Our next stop is the largest Buddhist monument in the world - Indonesia's Borobudur. Rain or shine, it's a truly impressive structure - we're amazed by the sheer quantity of artifacts on display. With over 2,500 relief panels and 500 Buddha statues lining the exterior, we've never seen anything like it before. Reaching the top brings incredible views of the surrounding landscape - but more importantly it signifies the end of a pilgrimage for Buddhists.


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As we start to head back north, a can't miss destination is Thailand's Phang Nga Bay, tucked away on the west coast of the country. With over 40 limestone islands jutting hundreds of feet into the air, it truly takes your breath away. We grab a boat and find a secluded beach on one of the islands - no better way to spend the day!


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As our journey begins to wind down, we make sure to visit one of the iconic landmarks of Southeast Asia - Cambodia's Angkor Wat. The world's largest religious monument never fails to disappoint - you could spend years exploring this vast complex. While the views from the outside are truly impressive, the interior is a different story. To our dismay, we find out that much of the complex has been looted in recent years, with bas-reliefs and relics fetching high prices on the black market. It'll take a little exploring around to find the rooms left in pristine condition - but it's certainly worth it.
 

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Our final stop is none other than one of the most impressive archeological sites in the world, Myanmar's Bagan. Over 10,000 pagodas were built on this vast desert plain nearly a thousand years ago - with a little over 2,200 remaining today. Despite constant earthquake damage (the ruins are built directly on top of a fault line) - the locals continue to rebuild these treasured ruins time and time again. No trip to Bagan is complete without a hot air balloon ride - despite the steep price, the incredible views for miles around make it a once in a lifetime experience.


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Don't forget to comment, like, and follow True Earth if you haven't already!

-korver

 

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Please take a look at my "2016: Year in Review" entry for many more incredible scenes!


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Replies for "Moscow"

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Spoiler

 

@JP Schriefer Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! *:)

@_Michael Thanks for the comment! It took a while for that snow effect to look just right, so I'm glad you liked it.

@GoKingsGo Thanks for the kind words!

@feyss Thanks feyss *:)

@elavery Thanks for the kind words elavery!

@Ln X Thanks for the comments *:D

@RandyE Thanks Randy, glad you liked the rain, took a while to get it looking just right.

@tariely Thanks for the comment!

@Brooklyn81 Thanks for the high praise - probably around a month to make everything.

@portlandexpos04 Thanks for the comment - I got them off 3d warehouse and imported into SC4. If you're unable to get those into the game, the walls from this pack are pretty close (with diags too), and the bell tower here is pretty good too (although a little model tweaker resizing work might be needed). This one could fill in too if needed.

@v701 Thanks for the comment! Also, glad I could help - if you have any more questions, feel free to ask.

@TekindusT Thanks Tekindus, great comment *:D

@Urban Constanta I had a feeling Putin might pop up in the comments section - very nice selection everyone *:lol:

@MillionSeven Thanks, glad you liked it!

@Silur Thanks Silur - I actually based that pic off an overhead Moscow pic of some commie blocks, but I wasn't 100% sure where it was from - so thanks for filling me in!

@Simmer2 Спасибо за приятные слова Simmer2!

@raynev1 Thanks for the comment! Glad to hear that I changed your perspective on rainy days. Although that effect I used in that pic a little bit addicting.. I hope I don't overuse it in all my pics.. lol.

@mike_oxlong Thanks for the comment and nice words!

@sucram17 Спасибо за комментарий, рад, что вам понравилось!

@Akallan Thanks for the kind words Akallan!

@Takingyouthere Thanks for the comment! While the first 3 pics were functional scenes w/ NAM, the last two were complete eye candy due to the unique roads - and yeah, they're 100% real. PSing roads and whatnot would be waaay off limits. I pretty much made a massive Moscow City (and Red Square) texture and broke it up into 16x16 chunks, and then took it into 3dsmax. I used the spline tool, cut it up, and even went so far to make a custom elevated highway. I then rendered everything into props (which took forever - I'm looking into GoFSH as a viable alternative instead, so I can do most of this with lot editor textures as opposed to props) and placed it onto big 16x16 lots in LE and detailed the various lots like crazy. Here's a pic of one scene if that doesn't make sense.

 

And finally, big thanks @JP Schriefer, @_Michael, @GoKingsGo, @bobolee, @feyss, @nos.17, @matias93, @kingofsimcity, @_marsh_, @Ln X, @RandyE, @MushyMushy, @Odainsaker, @mike_oxlong, @Brooklyn81, @Krisman, @v701, @rathefalcon, @jakis, @Urban Constanta, @Elenphor, @mrsmartman, @Fantozzi, @Eclipticalstorm, @nRVOUS, @Simmer2, @Oerk, @raynev1, @scotttbarry, @vintagamer, @TekindusT, @sucram17, @Akallan, & @Takingyouthere for your likes!

 

 

korver

2016: Year in Review

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So give or take a couple of days, it's now been exactly one year since I decided to seriously get involved with SC4. To celebrate the occasion, I've decided to do a retrospective entry on some of mine and the community's favorite pictures from this CJ in 2016, with some commentary as well. Additionally, I'll be expanding upon various tips and techniques I discussed in 2016 along with adding some more as well.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone once again for your supportive comments and likes in 2016 - they really kept me going, even when motivation was running low at times.

Additionally, I apologize for the lack of updates recently. As you might expect, the last two updates of 2016 (Sydney and South America) were extraordinarily time consuming and draining - so some time off was in order. I'm still slightly burnt out.. but I am finally starting to finish up a couple of updates, so I will be unveiling those shortly.

 

Lake Bogoria

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For my first entry in True Earth, I wanted to make a big entrance - so what better way to do that than a 10,000 pixel tall mosaic? Key pieces in Lake Bogoria included SE Asian slummy houses from nihonkaranws + Heblem tiki huts in the villages, various trees by SimFox, Heblem, girafe, and CP, Flamingo generators from SC4Devotion, and geysers from Craig-Abcvs.

 

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Journey Through The Sahara

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I've always loved the idea of an ultra crowded market, so Djenne, Mali was one of the first urban scenes that I created for this CJ. Generally, my rule is simple when it comes to these scenes - keep on adding more and more props in LE until I hit the prop limit (1,200 or so). nbvc's bazaar and Asian street market was vital here - but perhaps most important was Uki's stalls. It's amazing what you can find after doing a little digging around on various Japanese SC4 sites. For anyone interested in this lot, it's available on the STEX here (slightly trimmed to cut down on a massive dependency list).

 

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The sweltering small oasis town of Bardai, Chad. Given the small amount of desert-looking buildings readily available on the STEX and other sites, I had to get creative, utilizing a a little bit of everything that I could find. This included a mixture of kevinman houses, frogface slums, Wallibuk slums, Heblem tiki huts, and others. But perhaps the most interesting was the SimMars buildings that I used that fit surprisingly well. To finish off the scene, careful usage of the Poseidon terrain brushes was instrumental.

 

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Conquering Mount Fitz Roy

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Patagonia's mountains are impressive, but just as impressive is its fall colors. The Rio Fitz Roy dramatically cuts through the landscape - a mixture of brown Murimk MMP rocks and the brown boulders included in nbvc's Rock 'n' Stones (just don't drag them - click over and over until you get the big ones) did a great job of achieving that mountainous feel.

 

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Now we come face to face with the majestic Cerro Fitz Roy. Mountainous terrain mods are difficult to perfect in SC4, but I felt the one I made for this update did a pretty nice job of bringing out the imposing nature of this mountain.

 

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Myrtos Beach

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One of my favorite updates I made during 2016, Myrtos Beach was originally planned as the final piece to a massive Greece update. However, it quickly became apparent that it deserved an update of it's own. I got things started off with this simple yet beautiful sunset picture - it's amazing how small details such as photoshopped lights on the boat, house, and cars can make a big difference, making the picture feel much more alive.

 

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We move on to the overview of the beach. For this scene, it was vital having the right portion of various MMPs working together - which included Girafe Parasols + Cypresses and Heblem plop rocks + Chihuahuan flora.

 

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Greece - Part II

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I've always liked ruin scenes - there's always seems to be something magical about them. Bringing the Tholos of Delphi to life in the SC4 world meant lots of Aubrac walls, nbvc stone paths, and an assortment of random rocks and plop sands. After getting the hang of this technique quickly, I further explored the idea of SC4 MMP ruins with my Great Zimbabwe pic in my "Scenes From Africa" update.

 

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Athens - my first true city scene. Once I saw some of swi21's great Athenian buildings I knew I wanted to make an Athens recreation - but the lack of Greek urban buildings was an issue. I ended up finding some pretty close replacements on SimCity Polska - check the "After 1920" section.

 

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Meteora, Greece. The trickiest part to this picture was definitely the mountains and how to make sure they didn't look stretched. Vortext gave me a great tip - make sure you check the 'TerrainTexTilingFactor" property in your Terrain controller (If you're using a terrain mod - just search "controller" and you *should* find it in your plugins. Some are named differently though - so you might need to do a little looking around.) The terrain tiling factor is set at 0.2 by default - which generally produces stretched rock faces. Increasing this number to say, 0.25, 0.3, or higher will give a more realistic look on steep surfaces, but it will look a bit more tiled as a slight trade off. It's still a big improvement though over the default.

 

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South Pacific

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Anakena Beach, Easter Island. Here, I experimented heavily with MMPed grass - my technique was to work in layers. I got started off placing a base of PEG grass/moss for a lush, tropical look. After that, a random assortment of girafe seasonal flowers were plopped down, acting as areas of tall grass. Finally, I sprinkled in some of ChrisAdams' green rye grass to make certain areas thicker than others. One last thing I did was also sprinkle in some brown rye grass, light straw, and regular straw from ChrisAdams - these acted as areas of dead grass, and provided some much needed color variation. Small girafe bushes, berries, and feather grass were added too, to break up the landscape a bit. Also, an important note for anyone ever planning on using Moai in SC4 - make sure they have their backs facing the ocean. The locals believed that this signified the Moai were watching over them from intruders. I had to re-do the pic because of that *:P

 

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Adamstown, Pitcairn Islands. For scenes like these, I wanted to place MMPs right around the buildings - which meant shrinking the occupant size down to 1x1x1. Additionally, I wanted them to blend in perfectly with the landscape - which meant deleting any existing base/overlay textures. (note: before making any edits, please note that plopping lots stripped of textures on steep surfaces may result in a visual glitch where the texture turns black instead. If you are considering placing these lots onto steep surfaces, one workaround is to place the already shrunken to 1x1x1 prop/building (if it's the latter, you'll need to convert it into a prop via Plugin Manager/PIMX) onto the the default Pz1x1 Grass lot in Lot Editor and delete the textures on that lot instead - small filler lots like these do not seem to suffer from the same issue.) Your lot will of course now function as a park, but it will allow you to plop it where you want without base texture issues.

(One additional note - sometimes the .sc4lot and .sc4desc files will be bundled into a .dat file. In that case (and if you're able to track down the .dat file), you'll need to do some searching around for the right files - clicking the "entry" tab at the top will sort them, so that should make your job easier).

The first thing you need to do is shrink the occupant size so you can place MMPs around the perimeter - open a lot's associated .sc4desc file in Reader, choose exemplar file on the left, click the Occupant size category, and shrink it down to 1,1,1 (pic). Click "set", "apply", save the file and you're done.

As deleting all base textures is not possible in the Lot Editor, you'll need to instead find the .sc4lot file associated with a lot and open it up with Ilive's reader (make sure this is set up with the correct options/property files first) From there, navigate to the "Exemplar file" category on the left (there might be multiple "exemplar files" - the one you need for will say "LotConfigurations" at the top") and scroll down the list of "LotConfigPropertyLotObjectData" entries. Any entry beginning with 0x00000002 will be a base/overlay texture - deleting all of these (pic) will clear the lot of any and all textures (make sure you right click again after doing any deleting and choose "Reindex LotConfig" too)

 

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Scenes From Africa

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The chaotic African capital of Lagos. Continuing on with the trend of crowded cities, I don't think I'll ever make another one as packed as this. A mixture of Motokloss cars and cars from the massive LBT prop pack 1 fit the mood nicely - especially the yellow vans from the Motokloss pack which matched the infamous yellow Danfos buses that crowd the streets. As for building selection, you can't go wrong with Walibuk's South American buildings + his African slums too. Some of Glenni's buildings + the Hong Kong themed buildings in the Dong He Night market pack fit surprisingly well too.

 

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Majestic Victoria Falls. I once saw a pic a long time ago in @_marsh_'s legendary CJ "Royal Gansbaai Kingdoms" featuring an awesome photoshopped waterfall and it blew my mind. I knew it was something that I just had to try out.

 

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The Amazon

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Deep in the heart of the jungle lies Manaus. I really wanted to portray a city that truly felt like it was in the jungle - so I went a little heavier than usual with the editing. Mist/cloud brushes, a levels adjustment to really bring out some of the yellows/oranges, and a soft white diffuse glow all gave the the feeling of a hot Amazonian city.

 

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Now we move into the jungle itself with one of the Amazon's many stunning tributaries. My favorite part to this picture has to be the sand bars. To get them perfectly razor sharp, a technique that I employed (both in this picture and others) was to combine a water mod with an MMP such as JRJ dirty ploppable water or PEG grass/clover on the edges. Make sure the two are of matching colors - and you will be able to use the MMP to sculpt razor sharp lines along the borders. It generally should blend together perfectly (but you might need to tweak your water opacity, look here for a guide on how to do that).

 

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Scenes From Europe

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Pisa was the first time that I experimented with creating a completely customized texture for a city scene. It was tricky though, because the footprint of the buildings I used in this picture didn't match real life, so a perfect 1:1 scale recreation would look off. So I had to do a different technique for this picture. What I did was plop the important buildings in the game first, closely aligned to real life. I then turned the grid on in game and created a checkerboard pattern in Photoshop like this, outlining the placement of the buildings in the game. I'd then overlay the checkerboard from time to time while constructing the texture, with the final result turning out like this. From there, it was a matter of simply creating a flat plane in 3dsmax (I believe it was 10x13), placing the texture on it, and rendering it for use in game. The simple scene that I initially made in the game was then reconstructed in the Lot Editor, placing the main buildings on top of the big flat texture prop I made, along with lots and lots of detail work.

 

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Ronda was one of my absolute favorite pics I made. The lotting was especially tricky for this picture however, with the jagged cliffs causing issues. Because you can only make square lots in Lot Editor, this meant that some of the base textures would be overhanging over the edge of the cliffs. To remedy this, something you can do is place the base textures (I recommend choosing different textures - and also noting their texture ID) you want deleted as the very last thing you do before saving. You can then open up the .sc4lot file in Ilive's reader, and the textures/props placed last will be the very last "LotConfigPropertyLotObjectData" entries. To confirm you're deleting the right ones - any textures start off with 0x00000002 and their texture ID will be visible as the last value in the 13 rep entry. Delete the textures you want gone and you can now have a lot in pretty much shape you want (although, it will still "technically" be a square. This is more of a visual trick.)

 

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Heblem's dam set is one of the more underlooked BATs out there. The first time I saw it I knew I had to put it to good use - so I recreated one of the most impressive dams in the world, Switzerland's Contra Dam.

 

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Sydney

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The day overview of the Harbour city. Laying out the roads wasn't too horribly difficult - just remember that each SC4 tile is 52.5 x 52.5 feet when measuring in Google Earth while doing a recreation. The diagonal sections were tricky if only for the fact that there's not a lot of buildings to choose from. Glenni's buildings are usually my go-to here. The most challenging aspect to this picture was the highway system. As there's no elevated FARHW, it would been impossible to construct it using NAM components. I ended up getting creative, cutting off pieces of this Habour Bridge model and rendering them for use in game as modular pieces, as highlighted in this picture. It ended up working surprisingly well, though the long rendering times were a pain.

 

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My first venture into MMPing an entire urban park, Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens. ChrisAdams' paths were crucial here - I discovered that simply creating paths using the asphalt or concrete ones and surrounding it with a line of the dirt ones (or light dirt) creates a very nice layered effect. You can even use some of the smaller nbvc Rocks n' Stones to create the illusion of slightly terraced grass along the edges of the paths. The grass selection was pretty much a bunch of girafe seasonal flowers, but with some spots left barren to expose the terrain mod underneath. This had the effect of not only making the scene look less "busy" - a positive in my book, but also gave a little extra color variation. My usual strategy of using ChrisAdams brown rye/straw/light straw in various places was employed as well, for more color variation and to make it look like there was the occasional patch of dead grass.

 

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We now move on to Sydney at night. One of my favorite pictures of the year, I love how it turned out - full of energy, just like the city itself.

 

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South America

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Buenos Aires and it's world famous 9 de Julio Avenue + Obelisco. The textures made for the streets turned out really nice and it ended up being a gorgeous scene. Simple, small details such as illumination added to the street lights in Photoshop (inspired by the style of @MilitantRadical) can add a lot to a scene.

 

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Santos, Brazil. Whenever it's December, I always seem to visit @Bastet69008's and @elavery's great CJs to take my mind off the fact that it's 5 degrees outside and snowing.  So I think it's pretty clear where the inspiration for this picture came from *:P

 

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One last photoshopped waterfall. For a waterfall as truly epic as Iguazu Falls, I felt it certainly deserved it.

 

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Itaipu Dam was one of my bigger projects, and demonstrates the possibilities of importing sketchup models into the game - bringing to scenes to life that you thought would never be possible. I already did an extensive tutorial on the process of getting this behemoth into the game - you can check it out in the tutorials section of my last entry here. I'd also recommend getting acquainted with some of the basics of 3dsmax - a good guide on that can be found here.

 

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I normally don't like using Sketchup models to entirely create a scene (generally low quality) - but the Paramaribo house set I stumbled upon had some really excellent modeling. The building textures though weren't the best in-game, so some rain and a touch of extra grime added in after the fact really helped out.

 

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Bonus Pictures

 

The cradle of life - Ngorongoro crater. As a whole, the spawnable flora from Xannepan's animal generators found on SC4Devotion are greatly underused. Outside of obvious choices like the African safari type scenes shown below - there's plenty of uses. Even just a couple plops of the buzzard generator over a natural habitat can help bring a scene to life. Even after making a number of wildlife related pictures in 2016, there's still many possibilities left over - something I intend to explore more this year.

 

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While I was pleased with how the Lagos scene turned out, I really wanted to make a nice grid buster scene. For Yaounde, a variety of techniques were used. For starters, I did the entire scene backwards then flipped it horizontally once I was done to give it a fresh perspective while remaining true to real life. As for the actual scene itself, the FA 22.5 and 67.5 cars included in Orange's prop pack were vital. Additional techniques were used such as slightly offsetting orthogonal buildings along the edges of FA roads and hiding the rough corners with flora. Custom content creation was extensive for this scene - not only did it require custom textures for the roads but it also marked my first serious venture into BAT, as I created the Yaounde Cathedral from scratch (although it's still very much a WIP).

 

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My first snowy city scene, Prague, required me getting creative. Essentially, my strategy was the following: since a number of the buildings in this picture were custom imported BATs, I had control in 3dsmax to give them snow textures on the roofs. Since all the other buildings didn't have snow - I pretty much copied and pasted the snow from the models that had the snow on them to the ones that didn't have any. The base textures didn't need any photoshop work as I designed the texture to be snowy from the very beginning. At the time, that strategy worked decently, but it was incredibly tedious. Since then, I've done a little experimenting and I think the best way forward would be a method such as the one used by pingpong. I would only suggest playing around with the "Selective colors" adjustment to make the whites a little more whiter.

 

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NOTE: All images on True Earth are hosted from dropbox, which seems to have more issues than other image hosts unfortunately. If you are unable to view any of the pictures in this journal thus far, I have dumped everything from 2016 into an imgur album here.

 

Don't forget to comment, like, and follow True Earth if you haven't already!

-korver

 

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Replies for "South America + Bonus Pictures":
 

Spoiler

 

@JP Schriefer Thanks for the kind words! And please keep on making those great BATs, I have lots of ideas on how I'm going to put them to use in the future *:thumb:

@Mańkowsky Thanks for the high praise, glad to hear that! Btw, I hope you continue your CJ - I especially loved that awesome video you made.

@sejr99999 Thanks for the kind words! Unfortunately, I've tried contacting a number of authors for permission on this matter, but I haven't gotten any responses - so until then I won't be able to release anything, sorry.

@younghappy Thanks for the comment! I always like pushing the limits of the game and seeing what unique scenes are possible *:yes:

@pcwhiz24 Thank you very much for the high praise! Big fan of your work btw.

@mrsmartman Thanks, glad you liked it!

@Zerx Thanks for the kind words - I hope my PMs helped out. If you or any one else is seriously considering texture creation and has any questions, feel free to send me a PM. I might make a specific guide later on - it would be a bit too much for this one update.

@MillionSeven Thanks! Always nice hearing that about my work *:yes:

@slickbg56 Thank you very much for the nice words - glad to hear you liked it!

@kschmidt Thanks kschmidt! Yeah, it's a shame about the rain and the mosquitos. But at least in SC4, I can visit these exotic places from my air conditioned room *:P I also want to thank you again for your nice comments over the course of the year, they mean a lot to me!

@RandyE Thanks Randy, I always appreciate your comments - they always give you a fresh perspective.

@凌子鸣 Thank you - glad you enjoyed my Great Wall recreation!

@sucram17  Thanks sucram! I remember you mentioning wanting to see those Nazca lines a while back so I had to include it - always nice to hear they and others measured up to the real thing.

@Cyclone Boom Thank you for the great compliment CB!

@feyss Thanks feyss! I hope you can get out another Arinsia update, the previews look great so far *:yes:

@mike_oxlong  Thanks for the comment *:D

@Takingyouthere Thanks for the high praise! Nice to see you back here as well.

 

 

korver

Moscow

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For anyone going to Moscow, a trip down the heart of the city is a must. We begin our journey with a drive down Tverskaya Street - the most well-known road in all of Moscow. This crowded shopping district has existed since the 12th century, and the streets are lined with historic architecture wherever you look. Even with some light rain, its Russian charm is still undeniable.

 

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As we make our way around the city, the rain begins to pick up considerably. Endless rows of commie blocks dominate the surrounding landscape - their bleak repetitiveness serves as a fitting backdrop to the elements.

 

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October brings the first snow of the year - creating a beautiful atmosphere around many of Moscow's most famous landmarks such as the Lomonossov Moscow State University. Completed in 1953, its imposing facade has served as the perfect symbol of Moscow - a powerful city that serves as the financial, political, and economic capital of Russia.

 

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Once the calendar crosses over into December, temperatures plunge into the negatives as the entire city turns into a winter wonderland. Moscow is one of the coldest major cities in the world - with temperatures as low as -44F being recorded, it takes a lot to brave these months. While it may be cold outside, it's not cold enough to stop us from visiting one of Moscow's most famous tourist attractions, Red Square. Few places on earth can boast such a collection of historic buildings in one location - with the Kremlin, State Museum, St. Basil's Cathedral, and many more within walking distance.

 

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Once the seasons change and the elements begin to clear up, a beautiful, sleek city emerges. Despite still being in construction, the Moscow International Business Center (Moscow City) boasts one of the most impressive skylines in all of Europe (and in the world). Its one of a kind collection of skyscrapers on the banks of the Moskva River include the Federation Tower, City of Capitals, and Naberezhnaya Tower - all of which are equally stunning. While Moscow may be known for it's past historic architecture, Moscow City makes it clear that this is also a city with an eye on the future.

 

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NOTE: Two of these scenes (Moscow City & Red Square) feature a handful of sketchup models from sites like 3d warehouse, as there were no close replacements for certain buildings I needed. These are real models imported into the game, they are like any other BAT you would use. Some editing was done though to add effects like extra nightlights and snow.

 

Don't forget to comment, like, and follow True Earth if you haven't already!

-korver

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Replies for "2016: Year in Review":

Spoiler

 

@RandyEThanks for the kind words Randy, glad you enjoyed my work that much - always cool to hear that. There will be much more to come *:yes:

@JP Schriefer Thanks for the compliment and high praise *:)

@TekindusT Glad that the problem got sorted out and thanks for the nice words.

@v701 Thanks, glad you liked it. A number of city scenes were completely non functional and had to be constructed entirely in lot editor, such as Pisa and Santos. Other scenes were made by laying out a road network, plopping down functional buildings, and replacing the roads with my own custom road lots right before taking the picture like Athens and Manaus. Sydney used a variety of methods - some areas were completely functional with functional roads, while some areas were completely plopped with eye candy roads. As for Moscow in this update, it's similar to that of Sydney - scenes like Red Square/Moscow City had to be eye candy, while the others feature functional buildings w/ functional roads.

@mike_oxlong  Thanks for the kind words and great compliment! I hope that my guides will be able to help out as well.

@Simmer2  Thank you SM2! *:)

@_Michael Thanks, glad you liked it and I hope it helps out!

@Abrams124  Lol, thanks for the comment - I don't know how much that would cost, but I'm quite certain I couldn't afford it*:lol:

@Ln X  Thanks for the kind words as always, your comments throughout the year have been much appreciated!

@jmsepe  Thanks for the comment and the high praise!

@Fantozzi  Thanks for that great comment *:lol:And it's always cool to hear that someone is dreaming about my work*:P You know, I've actually come really close to making a fjord before but I just haven't gotten around to it - both Milford Sound and a Trolltunga mosaic were on my list for 16 - but I ran out of time. Maybe I'll just have to include them this year. But I do know for certain you *will* see a chicken in one of my pictures, I promise. I hid one in one of the pics I made a couple weeks ago, it's yet to be revealed. I made it somewhat difficult to find, but not too hard, so you'll have to do some looking around.

@dabadon5  Thanks for the comment!

@_marsh_ Thanks for the comment. Your work was one of my biggest inspirations when I first started playing SC4 - your scenes were truly revolutionary. And don't worry, I plan to keep this going for a while *:)

@Takingyouthere Thanks for the kind words. I went back and made some adjustments to the base texture tutorial, there were a number of nuances that needed more explaining. I generally plopped on flat land, or when I dealt with slopes I would place the lot on a basic open grass lot so I wouldn't deal with base textures turning black. I tried explaining it a bit better in the guide, but if you still have issues feel free to send me a PM. As for the rocks - unfortunately they went missing off the STEX a while back, either due to being taken down manually or via a STEX bug or something. Heblem hasn't been on for a while, but I'll try to send him a message here soon to see if I can get permission to re-upload them. As for the sketchup models - while the quality isn't perfect, they do look quite presentable in game from lower zooms. A lot of the models on the site are rather mediocre though, so as long as I avoid those and find the "diamonds in the rough" - I'm usually good to go. The fact that I use 3dsmax as opposed to gmax as well really helps out as well - the crisper renders are crucial as every last bit of quality is vital here. In regards to MMPing - I've found out that it's one of those things where you get much faster as you go along. I also work similarly to that of Akallan in his videos - really fast and not worrying too much about mistakes initially - I'll just bulldoze those in the end or add another layer of MMP work on top of any areas that need addressing. I pretty much keep on adding round after round of MMPs until it looks good, if that makes sense. I have a lot planned for 2017 as well, so be on the lookout *:)

@kingofsimcity  Thanks for the nice words throughout the year - I always strive to do something truly unique and special with each update. I have a lot in store for the upcoming year *:)

@Cyclone Boom  Thank you once again for the nice words, I really appreciate it.

@Indiana Joe  Thanks for the comment! Yeah, there was a little bit of good timing there *:lol:- but I can't say I expected that I'd get this far when I first started. It's been a fun journey so far, and I hope to create many more amazing scenes from around the globe.

@tariely  Thanks, appreciate it - always nice to hear that about my work.

@mrbisonm Thanks for stopping by, glad you liked it *:)

 

 

 

korver

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After visiting the world's tallest waterfall and largest rain forest, our small Cessna finally lands at our next destination. We've got quite the trip planned, so enjoy :)

 

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Our first stop in our journey is the capital and largest city of Suriname, Paramaribo. It's truly a one of a kind city, with its mixture of beautiful colonial Dutch architecture on the edge of the rain forest. The Dutch architecture serves as a reminder to the past - the country was under Dutch rule for nearly 150 years as Dutch Guiana until it gained its independence back in 1975. Our time in Paramaribo is brief - and unfortunately, the rain never seems to stop during our stay, as is common in much of the country.

 

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We board our plane once again and head back out. Cloaked in heavy rain clouds, Mount Roraima on the Brazil/Venezuela/Guyana border is truly breathtaking with its imposing sheer cliffs. Countless waterfalls plunge off of its tiered slopes - yet another sign that we're in the middle of rainy season.

 

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We land our plane just inside the Amazonas state of Eastern Venezuela for a quick excursion. We're up for a challenge, and the imposing Autana Tepui provides just that. After a couple of days of nerve wracking climbing, we finally reach the top and put up our tents for the night, taking in the view.

 

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We get back on our plane and land a couple hundred miles north in Valencia. We'll be traveling by car for now on, and the first stop is the small town of Puerto Colombia on the southern coast of the Caribbean Sea. It's a charming little village, with its small river filled with brightly colored riverboats. No trip here would be complete without taking one for a cruise through the village, and we do just that.

 

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After driving along the Caribbean coast for a couple hundred more miles, we finally make our way to the Pan-American highway. Taking that south, we travel high through the Andes mountains of Colombia for quite some time until we finally reach Colombia's Cocora Valley. This place seems almost unreal, with it's famed wax palm trees climbing to heights of up to 200 feet tall. The surrounding landscape is equally impressive, with quaint farming villages surrounded by rolling hillsides and steep, rocky slopes. The locals are quite hospitable, letting us stay the night.

 

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Not too far from the Cocora Valley is another one of Colombia's famous attractions, the Las Lajas Sanctuary. Built between 1916 and 1949, this church is one of the most impressive sights in all of South America, standing high above the steep Guáitara River canyon. Between the location, waterfalls, and reports to this day of "mysterious healing" - it's truly a magical place.

 

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After driving for seemingly an eternity through nothing but the barren deserts of Central and Southern Peru, we eventually reach a sight worth looking for. There's one landmark here that you'll want to keep your eye out for - they're easy to miss. Eventually we find one of the legendary Nazca lines - the condor. Created between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500, the Nazca culture created these lines by removing the rocks from the desert floor, revealing the lighter colored ground beneath. The best way to view these lines is by air however, so we catch a quick ride and do just that.

 

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After checking out the famed Nazca lines, we start to head our way inland towards Cuzco and finally make our way towards the legendary Machu Picchu. There's no more roads from this point forward - the only way to the top is by foot. After stopping at a local village, we get out our backpacking gear and get ready for the adventure ahead of us. It's quite the climb up the mountain, but after numerous days and nights traversing through dense rain forest, finally seeing these majestic ruins makes it all worth it.

 

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We get back on the highway and start heading south once more. The landscape initially is barren - but eventually it turns into something much more beautiful. The steep slopes of the Andes mountains have been terraced by local farmers for thousands of years, and there's no better example of their work than the Colca Canyon. Through advanced irrigation strategies they transformed these steep mountainsides into workable farmland, and to this day the locals make their living off them.

 

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Our trip through the Andes slowly gets higher and higher in elevation as we start heading eastwards. Eventually it becomes hard to just catch out breath, but we soon adapt to the massive height difference. Perched in the middle of these mountains is the world's highest lake, Lake Titicaca, a sight that we wouldn't want to miss. One of the most remarkable sights here is the floating islands of the local Uros people. By taking the tough reeds that surround the lake (totora) - they've managed to build floating islands that entire families can live on. They allow us to have a glimpse into their daily lives, allowing us onto one of their island and to observe some of their ancient traditions.

 

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We're finally out of the mountains, but the adventure as just begun for us. This swampy, densely forested area of Brazil is known as The Pantanal - and there's only one way through it, the transpantaneira. The road acts as the only safe route through the wetlands, and we run into numerous herds of cattle on the road along the way. It doesn't take long for us to get into our first standoff - as a couple of crocodile-resembling caimans need to make their way across the road.

 

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We finally reach the capital of Brazil, Brasília. Seeking a more centrally located capital, in 1960 the capital was changed from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília and an entire city was planned and built from the ground up. Architect Oscar Niemeyer designed many of the important buildings here, giving them a distinctive flair. There's no better example than the Palácio do Planalto - the official workplace of the President of Brazil truly comes alive at night.

 

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From Brasília, we start traveling eastwards towards the Brazilian coastline. Every Brazilian beach side city is magnificent, but Rio stands out from the rest. Standing atop of Corcovado Mountain is the famous Cristo Redentor statue - a must visit for any tourist, especially at sunrise. Completed in 1931, its arms were placed in an open stance, symbolizing peace.

 

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A couple hundred miles west is another Brazilian beach side city that you don't want to miss, Santos - one of the most beautiful cities that we encounter during our journey. It's gardens (the world's longest) and beaches are truly magnificent, stretching for as far as the eye can see. After all the traveling we've done thus far - some time spent relaxing on the beach is more than overdue.

 

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When traveling through Brazil, you're bound to run into a number of favelas (slums) on the outskirts of many of the larger cities. We saw a number of them in Rio de Janeiro - and as we travel through São Paulo, we see quite a few more. The people here make the most of their situation, gathering whatever they can find in order to create a house for their families.

 

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We begin the final leg of our journey with the mighty Itaipu Dam, located on the Paraná River on the Paraguay/Brazil border. You truly can't underestimate the size of this massive structure - it's the largest hydroelectric scheme in the world. This dam alone provides nearly 80% of Paraguay's electricity, as well as much of the power to many important cities in Brazil - but it did come at a steep $20 billion cost. It's the rainy season - so we get to see an up close view of the spillway in action, which drains out any excess water from the Itaipu reservoir.

 

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Our next stop is some 20 miles south - the world famous Iguazu Falls. From miles around you can hear them rumbling - you can just sense the power of these falls. There's a seemingly infinite amount of waterfalls here, and the best way to experience them is to get up close. One way is to board one of the many boats that travel along the lower river - and we do just that, getting as close to the falls as possible. But no trip is complete without visiting the "Devil's Throat" (seen in the top left corner of the picture) - an elevated walkway takes us as close as we can possibly get to it, witnessing a one of a kind wonder.

 

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- Full size link here -

 

 

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Finally, our journey wraps up when we reach one of the premier destinations in South America - Buenos Aires. Once you see the avenues and architecture, it's not hard to see why it's called the "Paris of South America". 9 de Julio isn't just wide - it's the world's largest avenue - and right in the middle of it is the famous Obelisco de Buenos Aires. Built to commemorate the founding of the city in 1536, it's truly amazing at night.

 

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- Bonus Pictures -

Everything else that didn't make it into an update this year, so here's their final destination. Enjoy!

 

Yaounde, Cameroon

 

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Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

 

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Agbokim Waterfalls, Nigeria

 

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Ancient City of Djado (1000 A.D.), Niger

 

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Rubber Farm, Liberia

 

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Mother and Child Balancing Rocks, Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

 

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Great Blue Hole, Belize

 

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Sutherland Falls, New Zealand

 

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Great Wall of China

 

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Prague's Christmas Market

 

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New Year's Eve in Prague :party:

 

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- Tutorials -

Itaipu Dam

Itaipu Dam was one of the more difficult projects I did, and after many trials and tribulations I was able to successfully get it into the game. To make it, I first downloaded the pieces from here, here, and here. After I brought it into 3dsmax, the next objective was to break it up into small pieces so it would render properly. This picture illustrated what exactly I ended up doing. Next, the pieces had to be edited with the Reader to make their occupant sizes 1x1x1, so other things such as MMPs could be plopped around them, and most importantly so they would fit onto 1x1 tiles. Then, all the pieces were put onto 1x1 tiles, and moved around countless times to ensure they would line up as close as the game would possibly allow. Finally, it was a matter of placing everything in the game and plopping water and MMPs around the entire dam structure. Some minor editing was done after the fact, such as to add extra steam on the spillway in addition to the plopped JENX small + medium waterfall lots, to add power lines between the plopped power poles, and to clean up any small imperfections between pieces.

 

Machu Picchu

Now, I'll probably get some questions on my Machu Picchu so I'll try my best to explain my method here as well. I've struggled with terraces in the past (that's why you haven't seen any so far :P), but now with this method, you'll probably see things like terraced rice paddies in the future as well. So pretty much what I did was firstly download a couple of Machu Picchu models I found off of 3d warehouse. They're actually pretty easy to make though, so I'd recommend that if you can do it. I took the good elements of each, moved things around, rescaled, rotated etc and combined them to make a really nice model. Retextured it, then converted it to an editable poly, selected faces, and carefully selected and removed all the flat grass faces on the model. Cut out a section of it, rendered it, made the LODs 1x1x1 in reader, and placed it on a 1x1 lot. Opened up Model tweaker, then offset it something like 500 ft so now it's hanging way off the lot and the 1x1 lot won't interfere when I'm terraforming. Once in game, I plop it, terraform hills to the contour of the terraces, and put down lots of MMP grass where the grass used to be on the model. This picture should help illustrate that a bit (taken right at the beginning, so terraforming/MMPing wasn't done, but hopefully you should get the idea). Finally, the last adjustments were made in PS, the biggest of which included adding shadows (which is important here because models won't cast shadows on MMPs)

 

Base Textures

A couple of the city streets were MMPed, but the rest were not - and they're not actually traditional "base textures", like the ones you would expect to find in lot editor. Instead, I'll prepare a large, highly customized texture for each city scene I'm working on based on a number of pictures. Once it's done, it's placed on a big flat plane in 3dsmax and rendered, ready to be placed in game. It takes way longer than simply using modular road sets (usually a day or two) - but the increased realism is worth it, and I'll probably be using it fully moving forward.

 

- - -

 

Special thanks once again to all the various creators on 3d warehouse for providing invaluable models for this update.

Attribution for the pictures:

Waterkant Paramaribo, CCSA3, Forrestjunky | Tepuy Autana (Kuaymayojo), CCSA3, Fernando Flores | View from Mt. Roraima "Window", CCSA2, Paulo Fassina | puerto colombia (choroní, venezuela), CC2, Olga Berrios | Ceroxylon Quindiuense Cocora, CC3, Diegotorquemada | Santuario Nacional de Las Lajas 02, CCSA3, GameOfLight | Colca Canton Puno, CCSA2, world-wide-gifts.com | Machu Picchu, Peru, Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike2.0, Pedro Szekely | Nazca Lines - Condor, CCSA2, Paul Williams | Uros Islands in Lake Titicaca - panoramio, CC3, Frans-Banja Mulder | Por do Sol Pantanal em Mato Grosso Brasil, CCSA3, Filipefrazao | Yellow Jesus, CCSA3, dabldy | Panoramica Santos, CC2, Diego Silvestre | Sao Paulo, Brasil, CC2, Francisco Autunes | Usina Hidroelétrica Itaipu Binacional / Itaipu Dam, CC2, Deni Williams | Iguazu National Park Falls, CC3, Tomfriedel | Obelisk Buenos Aires, CC2, Nestor Galina. Notes: Various edits were made to each picture, including color, slight blurring, and sharpening. All these banners have the same license as the original pictures.

- - -

 

Don't forget to comment, like, and follow True Earth if you haven't already! :)

-korver

korver

Sydney

 

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Our trip to Sydney begins with one of the world's most recognizable buildings - the Sydney Opera House. Built in 1973 - its unique white seashell shape truly sets this skyline apart from the rest. Sitting just behind it is the Royal Botanic Gardens - opened in 1816, there's no better place to take a stroll on a sunny day.

 


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Just as recognizable is the world famous Sydney Harbour Bridge - built in 1932, it's one of the best ways to cross the harbour. At night, its distinctive lights dominate the surrounding waters.

 

 

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Water taxis are a great way to get around the harbour, and the Circular Quay (whose name contradicts its squarish shape) near the CBD is one of the most popular destinations in the entire city.

 


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Sydney is a city known for it's suburbs. In fact, it's got 555 of them - but few are as beautiful as Lavender Bay. It's easily reached by water taxi, has great views of the Harbour Bridge and the skyline in the distance - not to mention being ranked consistently as one of Sydney's most livable suburbs. It's a great place to call home.

 


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A rainy day in the CBD. Some of Sydney's most recognizable buildings can be found near Hyde Park - such as the MLC Centre, which held the title as the city's tallest building for 15 years. Nearby is the Sydney Tower - completed in 1981, you can enjoy some exotic cuisine 360 degree rotating restaurant.

 


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Another scene from the CBD - some of Sydney's tallest buildings - Deutsche Bank Place, Chifley Tower, Aurora Place, and Governor Philip Tower tower over the Royal Botanic Gardens.

 


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However, it's at night that these buildings truly come to life.

 


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And finally, some overviews of the city.

 


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Special thanks goes out to all the various creators at 3D Warehouse, as many buildings here were imported from there (too many to list). If you're interested, just search "Sydney" there and you'll find many of the same models I used - you'll need to have basic gmax/3dsmax knowledge to get the model into the game however, but it isn't very difficult. The highway system is modular, for an insight of how I created it and the process behind it, please take a look at the comments section of my "City Overview" and "Night Scenes" ST challenge entries. A pic illustrating how I set it up and some of the pieces in game can be seen here.

 

 

Don't forget to comment, like, and follow True Earth if you haven't already! *:)

 

-korver

 

korver

Scenes From Europe

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Pisa, Italy

Originally built in 1173, this world famous bell tower began to tilt as soon as it was being constructed. Soft soil coupled with an inadequate foundation meant that the tower had to be built slightly curved just so it wouldn't fall over during construction. The tower slowly began to tilt more and more as the years went by, and by 1990 the tower was on the verge of collapse and had to be closed to the public. Numerous attempts at straightening the tower were made throughout the 1990s, and was deemed safe enough to reopen in 2001. Today, the tower stands at a 4 degree tilt.


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National Library of Greece
Athens, Greece

The heart of Athens comes alive at night. The National Library of Greece, built in 1829, holds one of the world's largest collections of Greek manuscripts behind it's impressive stone columns.


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Landwasser Viaduct
Swiss Alps

One of the most noteworthy locations on the legendary Glacier Express passenger train is the breathtaking Landwasser Viaduct, especially during wintertime. Standing 213 feet at it's highest point, it's one of the most picturesque locations in the entire Swiss Alps.


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The Pantheon
Rome, Italy

Perhaps the most well preserved building of Ancient Rome, the Pantheon remains to this day as a temple to the Roman Gods. The circular oculus at the top allows light to enter, as well as the rain and any other natural elements. While there's numerous ways to get to the Pantheon, you can't go wrong with the time-tested solution: a horse drawn carriage through the streets of Rome.


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Puente Nuevo
Ronda, Spain

Located in the Andalusia region of Spain, the mountaintop city of Ronda is split in two by the 390 foot deep El Tajo canyon. Connecting the two sides of the old town is the breathtaking Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) - completed in 1793, to this day it remains one of the world's most iconic bridges.


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Contra Dam
Swiss Alps

Opened in 1965, Switzerland's Contra Dam is one of the most impressive locations in the entire Alps. Most notably, in 1995 it was featured in the bungee jumping opening sequence of GoldenEye (one of my favorite movies of all time, which is why I chose to make it in the first place). Periodically, the two spillways on each side of the dam will open, releasing 1,300 m/s of water, truly an amazing sight.

 

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Special models used in this update:

Heblem Dam Set

Landwasser Viaduct

Puente Nuevo

Pantheon Fountain

 

Don't forget to comment, like, and follow True Earth if you haven't already! Thanks :)


-korver

korver

The Amazon

 

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Our journey through the Amazon starts off in Manaus, located on the Rio Negro in the heart of the rain forest. It's one of the largest cities in the Amazon - despite it's remote location, it's well worth the visit. We take a stroll down many of it's historic roads, enjoying some of the architecture - the best example being it's beautiful ornate opera house. The Amazon Theatre was constructed back in 1896, back when the surrounding region was flourishing from the rubber trade. Lots has changed since then, and unfortunately we'll meet some of the harsh realities quickly..


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After our visit in Manaus, we board our boat and begin traveling north through the rain forest. Unfortunately, it'll take quite some time before we actually get to see the untamed forest, as deforestation has cleared out much of the land. Once pristine sections of rain forest have been replaced by the signature "fishbone" pattern for as far as the eye can see. The need for cattle ranching and crops means that many will do just about anything for more land, including slashing and burning whole sections in one go. Although the rate of deforestation has dropped in recent years, it can't change the fact that nearly 20 percent of the forest has been destroyed over the last 40 years alone.


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Our journey continues northwards, and we move from the Rio Negro to one of it's smaller tributaries, the Rio Demini. As the river undulates and curves it's way gently through the rain forest, we finally get our first true taste of the Amazon. We get a chance to observe some of the surrounding wildlife - a pair of jaguars being the clear highlight of the day. Once we reach the small fishing village of Lisbão, we get a chance to meet the locals and stock up on supplies as we continue on deeper into the rain forest.


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The river gets narrower and narrower the further we go along - and it leaves us less room for error as we continue our travels. Once we finally reach some rapids, the only way to continue onward is by foot. We were told that the local Yanomami people inhabit these lands - but after many days hiking through the deep forest, we thought we would never see them. Finally, right at the Venezuela/Brazil border, we catch a smoke cloud far off in the corner of our eyes. As we move closer, sure enough we see the roof of a shabono (their circular huts) peeking over the canopy of the forest - we've finally found found them. As we move closer to greet them, the situation quickly turns murky as they take out their bow and arrow. They've never seen outsiders before, and not knowing if we're friend or foe - they threaten to shoot. To dispel the situation, we offer a pair of matches and they cautiously accept the gift. After learning how they work, they put down their weapons - we've finally gained their respect.

 

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After hiking for weeks from small village to small village, we finally reach one with a small airport. They're offering plane rides over Angel Falls - an offer we can't refuse. The ride takes us over a number of tepuis in the Guiana Highlands - stunning for sure, but they won't compare to what we see next. We finally reach the falls a couple hours later - getting about as close as you can possibly get by plane. At over 3,200 feet tall, the world's tallest waterfall doesn't disappoint - it's truly an extraordinary view.

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Don't forget to comment, like, and follow True Earth if you haven't already! Thanks :)

-korver

 

---

Replies for "Scenes From Africa":
 

Spoiler

 

@Ln X Thanks for the nice words and the nomination consideration :)
@_marsh_ I appreciate for kind words :)
@Cyclone Boom Thank you, I always strive to take the game to the next level with each update.
@elavery Thanks elavery, I hope everything is going good in Lagos. And I also hope the traffic isn't that huge of an issue
:P
@Ducio Thanks, glad you liked my Victoria Falls recreation.
@tariely Thanks tariely :)
@sunda Obrigado :)
@ 凌子鸣  Thanks once again for the nice words!
@Dreadnought Thank you Dreadnought, it certainly takes a while but the end result is worth it.
@Heermonius Thank you for the kind words :)
@gigius76 I appreciate it gigius! :)
@Akallan Thanks for the nice comment once again Akallan. I'll probably do the "Show us" ST challenge where I'll do a tutorial so you can see some of my work from start to finish before PS.
@JP Schriefer Thank you for the kind words!
@jmsepe Appreciate it, glad you liked it :)
@6StringShaman Thanks - see my comment I said to Akallan :)
@Themistokles Thanks for the nice words as always Themistokles - see what I said to Akallan btw :)
@sucram17 Appreciate it sucram, glad you liked my Lagos recreation.
@kschmidt Thanks as always kschmidt. To make the bridge it wanted to make it look like an actual SC4 Bridge, I really wanted it to have that SC4 feel to it. So what I did was I made some of it on ground in the game first. I then rotated it in PS and copied it over the gap.
@feyss Thanks feyss :)
@Whte_rbt You know I actually thought about doing that once a couple of months ago - but it does sort of run into the issue where my CJ is named True Earth and now I'm making places that aren't on Earth lol. So I don't know. Maybe some fun offshoot update some time down the road perhaps. Anyways, thanks for the kind words once again.

@Bipin Thanks for that great compliment Bipin :)
@Hellken  Thanks Hellken!

@Wallibuk Thank you Wallibuk, your buildings have been a huge asset to this CJ! I always aim to go above and beyond with each update and I'm glad you liked it.
@tankmank   I appreciate the kind words tankmank :)

@Dieguito2000 Thank you! :)
@RandyE Thanks once again Randy. I always strive to find that right balance where things like photoshop can provide the right amount of flair and realism to each picture while still being very true to SC4. In many ways I do view this CJ as a work of art, like a sort of canvas - you said it quite well :)

 

 

korver

Scenes From Africa

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Our trip to Africa starts off in Lagos, Africa's largest city. Getting anywhere around town seems to be an impossible task with the never ending flow of traffic. Street vendors and hawkers are on every street corner, and the massive crowds of people everywhere adds to the congestion. In order to go anywhere, using the bright yellow danfos (buses) are almost a necessity - they're virtually everywhere in the city. But just when we thought the traffic was bad enough around our hotel - one of the local markets spills out onto the streets. This in turn forces one of the main roads to shut down and everything comes to a complete standstill for a couple of days. We're limited to touring the city by foot at this point, but at least we get to check out many of the beautiful goods that the local markets have to offer.

 

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After our stay in Lagos, we start traveling East - right into the heart of Congo. All the roads from this point forward are dirt covered - which potentially makes rainy season a real headache. Fortunately for us, we don't run into any problems for the time being. Along our way, we get to meet numerous tribes, observing their rituals and getting a chance to see how the locals live. The mud and thatched roof huts they call home have been a mainstay for thousands of years - and we can see why, noting their sturdiness and ease of build.

 

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Our next stop in our African journey is northern Tanzania where we take our Jeep through Serengeti National Park. The views from the ground are amazing, almost immediately spotting large herds of elephants, giraffes, and zebras. However, to get an even better view, we decide to board a hot air balloon instead. It's wildebeest migration season, and we get an excellent birds-eye view from our balloon - also finally spotting a couple of lions on the prowl as well. Once we get back on the ground, we finally start to make our way out of the park - but not before stopping a few times to let a herd of Giraffes make their way across the road.

 

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We board our plane and arrive next in Madagascar, being sure to see it's famous Avenue of the Baobabs. Not only are they perhaps the world's fattest tree, but they also can live for 2,000 years or more - they're truly marvelous as they tower high above us. However, just as we make our way out of the area, we're met with an unexpected surprise. We thought we left the traffic back in Lagos - but evidently we were quite wrong, getting stuck in a cattle traffic jam on numerous occasions.

 

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Once we make it back to the mainland, we travel a couple hundred miles West and make our way across the Zimbabwean border. After getting lost more than a couple times and finally getting some much needed help from the locals, we're able to locate Great Zimbabwe, nestled in the middle of the Zimbabwean foothills. Once the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, all that's left is a collection of ruins scattered around central and western Africa. Despite their current state, you can still get a sense of the power and greatness that these walls once held.

 

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Our final destination is perhaps Africa's most famous - Victoria Falls. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, these awe-inspiring falls truly live up to the title. Once we get there, we're sure to try out a little whitewater river rafting - it's the middle of the high season and the river is in full force. However, there's still something that's a little more dangerous that we have to try out. Our tour guide takes us back up to the top of the falls, and we board a small boat to Livingstone Island near the middle of the Zambezi river. We slowly move our way across the lip of the falls, careful not to take one wrong step on any slippery rocks along our way. Finally, we reach our destination - the infamous Devil's pool. We take the plunge, and the only thing protecting us from a 300+ foot drop is a small submerged rock barrier on the edge. We take a deep breath, carefully leaning over the edge to catch the view of a lifetime.

 

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-korver

 

korver

South Pacific

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After a brief absence, our journey picks back up on the small nation of Palau, an archipelago of over 200 small islands in the far Western Pacific Ocean. Numerous volcanic explosions many eons ago pushed coral larvae up and out of the Earth's core, forming a massive limestone reef - and the erosion since then has given Palau's islands their distinctive mushroom shape. As most of the 200 islands are quite rocky with palms and mangroves draping over the waters' edge, it takes us a bit to find a nice beach, but we're sure to enjoy it once we get there. Later on in the day, we get out our snorkels and explore the vast coral reefs that surround the island - making sure to avoid the many sharks that call the waters home.

 

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We get back on our cruise ship and spend the next couple of weeks making stops at various South Pacific islands, none of which however are as beautiful as Tahiti's Bora Bora. The small atoll was formed by a massive volcanic explosion some three million years ago, and has been slowly sinking back into the ocean ever since. The waters that surround much of the islands are extremely shallow, giving the the locals the opportunity to build structures directly on the water - which is where we'll be staying tonight. Our thatched hut on stilts provides us an up close view of the many bent palm trees and pristine coral reefs that surround the island, and we take a moment to enjoy the island as the sun begins to set.

 

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We board the cruise ship once again and 1,500 miles later, we reach Pitcairn Island. Pitcairn's history goes back to 1789, where Fletcher Christian staged a mutiny against the William Bligh, captain of the British navy ship HMS Bounty. Christian and a small number of other mutineers settled on Pitcairn - making Adamstown their main settlement. To this day, nearly all of the 56 inhabitants of Adamstown are descendants of the original mutineers, and a number of them will be greeting us when our cruise ship reaches the island, which is traditional when a ship reaches the small port. After a small dinner in the square, we take a look around the island - not much seems to have changed since 1789. Not a single car or vehicle can be found on the entire island, making Adamstown seem very much stuck in time. Despite fighting flying cockroaches and spiders for the majority of our stay in our one bedroom shack, we take a liking to Adamstown's charm, with it's unique assortment of pines and palms along with the pounding waves that never cease to stop.

 

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Our final stop in our journey across the Pacific is Chile's Easter Island. After getting off our cruise ship, we check out some of the Moai that dot the island as we make our way to Anakena Beach. Rano Raraku is one of the best locations to do so, and it gives us the opportunity to get up and close with some of the Moai - but not too close, as touching the Moai is strictly prohibited. 

Special thanks to Simmer2 for sending me the Moai models used in this picture!

 

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We finally reach Anakena Beach. Anakena is one of two beaches that Easter Island has to offer - the rest of the island is quite rocky and barren, making it a popular tourist destination. We're surrounded by wild horses, endless palm trees, and the sound of crashing waves once we get to the beach, and Moai statues face inwards towards the island to greet us once we get there. The Rapa Nui people purposely placed the Moai facing inland while they were being constructed some 600-800 years ago - to show that they were protecting and honoring the people of Easter Island. The mysterious Moai statues offer more questions than answers: how were they built, how were they set up, and how did the Rapa Nui people move the statues across the island? No one really knows for certain, so we just sit back and admire their greatness. After checking out the Moai, we spend the rest of our day lounging around in our inner tubes, taking in the natural beauty of the island. Easter Island is truly a one of a kind destination, and it makes for a fitting end to our South Pacific journey.

 

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-korver

 

korver

Greece - Part II

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In our first Greek update, we got to take a look at one of Greece's most recognizable natural wonders. Now, we turn our attention
to some of Greece's most awe-inspiring, mysterious, and magical landmarks of the past and present.

---

"There is nothing permanent, except change."
-Heraclitus

The center of the universe - the Tholos of Delphi

 

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"Bear up, my child, bear up; Zeus who oversees and directs all things is still mighty in heaven."
-Sophocles

Athena's temple - The Parthenon

 

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"Experience, travel - these are as education in themselves."
-Euripides

Born from ashes - Santorini

 

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"I never learned how to tune a harp, or play upon a lute; but I know how to raise a small and inconsiderable city to glory and greatness."
-Themistocles

The capitol - Athens

 

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"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous."
-Aristotle

In the heavens above - Meteora

 

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-korver

 

korver

Myrtos Beach

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Located on the island of Cephalonia in the Ionian Sea, few beaches across the globe can compare to Greece's breathtaking Myrtos Beach. Due to it's remote and rugged location, the beach is completely inaccessible by foot - the only way to reach it is to traverse your way down a series of steep hairpin curves. Once you make it there however, you'll be rewarded greatly with pristine, warm Mediterranean waters, perfectly soft white sand, and of course, incredible views.

Our journey gets started off with us making accommodations at a timeless Greek villa - our room overlooks the edge of the beach, giving us a fantastic view of the sunset. We'll be staying here tonight, and tomorrow we're off to the beach.

 

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We set off for the beach early in the morning, driving through endless fields of daisies and poppies along our way. However, just as we roll down our windows to take in the smell, the clouds darken and it starts pouring. It looks like our day at the beach could very well be in jeopardy.

 

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Fortunately for us however, it was nothing more than a quick rain shower. The sky eventually begins to clear up and the beach starts to come alive with tourists.

 

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We stake out a prime spot on the beachfront and soak up the sun - no better way to spend an afternoon!

 

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Myrtos Beach is more than just a beach - it's an experience. Activities such as hang gliding are extremely popular throughout the area, so we throw caution to the wind and decide to give it a shot.

 

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We make our way back to the beach just as the day begins to wind down. Once nightfall approaches, we get a little peace and quiet once the beach starts emptying out - being sure to take it all in one last time. A perfect end to our day.

 

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I hope you enjoyed your visit to Myrtos Beach! *:)

 

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-korver

 

korver

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Jutting 11,020 feet out of the southern Patagonian landscape, the imposing sheer granite walls of Mount Fitz Roy makes it the one of the crown jewels of the southern Andes. Technically challenging climbing routes coupled with notoriously bad weather makes it one of the toughest climbs in the world, but the view from the top makes it all worth it.

Day 1

Our journey starts off in the sleepy little town of El Chaltén, Argentina, right at the footstep of Mount Fitz Roy. Our group meets up to discuss our routes in the upcoming days - the weather looks like it'll be manageable, but in this part of the world, that could change in the blink of an eye.

 

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We set off for Fitz Roy, and we're immediately in for a treat. The fall foliage is in full swing surrounding the misty Rio Fitz Roy, making for an absolutely gorgeous view. We won't be here long however, as the terrain quickly starts to get much more challenging.

 

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After several more miles of walking, we start to approach the base of the mountain and get our first up close view of the surrounding peaks, Techado Negro and Aguja de la 'S'. They're beautiful, no doubt - but they pale in comparison to the peak we're headed to next. Nightfall begins to set in, so we set up our tents and call it a day.

 

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Day 2

The day started off fairly easily - a straight forward climb up the mountain. However, our plans quickly got derailed when a storm approaches us, making any technical climbing an impossibility. We decide to instead take cover in a rocky outcrop and wait it out. Conditions finally improved just enough for us to continue on - and we begin to make our ascent up near-vertical granite cliffs. We had originally planned on setting up our tents on a small, flat plateau a couple hundred feet away - but due to previous setbacks, we fall behind and the darkness combined with driving rain makes any more climbing far too dangerous. We're forced to precariously hang our tents off the side of the mighty Aguja Poincenot instead.

 

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Day 3

Conditions still aren't great, but we continue to push on. The granite cliffs are coated with a thin layer of ice and storm clouds begin to roll in, making things far more dangerous than we had originally thought. However, despite the conditions, we persevere and finally reach the peak of Mount Fitz Roy. We proudly set up our Argentinian flag and take in the beautiful view - it's just as good as you would imagine.

 

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-korver

 

korver

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Our next stop takes us to the famous Sahara Desert - the world's largest hot desert. For thousands of years, nomads have adapted to the harsh terrain, with an extensive knowledge of the terrain being absolutely vital to their survival. Knowing exactly where each and every oasis is located is perhaps the single most important aspect to this, and we approach our first one in the Ennedi Plateau of Chad. Guelta d'Archei is perhaps the Sahara's most famous oasis, and has been used since prehistoric times, note the cave paintings on the walls. The water's distinctive black hue - caused by untold amounts of camel dung over the years - hides the lake's most dangerous species quite well, the nile crocodile.

 

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Hopping from oasis to oasis is crucial for anyone traveling in the Sahara, and fortunately we're able to find another one just in time. The small town of Bardaï, Chad, has been an important trading post in the region for centuries. Unfortunately, droughts have ravished the landscape and the riverbed is almost completely bare. There's just enough water left over for the camels.

 

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After a month-long northern excursion in search of pastures, the caravan finally starts to head back south through the mighty Grand Erg Occidental, but not before they come face to face with one of the Sahara's greatest dangers. An enormous sandstorm engulfs the caravan, and rages on for nearly an entire day.  Fortunately, by sitting to the side of their camels, they're able to lessen the blow and eventually get back on their feet.

 

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After nearly a month more of traveling, we finally reach our end destination of Djenné, Mali. Every Monday, the entire region takes part in market day - truly a sight to behold. Just under the shadow of the magnificent Great Mosque, the streets come alive with countless shoppers and market vendors, giving them the much needed opportunity to trade camels or goods.

 

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-korver

 

korver

Lake Bogoria, Kenya

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Located in the middle of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Bogoria is home to one of the world's largest populations of lesser flamingos - every year millions of them migrate to it's algae infested waters. The lake boasts some of the most impressive wildlife in all of Africa - hundreds of species of birds call the lake home, and you might even see a couple zebras if you look hard enough. Geysers and hot springs dot the shoreline, creating a truly unforgettable landscape.

 

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-korver