The last picture in my Ocarina of Time spell trifecta I created was Nayru’s Love, the protection spell.
Although the final picture is relatively simple compared to some of my others, it represents months of puzzling over how to represent the deceptively challenging concept of this incantation.
When Link summons Nayru’s Love, a magical crystal forms around him, rendering him invulnerable for as long as it remains active.
Simple enough, right? Maybe so, maybe not.
Let me walk you through my creative process, the challenges I faced and my eventual solution.
Version 1: A Crystal Cage
My first thought was to represent Nayru’s love almost exactly as it appears in the game—as a big blue crystal floating around Link.
In Ocarina of Time, the crystal has a very simple eight-sided shape. This works fine for the game, but didn’t seem like it would translate directly into a “real life” cosplay photo very well.
In the first place, the tetrahedral shape is almost excessively simple, and would probably give a cartoony feel to the picture. Furthermore, the facets are so big on this simple crystal design that it’s difficult to tell it’s a three-dimensional shape at all unless it’s rotating (can’t do that in a still picture).
The simple solution seemed to be to just choose a different crystal design with more facets to get a three-dimensional appearance.
Placing Link inside a many-faceted gem, however, came with its own bundle of issues.
The luster seen in faceted gems come from the way that light bends and reflects from each of the faces.
Put somebody inside a gem like this, and these light tricks do some funky things to their appearance.
Even in a simple gem like this amber, the few facets there are manage to distort and reflect the image.
I didn’t feel mathematically prepared to tackle the challenge of fracturing Link’s image realistically in this way, so I started to think through other ways of representing Nayru’s Love.
Version 2: An Invisible Shield
My next idea was a little more abstract…and a lot more cool. Rather than show an actual crystal, I could show what it did.
In the past, I had created images where magic scattered off of Link’s shield.
I figured I could create the same shattering effect without the physical shield in order to give the feeling of an invisible force field.
I really liked this idea, but I had a hard time deciding what substance to reflect off the shield.
I decided that whatever hit the force field needed to be able to flow around it enough that the shape of the shield would register. This cut down my options to lava, water, or some kind of magic attack.
I’d already used the magic idea in my Twinrova picture, however and no bad guy in Ocarina of Time attacks with a jet of lava or water. The closest I could get to this would be Volvagia or Morpha, but I already had pictures of both of them that I was happy with and Link hasn’t learned Nayru’s Love yet when he faces either of them anyway.
Since I couldn’t find a good bad guy to use the spell against, I thought of changing the scene from combative to peaceful. I even started a version where Link was walking under a beautiful waterfall, but the water was breaking and flowing softly around him.
It was a nice visual, but I felt I’d strayed too far from the game at that point. Without a visible crystal OR a bad guy to face, the end result would be confusing to viewers no matter how good it looked.
Version 3: A Work in Progress
At this point, Nayru’s Love was starting to feel like more trouble than it was worth, but since I’d already finished pictures of Din’s Fire and Farore’s Wind, it would have been a shame not to complete the Triforce.
As I was watching videos of the spell once again, it suddenly occurred to me that all my previous attempts had been based on one supposition—that the picture would be of Link after he casts the protective charm.
The actual choreography of the casting process, however, is pretty cool in and of itself.
One moment, in particular, has great motion to it, as a glowing orb appears between his hands.
Japanese Animators must be pretty fond of using this pose to conjure brilliant balls of light. It looks a lot like the kamehameha wave from Dragon Ball Z…
…or the Rasengan from Naruto.
This moment of spell-casting was one that I could capture with both realism and game accuracy.
I followed Ch-Ch-Check it’s YouTube tutorial to create the ball of energy itself, and painted on extra magical light trails to trace the path of Link’s arms and give greater sense of movement to the scene.
With such a strong light source in the picture, I knew the picture would never look natural if Link weren’t bathed in strong shadows emanating from a glow between his hands.
To pull this effect off, this cosplay picture became one of the very few taken in-doors:
Of course, a living room wasn’t going to be the final setting for the picture.
Some gamers use Nayru’s love frequently, some hardly at all, but there’s one place where almost everybody tries it out—in the Great Fairy Fountain, right after receiving it.
In Ocarina of Time, “Great” Fairy Fountains are set apart from their smaller counterparts by magical shimmering cave walls.
There is only one cave in the world that really has this look: the incredible Waitomo glow worm caves from New Zealand!
The unreal bioluminescent wonder of these caves is actually a hunting strategy. Gnat larvae suspend threads of silk from the ceiling of a cave and cover them in droplets of mucous. When the larvae glow, the light is reflected from their web and attracts flying insects into the trap.
It may be grisly from a bug’s point of view, but when thousands of these little guys hunt together, the end result is nothing short of…well…magical!
With the right background behind him, realistic lighting on his face, and a ball of energy between his hands, Link finally looked like he was really casting Nayru’s love.
When you see Link do the “perfect cast” it’s easy to assume that the protective spell he conjures is also perfect, whether you imagine it as a crystal, a force field or anything else!
I’d still love to try some of my previous ideas, but maybe you’ll beat me to it! If you’ve got a great way to convey this spell, comment below and let me see how it turned out!