I wanted to also challenge myself throughout the entire 3D pipeline not just as a lighter. I had some help with the nCloth, thanks to David Chow and my Gnomon crew!
I used Maya for modeling and ZBrush for some detail. I used Mudbox mainly for creating my texture alpha's on the wall for the cracks otherwise Photoshop was used for texturing mainly. Speedtree was the end result of my vegetation creation. The files were huge from speedtree, so I converted them into alembic files and imported them into my scene as V-Ray Proxy. Thanks to V-Ray 3.0 it has made things a lot simple for this process and light weight without my scene crashing every so often.
The shadows were also created using light blockers a combination of simple plane polygons and the v-ray proxy tree's made invisible to help project the shapes of the shadows on the walls floors especially.
The leaves were individual small planes with an alpha and use ncloth to control the movement of the leaves in the background. Some of the leaves were individually hand animated as I couldn't get the right movement that I wanted with the simulation.
I cached out the ncloth to make renders a lot easier.
I had a whole bunch of lighting references of similar residential street's around NYC
Definitely very taxing in render I have learnt, but alembic and V-Ray proxies always helps. The original photograph is by Vivienne Gucwa thank you for sharing this beautiful photo. Although the original concept was summer, I wanted to bring a personal touch to it although sticking closely to the photo. I wanted a more Fall feel as it's my favorite time of the year in NYC.