Thanks for the comments Gedd and Sasje hopefully the included changes are for the better.
Also it is a lot harder than I thought you really need multiple references, the arms in the render in my previous post were going in two different directions.
Here's the updated version.
The final version of my first entry has been posted to the contest forum. Thought I'd post here as well and add some commentary.
In many respects I tried to get as close as possible to the scene in the reference image, but in a few ways I intentionally deviated from it. The most obvious of these are probably the photorealistic look with depth of field (rather than the painterly look); and the number, position, and appearance of the antagonists. I wanted them to look more human and more individualized; less monstrous (but still frightening). I also wanted to make sure that they weren't blocking the central figure, so that the full pose can be viewed.
I rendered the foreground and background separately, adding a sky backdrop (from Light Dome Pro) to the background render and rendering the foreground as a PNG. I used identical lighting (one of the presets in Lantios Lights 2) in both. In GIMP, I added a Gaussian blur to the background and composited the two together as layers.
Some of the key products I used: Michael 5 (used to an extent on all four figures), Medieval Male Peasant Clothing for the tunic (retextured using the MachPack), DragonLord for Genesis for the other figures' outfits, Build Your Own Sword Kit, Supersuit (shader applied to the central character's sword), Genesis Ranger (boots) and Parkside Point Ground (used for all the rocks and mountains--I loaded three instances and scaled and positioned them in various ways).
Skin textures used, from left to right: Ashley for M5, Elite Philip, Aiden for M5, Stefan for M4 and Genesis.
Scott-Livingston that is one NICE render. You made a picture to be proud of. And thank you for explaining some of the steps you used, others may wish to look into them after they see what can be done with those techniques.
Ok, I'm stuck. I was creating a pose with two characters and after finishing the first, I saved the file. Continuing on, I hid the first and started working on the second. After working on it a bit, DS started acting wonky so I saved the file, closed DS and reopened the second file. After a while, I went to unhide the first character and... it wasn't there. I'm guessing because it seems I read that DS won't save hidden items?
So ok, luckily I had saved the second under another name, so I saved the pose, reopened the first and saved that pose and after opening a 3d new file tried to apply the poses. No luck, The poses apply but are nowhere near the original pose, I'm guessing because I had to turn limits off for these poses. After going back and forth, trying to save as pose preset and pose file I was getting nowhere. I'm guessing the limits is the issue, but I've applied other poses where I was asked if I wanted limits on or off, and I'm not getting that option either on save or open. So could someone explain what I'm doing wrong?
On another note, I've applied some shaping to the characters, just in the face iirc. I'm guessing that might not get saved with the pose. I would like to save the character, the pose, basically to know what the various options are and how they work.