In Hindu and Buddhist mythology, an Apsara, or Accharā in Khmer, is a female spirit of the clouds and water. These supernatural beings are often depicted as dancers, or as about to take flight. Some are said to be able to change form.
This Apsara exists in one form – stone - along the inner walls of the Terrace of the Elephants, located in the Royal Square of Angkor Thom, Cambodia.
Here she exists, in scale, in another form – a polyamide 3D print. The Khmer sculptors of the day had only gold, bronze and stone to depict these ethereal beings. But I wonder now, if 3D printing would more accurately express the ethereal nature of the Apsara’s being.
A profile view of the apsara. Nearly 300 photographs were used to render this 3D printed scale model.
It is possible to use photogrammetry to capture minute objects all the way to towering objects of cultural significance, using this technique.
Although some large scale projects use very expensive laser scanners, trained engineers and take weeks to collect the data necessary for mapping to the cloud (check out this Youtube video posted by Cyark of the scanning of Mt. Rushmore), this small project in the Elephant Terrace took a few minutes. Using affordable software, I made the images in the RAW setting of an early-model digital range-finder camera.
I learned of this technique from a paleontologist at the Museum of Queensland. They are using this type of photogrammetry to document dinosaur trails, and to document and print dinosaur bones.