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The space race like you've never seen it before

Nearly 50 years have passed since the Apollo programme first delivered astronauts to the surface of the Moon.


In that time, millions of words have been written about that mission, and the pictures the astronauts and cosmonauts captured on the race to our nearest neighbour have become iconic images.


But there’s been one problem for space enthusiasts poring over the images captured in orbit and on the lifeless lunar surface – they only reveal its beauty in two dimensions. As spectacular as they are, they can only do so much to make you feel like you’re there.


But amid the thousands of photos taken on Nasa's space missions, some of the images created were intended to make the viewer feel they were right there - stereo photographs that have only now come to light, thanks to a new book masterminded by Queen's Brian May.


He might be best known for his day job, playing guitar in one of the world’s biggest rock bands, but May also holds a doctorate in astrophysics and is a lifelong fan of stereo photography, a photographic process which creates 3D images from prints or digital images.

布莱恩‧梅(Brian May)最为人所熟知的也许是他的日常工作,即世界上最大的摇滚乐队之一的吉他手,但他也是一位天体物理学博士,还是立体摄影的终身粉丝。立体摄影是将洗印的相片或数码图像转为 3D 图像的技术。

May has now combined his two his biggest passions to create a book that charts the Soviet-American race to our nearest neighbour in all its 3D glory, written with David Eicher.

现在,布莱恩‧梅将自己最大的两项爱好相结合出版了一本书,书中记录了苏美两国之间的登月竞赛历史,以大量 3D 图片来荣耀呈现。该书是布莱恩‧梅与艾彻(David Eicher)两人合著。

BBC Future visited May at the headquarters of his publishing company, the London Stereoscopic Company (LSC), located down a leafy country lane about 30 minutes west of London. Here, the 71-year-old guitarist has accumulated a huge collection of stereo images stretching back to Victorian times, as well as cameras and the various optical viewers used to look at the images. It’s a personal museum to the 3D image, all sparked by a happy childhood accident which instilled a lifelong love of stereo photography.

BBC未来网(BBC Future)采访队在布莱恩‧梅的出版公司——伦敦立体影像公司(London Stereoscopic Company,简称 LSC)总部采访了他,这间公司位于一条树木葱茏的乡村小巷里,西距伦敦约 30 分钟车程。在这里,71 岁的吉他手收藏了数目众多的、可以追溯到维多利亚时代的立体图像,以及各种相机和和各式各样的立体照片观察器。这是一间 3D 图像私人博物馆,所有这一切都由一次快乐的童年偶然事件所引发,这次事件使布莱恩‧梅逐步产生了对于立体摄影的终身热爱。

When May was seven, he found a card inside a cereal packet, printed with two images side-by-side. For a few pennies, he could buy a stereo viewer that would transform them into three dimensions. May bought the viewer and the image of a hippo opening its massive maw was revealed in a more realistic way than he had experienced before. It clearly had an effect; ever since May has been obsessed with stereography, or stereoscopy, as the Victorians knew it. He still has the card, the viewer, and even the envelope it came in. When he bought his first camera – a cheap model bought from Woolworths – he learned how to make stereo images with it. He shows the BBC Future team his first stereo image, of his father redecorating the kitchen in his childhood home, some 60 years ago.

在布莱恩‧梅 7 岁时,他在一个谷物包里发现了一张卡片,卡片印有并排的的两张图像。他只需花几便士就可以买一个立体观察器来将图像转化为三维视感。布莱恩‧梅买了观察器,那张河马张开血盆大口的图像便以一种以前从未体验过的方式更为逼真地呈现出来。很显然,这对布莱恩‧梅产生了影响;从那以后他就迷恋上了立体摄影(或者是维多利亚时代的人们所熟知的立体视法)。他至今还保留着那张卡片、那个观察器、甚至还有装卡片的封套。他买了第一个相机后——在沃尔沃斯 (Woolworths) 购买的一个便宜相机——学会了如何用相机拍摄立体图像。他把自己拍摄的第一张立体图像给 BBC 未来栏目组看,这张图像拍摄的是他父亲在他童年的家中重新装饰厨房的情景,拍摄时间大约在 60 年前。

The LSC has already published several books about 3D photography, but May says this is their most ambitious yet.

LSC 已经出版了数本讲述 3D 摄影的书籍,但布莱恩‧梅说有关登月的这本是他们迄今为止最为鸿篇巨制的一本。

“The Mission Moon book came about because we’re all kind of nuts about the Moon shot, and it all seems like yesterday to us old people. It’s 50 years ago – incredible,” he says.

他说:“这本《登月任务的3D视像》 (Mission Moon) 之所以问世是因为我们都对月球的相片有点儿着迷,这对我们老人来说就像是昨天一样。这是 50 年前的事了——真是难以置信。” 纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com

“No one had ever done a 3D book on the whole Apollo history and we thought ‘Can we do it, is there enough material?’. So my good friend Claudia Manzoni, who spends her whole life trawling through Nasa archives, gradually sifted through and found images which looked promising.”

“没人曾经出版过以3D视像讲述整段阿波罗历史的书籍,我们想过‘我们可以做到吗,有足够的资料吗?’所以我的好朋友曼佐尼(Claudia Manzoni)——她用了毕生精力在美国宇航局档案中搜索查阅——逐步筛选并发现了大有希望的图像。”

Back in the heyday of film, around the same time as the space race, there were special 3D cameras made by a number of companies. They’re a distinctive design, usually having three lens at the front; one for the viewfinder, and two that take the images, one slightly after the other. It’s a process that has fallen out of favour somewhat since computer graphics, but May has used them so long he’s well-versed in explaining the principle.

回首过去,胶卷摄影的鼎盛期差不多和太空竞赛处于同一时期,那时很多公司都制造了特殊的 3D 相机。它们设计独特,前部通常有三个镜头;一个用于取景,另外两个用于拍摄图像,一个稍稍位于另一个的后方。电脑数码图像面世后,立体摄影便多多少少失去了人们的垂青,然而布莱恩‧梅使用立体摄影时间够长,解释起其中的原理来头头是道。

“3D is all about getting two views… we have two eyes, and the reason we see things in wonderful glorious 3D around us every second of the day is our brain puts these two slightly different pictures of the Universe together and makes some kind of depth map in our brains. It is something really mysterious and incredible, you can’t quite get your hands on it because actually it’s happening in your brain the whole time.

“3D 完全在于获取两个视像……我们有两只眼睛,之所以我们每一秒钟看到的东西都以精妙绝伦的 3D 呈现,是因为我们看到的万事万物,大脑都会将两只眼睛分别获得的两幅稍有不同的图像重叠到一起,於是在大脑中产生某种纵深的立体感觉。这个现象真的很玄妙,令人难以置信,你不大可能意识到这一过程,因为实际上每时每刻都在你的大脑里发生。”

“What you’re trying to do in 3D photography is to recreate that effect, so you take a picture from here and a picture from here, and you make sure that this picture goes to this eye, and this picture goes to that eye.

“你在 3D 摄影中努力做的是重现这一效果,所以你在这儿拍一张相片,在这儿也拍一张,你得确保这一张相片进入这一只眼睛,这一张相片进入那一只眼睛。”

The astronauts didn’t take stereo cameras up with them, but they were trained in a rudimentary stereo photography method which meant their normal photographs could easily be turned into 3D images.

宇航员并没有将立体相机带上太空,但是他们培训过基础立体摄影法,所以他们拍摄的正常相片可以很容易地转化为 3D 图像。

“Very often they were too busy to remember it and practice it,” May says. “But they were taught to do the ‘cha-cha’ thing – take a picture here and a picture there and eventually it became a 3D picture. Occasionally you’re lucky enough to find one of those.

布莱恩‧梅说:“他们常常太忙,因而记不住,也没法练习。但是有人教过他们‘咔嚓……咔嚓’——在这儿拍一张相片,在那儿拍一张,最后它就成了一张 3D 相片。你偶尔可以足够幸运地找到其中一张。”

“You also get someone like Michael Collins, [Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s crewmate on the Apollo 11 mission] while his mates are the first men on the Moon, he’s circling and taking pictures of the craters on the far side of the Moon – he had great presence of mind.

“你还可以找到某些人,比如说柯林斯(Michael Collins——阿姆斯特朗( Neil Armstrong) 和奥尔德林(Buzz Aldrin )在阿波罗 11 号任务中的太空舱室友)。他的同伴是第一批登上月球的人,而他则在绕月航行,并在月球的远端拍摄火山口——他做事沉着镇定。”

“Recently we spoke to him and asked him if he did it on purpose and he said, ‘Actually no’. He’s deliberately taken the photographs, but he’s not aware of their stereoscopic visibilities.”


Finding the images was one thing – then May and his team had to process the images so that they would work in 3D.

纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com

找到图像是一方面——然后布莱恩‧梅和他的团队还得处理图像,这样它们才能以 3D 呈现。

“For me it’s a passion, I’m completely geeky where this is concerned so if we’re on tour with Queen I’ll be back in the hotel at 3am trying to put two of these images together that Claudia has sent me and make them work as a 3D. That’s what you see in the book.

“这是我的一大爱好,我完完全全沉迷其中,所以如果我们和皇后乐队一起巡回演出的话,我会在凌晨3点回到酒店后,从克劳迪娅发给我的这些图像中找到相关的两张进行处理,让它们变为 3D。这个你可以在书中看到。”

“I’m not the first person to make 3D pictures in this way but I think we are the most persistent… we’ve got something like 200 stereo pictures in the book, and they all work.”


May can add inventor to his long list of achievements, as well. At the back of each copy of the book is his patented Owl stereoscopic viewer, a pair of plastic lenses that help create the 3D effect. The Owl is the result of May collecting viewers since the early days of Queen, and combining the best bits of various designs.


“If you look at any pair of 3D images in here… you just take a moment to allow it to focus and your eyes to relax and… wow! You see this thing in 3D. We were able, in some cases, to go into movie films. For instance, we’ve got a movie of Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, and he’s not got a stereo camera per se, but he does have a video camera, and he’s rotating.” The image, from Leonov’s haunting short film of him floating outside the Soviet Voskhod 2 spacecraft in 1965, the letters (USSR in Cyrillic) emblazoned on his helmet.

“如果你观察这里的任何一对3D图像……你只需花一点点时间聚焦,并放松你的眼睛,然后……哇!你就可以看到照片的 3D 效果。在某些情况下,我们可以用于电影胶卷。例如,我们有一部讲述列昂诺夫(Alexei Leonov)的电影,他是太空漫步的第一人,他本身没有立体相机,但他有摄影机,而且他在旋转拍摄。”这幅图像取自列昂诺夫那部令人难以忘怀的短片,即他1965年在苏联的沃斯霍德 (Voskhod) 2号宇宙飞船外飘浮的情景,这些字母(用俄语写的“苏维埃社会主义共和国联盟(USSR)”)醒目地印在他的头盔上。

“For me, it’s a nice coming together,” says May. “It is stereoscopic work, and it’s also astrophysics and it’s astronautics, and to bring them together is great. It wasn’t on my own, we have a great team. David Eicher wrote the text, he’s a wonderful writer and editor-in-chief of Astronomy magazine, and as a team we put this together.

布莱恩‧梅说:“对我来说,这是一个非常棒的结合,是立体视觉作品,同样也是天体物理学,是太空航空学,结合起来非常了不起。它不是由我独立完成的,我们有一个伟大的团队。艾彻写文字,他是一名优秀的作家,也是天文学(Astronomy) 杂志的主编,我们齐心协力把它整理出来。”

“I’m very proud of this book, I think it’s one of the most beautiful we’ve managed to make, we’re quite a way down the line with making stereo books, I think this is the sixth we’ve done. A lot of them have been classic 3D, Victorian 3D, which I love but it’s the same principle. And this, if anything, brings Victorian 3D technique into the 21st Century.

“我为这本书感到非常骄傲,我觉得是我们出的最棒的书之一,我们在立体方面的书籍创作上颇有经验,我觉得这是我们出的第六本书。其中很多都是经典 3D照片,维多利亚时代的 3D,这些我都很喜欢,不过其原理都是一样的。总之,这会把维多利亚时代的 3D 带入 21 世纪。”

“The guy who wrote our afterword – Jim Lovell [Apollo 13 crew member] – said this is the closest you can to feeling like you’re there.”

“给这本书写后记的小伙子洛弗尔(Jim Lovell,阿波罗 13 号太空舱成员)曾说,这本书可以让你最大限度地感受到身临其境。”

No story about the race to the Moon is complete without mentioning the day that humanity first placed a foot on the lunar surface. Unsurprisingly, May can remember exactly where he was when it happened.


“I will never forget it. I think we’re all like this, we all remember where we were when something that affects us deeply happens. And I remember exactly where we were, I was down in Cornwall with Rog, our drummer, in the very early days of Queen… And we were at his mum’s house, clustered around this tiny little TV screen, and we all watched it. It seemed like the most incredible thing ever. And to me it still seems fresh and new and exciting. But I’m 50 years older.”

“我永远不会忘记这件事。我觉得我们都是这样的,我们都会记得当深深影响我们的事情发生时自己身在何处;我当时在康沃尔(Cornwall),和我们的鼓手罗格(Rog)在一起,那是皇后乐队成立最初的时期……我们在他妈妈的房子里,聚在那台小型电视机屏幕周围,一起看电视里的报道。这似乎是最令人难以置信的一件事。并且对我来说,这件事现在仍然是那么新奇鲜活,那么让人激动。只是我已经大了 50 岁。”

Most of us will only know Armstrong, who died in 2012, from that disembodied voice as he stepped onto the Moon’s surface, and the photographs, but May has a more personal connection to him.

我们大多数人只会知道阿姆斯特朗(他于 2012 年去世),他踏上月球时那虚无缥缈的嗓音和他的相片,但布莱恩‧梅却与他有一段更为私人的联系。

“I was lucky enough to spend time with Neil Armstrong, and I wish I’d appreciated it more at the time,” he says. “I had some time on my own with him having breakfast on top of the caldera at La Palma, and we talked about the world and its problems. We didn’t talk too much about what he’d done on the Moon. But I figured at the time everybody talks to him about that. But I wish I had known then what I know now, I’d have asked him better questions.”

他说:“我够幸运,能够和阿姆斯特朗相处一段时间,但愿那个时候我对此有更多的感激之情。我有过一段和他独处的时间,我们一起在拉帕尔马(La Palma)的破火山口顶吃过早餐,我们谈到了这个世界以及它所面临的问题。我们没有谈太多他在月球上的经历。但我那时想,大家跟他谈的都是那件事,我就不必多谈了。但现在想来,我希望那时的我已明白我现在才明白的事,我就会向他提出一些好问题。”



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