thanks everyone for the kind words! It is all photos and paint. The majority of the main mid-ground hill actually exists, I embellished it with more rocks than it actually has and added some extra hills. The far distance is painted from photographs taken from a different location, and all the foreground that we fly over is painted from well over 30 different photos to create the parallax of the plants and rocks as the 3D "helicopter" camera flies over.
This was originally planned to be a much grander shot, flying towards some sci-fi structures built into the hill, but I became extremely busy with work and other personal projects that I never got past modeling the structures in 3D. Here is a rough concept I did for the blocking:
I figured I would at least show the environment painting. I didn't want to waste all the work getting the environment working. :)
Here are a few examples of the photos I shot, and used in this matte painting shot:
Spot on AChavda! Those are the santa monica mountains. I took the majority of the photos I used while on a hike up there with some friends. Absolutely gorgeous place to go hiking if one ever gets the chance.
Thanks again everyone for taking the time to check out my work and for the kind words!