stories in stone #4
The Love that Lost an Empire?

Loaded 28 April 2015.

Stories in Stone

This is the latest in a series that celebrates the intersection of human culture - great music and mighty tales told in stone.

An Empire Lost?

Everyone's heard of the Taj Mahal , and many know the story behind its creation, but how much of that story is true?

About 3 weeks into our India tour, the Taj was a much anticipated highlight. And it did not disappoint despite fog, smog and crowds, dominated by Indians celebrating one of their cultural icons. I had been there before, in 1997, but it still commands awe on so many fronts.

Romantic legend!

Several times in our brief Agra stay we heard of how Shah Jahan , devastated by his loss, turned away from his empire and devoted himself to grieving for his lost love.

And it is a very alluring story. A triumph of love over base materialism. Plus the detail on the building is so exquisite that the music I've chosen for the soundtrack, itself often synonymous with love Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from "Solomon" by Handel , leapt out of the recesses of my mind and demanded to be coupled with this building.

I'm going to let you find out for yourself what might be the real story behind the romantic legend and for now just treat you to some detail glimpses and some different views of "the most beautiful building in the world".

The Fly Around

I thought it might be fun to do something a little bit different than the usual ground shots so I went trawling the web for models. I lucked on a very good freebie in  on GrabCAD.com . Just two issues with it; the textures were very low res, good from afar but no good up close; and it was the building, mosque and guest house only, not the full precinct. And so I did a lot of work off my photos to build a higher res texture set, both one in sparking white and another looking more yellowed. And I borrowed from the original model to create a reasonable simulacrum of the full precinct.

The flyarounds, landscape and river were done in my trusty Carrara Pro 8.5

Thanks Moldy

Even though I was planning a Story in Stone during the visit, I did not know what it would be, so when it started emerging, I found my stock of photos were just a little to thin. Tour leader and friend "Moldy" came to the rescue with her photos that I could also use. In the end, I only used about five of her photos, but they were just what the storyteller needed, so thanks Moldy, both for the trip and the pics.

Technical Snippets

Once again, I ask "When will I get a project that is not problematic?"

The first problem was that the atmospherics at the time of our visit were so poor (fog and smog) that I had to do an enormous amount of post processing to get pics that looked halfway decent. Plus for some detail pics, the element was so small or taken in light so poor that a lot of recovery work was needed to get something HD worthy.

Second, I had to learn SketchUp. I'd done some simple tinkering before, but this was serious.

And third, I had to create a fresh set of textures for the freebie model to get a good HD look. This was photoshopping big time, especially "tuning" the twenty odd pictures so when they were put together it all looked as if it was one texture.

And finally there was the ever-attendant raft of bugs, some old mates and some infuriatingly fresh. The most interesting was one where a key face of the building's inlay got all stretched and horrible on import into Carrara after being fine in SketchUp. The cause was that Carrara gets grumpy with polygons of over four vertices and so if I "triangulated" the model faces before import all was well. Sigh. One more step that you'd hope would not be needed.

Enjoy!

In any event I hope you enjoy "The Love that Lost an Empire?", exquisite architecture and inlay work from the Mughal empire! The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO  World Heritage Site.

The Earthmaps used for the fly-in / fly-out sequences can be found at Visible earth  specifically Blue Marble  along with a whole lot of other goodies.

Click into Gallery SIS-4 to see the images used in the video in a new tab.