My Favorite Warrior of the Terracotta Clan

Terracotta Warrior - San Francisco - 2013

Back in early April, Doug Kaye and I met for one of our photo walks at San Francisco’s Civic Center. We met in the plaza outside City Hall, shot for a while inside City Hall, and then headed across the plaza to the Asian Art Museum – my first time there.

The museum’s Terracotta Warriors exhibition was underway (it closed May 27, 2013) – and, amidst a busy crowd in a room in near darkness, we wandered this exhibition. These terracotta warriors are something to behold – and the museum’s display with its great positioning and lighting made it quite an experience.

I wasn’t sure what kind of shots I’d be able to get in such low light. I kicked my Nikon D600 into auto everything mode – with no flash – and shot what I could. As it turns out, the D600 is a superb low light camera – and I got some incredible images while expecting almost nothing to be worthwhile.

I experimented a bit post-processing this warrior in Photoshop. First of all, isolating him from other stuff in the image and then moving him to a solid, dark purple background. I adjusted the composition a bit – moving him to the left half and leaving the expanse of dark space on the right. Then I tried some really unusual moves – adding a subtle oil paint layer to add the texture and shading on his face. If you look closely (click on the image for larger version), you can see his cheeks are more fluid than carved out of stone – that’s the oil paint layer at work. A couple of selective sharpening steps further defined the edges of his profile.

I just love how this warrior image turned out – one of my recent favorites! Hope you do too!

Armored Kneeling Archer – China’s Terracotta Warriors

Armored Kneeling Archer - San Francisco - 2013

Here’s another image from the exhibition of China’s Terracotta Warriors now underway at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum.

This image required a bit more work. One of the challenges of shooting images of the warriors as they’re displayed is the combination of lighting and reflections – which bring extra “stuff” into the images.

Plus, when we were there, it was really crowded inside the darkened exhibition gallery. Lots of folks moving around – and bumping into each other – a challenging photographic venue for sure!

But the gallery that the Asian Art Museum created for the warriors is really is superb in terms of how the terracotta warriors are placed and, in particular, how they’re lit.

So, to deal with the issues in the image, I did a quick selection in Photoshop to isolate the warrior from extraneous background elements. I then faded those elements into the background while adding some contrast to the warrior.

Then we made a trip into Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 to do two steps: bring out more detail and add a subtle bit of glamour glow.

Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 was used for the conversion to monochrome – adding a bit of structure to the midtones and highlights while removing structure from the shadows. A bit of soft contrast adjustment helped with lighting.

A quick pass with Doug Kaye’s Warm Black action helped tone the image just ever so slightly.

For the final sharpening step, I used the Sharpen 2013 action included in the latest version of Dan Margulis’ Picture Postcard Workflow panel in Photoshop.

China’s Terracotta Warriors

Driver - San Francisco - 2013

San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum is currently featuring a beautiful exhibition of China’s Terracotta Warriors.

Here’s an image from a recent visit – of a horse carriage driver. He’s out in the lobby – before you get into one of the three galleries with the other warriors and related sculptures.

This image was shot handheld with my Nikon D600 and post-processed in Photoshop CS6 along with Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2.