The duel on Eagles’ Cleft

“There was a dreadful pass, Cirith Thoronath it was named, the Eagles’ Cleft, where beneath the shadow of the highest peaks a narrow path wound its way; on the right hand it was walled by a precipice, and on the left a dreadful fall leapt into emptiness. Along that narrow way their march was strung, when they were ambushed by Orcs, for Morgoth had set watchers all about the encircling hills; and a Balrog was with them. Then dreadful was their plight, and hardly would they have been saved by the valour of yellow-haired Glorfindel, chief of the House of the Golden Flower of Gondolin, had not Thorondor come timely to their aid.

Many are the songs that have been sung of the duel of Glorfindel with the Balrog upon a pinnacle of rock in that high place; and both fell to ruin in the abyss. But the eagles coming stooped upon the Orcs, and drove them shrieking back; and all were slain or cast into the deeps, so that rumour of the escape from Gondolin came not until long after to Morgoth’s ears. Then Thorondor bore up Glorfindel’s body out of the abyss, and they buried him in a mound of stones beside the pass; and a green turf came there, and yellow flowers bloomed upon it amid the barrenness of stone, until the world was changed.”

“Of Tuor and the fall of Gondolin”, The Silmarillion – JRR Tolkien.


Technical aspects: This image captures the duel between the elf-lord Glorfindel and a Balrog of Morgoth on a high pass above the doomed elf city of Gondolin. A hopeless fight against a mighty adversary, but worthy enough for me to spend almost a year creating this image.

DAZ 3D’s Nybras and Michael 3 formed the base figures in Poser 7.

All the textures used on the Balrog were built from scratch. I made some use of the Genetica Texture Viewer and I found this program to be most useful in getting the exact look I was requiring for the fiery skin of the Balrog. The Balrog’s horns were created from scratch using Hexagon

The character of Glorfindel was also challenging. His armor was based on Xurge3D’s Dynasty Armour with some morphs applied, a morphed shield from another armor pack from Xurge3D and a custom-built helmet I created using Hexagon. The texture, specular and bump-mapping was built from scratch from a wide variety of sources and a new copy of Adobe Photoshop CS4 – a real b*tch of a program to master – that’s why I prefer Corel PhotoPaint X3.

The figures were posed in Poser 7 and then exported to Bryce 6 via DAZ Studio to generate the folders with the required textures.

Several terrains, including one from one of Estevez’s Powerful Atmospheres packages was used in the background and an out-the-box Bryce Material used to texture the rocks. This scene used some Image-Based Lighting for its lighting as well as a couple of radial lights were used to finish off the image and enhance the overall lighting. The scene was then rendered 4 times – the figures on a black background with IBL, some of the figure parts in the scene, the scene with volumetric materials creating the mist and clouds and and masks to separate the figures from the background.

The final renders went through extensive post work in Adobe Photoshop CS4 and Corel PhotoPaint X3 and Corel Painter X. I made use of Jepe’s FlameZ and SteamZ packages and well and Ron’s Fog and Flames Photoshop brushes and a few filters and tweaks were used to clean up the image

This battle, in my imagination, must have occurred high up on a snowy mountain pass in the daylight, but communicating a Balrog in the daytime in full cry was very difficult! The way I did it was with an old Hollywood trick – “lots of smoke”! I wanted to contrast the dark indistinct shape of the Balrog against the light elf figure and made Glorfindel almost float above the ground by concealing their feet in clouds of steam and smoke.

Only one more image left in this series before I bid farewell to Middle-Earth for a while and pursue other lines of inspiration. This image has taken far too long. I began it in early January 2009!.

Worlds in the Making