This model and render, created back in early 2001, were breakthroughs for me as a 3D designer. I had never before tried to achieve much photo realism in my work, because I figured neither I nor the program I was using at the time were up to the task. But when the pieces of this puzzle came together, it really changed the way in which I approached 3D.
The difference was that I started paying considerable attention to the shading process of models, as I had first done with this one. (Shading is the process by which an object that otherwise looks like a gray cylinder can end up looking like a tree, or even a magnetic compass, when rendered.) And while shading has mostly to do with the appearance of an object, to me the trick is to shade the object so that the viewer can "feel" it just by looking at it. In this image, I wanted to make viewers aware that the compass casing was metal, and I wanted them to be able to imagine how that metal feels to the touch. I wanted them to be able to feel the edge of the compass card holder, and I wanted them to be able to imagine what I would feel like to pick at the compass card paper, further damaging it.
Of course, now that I think about it, perhaps magnetic compasses aren't encased in metal after all. ;)