In The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time there are three magical spells which you can learn, each tied to one part of the mystical Triforce—they are Farore's Wind, Nayru's Love, and Din's Fire.
Din's fire is far and away the most memorable.
To summon this spell, Link yells like a karate master, punches the ground like Iron Man, and is surrounded by an expanding sphere of flame.
Pretty epic, if I do say so myself.
Naturally I wanted to capture a "real life" version of this in the Legend of Zelda Cosplay Project.
...and probably the coolest.
If I was going to make a picture of Link in a glowing sphere of fire, I was going to need a bad guy on the receiving end of all that awesomeness.
The only trouble is, although it is very impressive, Din's fire really isn't that strong of a spell. It won't take out most baddies, and in the game it's mostly used for lighting torches.
Din's fire will kill a little bat, though...right?
In a Zelda Dungeon, bats (called "keese" in the games) can feel as inexhaustible as zubats in a Pokemon cave.
I took this to the extreme in my picture, wherein Link is surrounded by the kind of thick swarm of bats that game animators avoid, but actually exists in the real world.
A real world swarm of keese. Image from: Wallpaperup.com.
So...Link comes into this cave, wakes an angry mob of keese, and blasts them with Din's Fire!
...Bad move, Link.
Din's Fire doesn't actually kill bats...it makes them stronger.
In Ocarina of Time, a keese that flies through Din's Fire becomes a flaming Fire Keese, which will burn Link if it touches him. If you look closely you can see this transformation happening to some of the bats in my picture...
Let's hope Link brought some fairies with him into that cave!
Speaking of caves, I've set my Legend of Zelda pictures in many wondrous locations from around the world and for this one Link goes to Carlsbad Caverns!
This New Mexico Cave system is truly stunning, but it presented a conundrum.
There are thousands of stalactites and stalagmites in the cave. By setting off Din's fire I was introducing a very strong light source. How in the world was I supposed to figure out the shadows on all the cave formations so that they would appear to be realistically lit by the fiery sphere?
I'll be honest...I kind of cheated my way out of this one.
First, I started with an image of the caves where the light was already coming from the general area where I wanted to put Link.
Second, I picked a few large, notable formations and used the color dodge tool to light up the side of each that was turned toward Din's fire.
For the rest, however, I just added a red color overlay and then cranked the contrast in the picture way way up. This created a notan art look where all you see are spikes of red jutting out of a black background.
"Notan" is a Japanese artistic technique where all the forms in an image are broken down into black positive space and white negative space.
Image from: Taylors2dfidvictoria.
The end result is artistically dramatic and obscures enough detail that it's easy to believe the lights and shadows are in the right places.
The Eye of the Storm
High contrast might have solved my stalactite problem, but it made Link more difficult to represent. After all, if the flaming sphere is bright light, then to contrast, the inside must be dark...so how are we supposed to see Link?
This took a little finagling.
I first tried just putting a normal, unedited picture of Link behind my ball of fire to see how it would look:
As anticipated, the various colors on his costume blended into the general busy-ness of the scene, and didn't register well.
I decided to simplify things by going with only a sillhouette of Link instead. For the shape of the sillhouette I took a picture of him punching the ground. This was not only game-accurate, but was an iconic shape related to the spell that would make him more easily identifiable.
This was definitely an improvement, but you could only really see his arm clearly because there were elements of the fireball right in front of him.
I didn't want to lose these fiery trails, because if I did the sphere would start to look two-dimensional.
Instead, I just put a second copy of Link's sillhouette on top of the sphere, and lowered the opacity so that you could still see the fire over him, just to a lesser degree.
At this point Link was starting to look pretty good, but he was still basically a dark silhouette on a dark background.
To solve this problem for good, I added a smaller, secondary ball of flame right behind the Hero of Time. This really made Link stand out clearly in an otherwise very busy picture.
Aside from a few hiccups getting the right lighting, Din's Fire is a relatively simple picture with only four parts: Link, a cave, a fireball, and a whole lot of bats.
Sometimes the simplest pictures are the best though.
The end result captures all the drama of Ocarina of Time's coolest spell.
The real action, however, will start when Link realizes how many Fire Keese he just created!