Xian - The Terracotta Warriors


Location: near Xian
The Army of the Terracotta Warriors was discovered in 1974 by peasants digging a well. The awesome ranks of near lifesize pottery figures, modelled from yellow clay, were made to guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, despotic ruler who unified China over 2,200 years ago. Excavations yielded three pits and over 7,000 soldiers, archers and horses. Pit 1(illustrated here) contained the infantry; Pit 2 is filled with cavalry and soldiers; and Pit 3 seems to be the command centre, with 70 high ranking officers. Each warrior, originally coloured wit pigment and holding a weapon, has an individually crafted expression. The intricacy is astonishing, especiallly in the careful execution of individual hairstyles. Further artistry is evident in the detailed belts, clothing and footwear.
I just loved the expressions on their faces. I think, more than anything it's the unique facial features that make the warriors so special. It's this that gives you a feeling that you're communing with ghosts from the past. To me the warriors were at one time real and we'd been walking with their spirits. And they just stood there wondering:
"who are these strangely dressed people - and what strange weapons (cameras) are they pointing at us?"
A truly spiritual experience that exceeded all of my expectations.

Technique: I had two concerns:
  1. photography might be restricted, and
  2. lighting would be poor.
I had no need to worry. Contrary to all of the litrature, blogs and web sites I'd visited photography was totally unrestriced - even flash (for what it would be worth) was allowed. Furthermore, although the lighting wasn't great, it was adequate. So all I had to do was set Auto ISO to stop the shutter speed dropping below 1/60 sec.. (As I was going to be using my lens at maximum zoom - even with vibration reduction I didn't trust myself to get sharp shots at lower speeds). I just prayed that noise wasn't going to be too much of an issue. 


Original - before processing in Capture NX2
Post Processing: In Nikon Capture NX2:
- Picture Control set to Landscape and reset: sharpness to 8, contrast to +1, brightness to -1 and saturation to +3.

After processing in Capture NX2
- Colour Noise Reduction Intensity set to 14 and sharpness to 7.
- added Gaussian Blur at radius 1 to the luminance channel (to reduce luminence noise), and
- tweeked Curves to improve the mid-tones by dragging down the centre of the curve.





The post processing was similar to all of the photos taken in Pit 1.


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