Much of my work consists of photographic composites that use my own photographic images, digital painting techniques, and public domain NASA imagery. One or more of these sources are used to create the images in Photoshop.
What is a "computer generated" image? I'm not sure where the term came from, but none of my computers have ever had a key or button to click that says "generate image"... I still use many of the same techniques used by traditional painters; different brushes, choosing colors, blending colors, and layering. The difference is I'm using pixels instead of paint, a monitor instead of a canvas, and a tablet and mouse instead of brushes. So, next time you run into the term "computer generated", stop and ask yourself, are paintings merely "paintbrush generated"?
A large image like Transit No.2 (to the left) was created exclusively in Photoshop with varying sized brushes and plugins. Most of my sky, star, and planet imagery is produced in this manner… starting with a blank (and black) canvas and painting with pixels using digital brushes. Other times (like the colorless moon to the left), I'll use unconventional sources to create images. The moon was created from the data of LOLA (Lunar Orbiting Laser Altimeter). This satellite produces false color topographical maps that assigns colors to variances in height on the lunar surface. I've reinterpreted this data and added lighting effects to create a new and unique view of our moon. The cloud covered water world was created by "painting" a planet in photoshop and overlaying it with cylindrical cloud maps.
I do not use terrain producing software but rather shoot the available terrain around me and alter it’s scale, color, and lighting to fit the final image. A bit more time consuming, but I feel, worth the extra effort in regards to the final image. I’m fortunate to live on a large TVA lake in East Tennessee that goes up and down close to 50ft a year. This provides me an opportunity to shoot barren and unearthly landscapes along with unique rock features when the lake is drawn down. It also gives me the excuse to get lost with two great pieces of equipment, my boat and my camera.