13 September 2022 at 11:26 am #612406
Recently there was an item on BBC news about a book written by Andy Saunders called Apollo Remastered where he has selected around 400 pictures from the Mercury, Gemeni and Apollo missions using digital scans of the master copies and enhancing them to bring out features previously hidden. The book is not a light read by any means, it weighs just over 3kg and is 30cm wide, 31.5cm high and 3.5cm thick, printed on very high-quality paper, the price is 60GBP so not cheap but is it worth it?
Below is a link to the BBC news item
The book explains how the pictures were chosen from still and movie film and the lengths the author went to make sure there were no artificial image artifacts induced in the enhancement process, the frames from the movie films were stacked to get better resolution. It goes on to explain the type of cameras used including a $40 Ansco Autoset 35mm camera John Glenn bought from a drugstore to take onboard Mercury-Atlas 6. Perplexingly a wide-angle Hasselblad taken on the Gemini missions wasn’t included in the mission manifest for Apollo despite the advantages it would have brought when used on the lunar surface. It explains also the problems encountered in processing the images, it is stated that the astronauts had problems adjusting the exposure settings while wearing gloves, also is mentioned the difficulty in dealing with the glare from the lunar surface resulting in overexposure. In fairness to the astronauts, they weren’t expert photographers and NASA didn’t give photography a high priority due to other tasks required in the short time they had. This is mentioned in one of the captions where mission control asked Jim McDivitt on Gemini IV had he taken any pictures yet, his reply just about to as he hadn’t had time so far.
The cover of the book is a study of Jim McDivitt taken by rusty Schweickart onboard Apollo 9 looking out of the window, it’s these types of pictures I find particularly interesting, as it shows the human side of the astronauts with their expressions of wonder, joy and also the stress they were under. Fred Haise dozing in Apollo 13 is a good study of how remarkable these men were.
The missions are in chronological order with a brief caption under each picture describing the scene, also included is the NASA image reference number and the mission and photographer if known as it was not always documented who took them. Out of the 400 pictures there are as expected the iconic ones, Earthrise, Buzz Aldrin on the Moon etc. but depicted in a clarity I’ve not seen before and printed to very high standards. But quite a few of the pictures were new to me, modelers will be in raptures at some of the detail shown on the pictures of the spacecraft, and yes you can count the rivets!
With the hefty price tag this book will appeal to the diehard Apollo enthusiast but what about the general reader, I find the pictures absorbing and require long study to appreciate the fine details brought out by the image processing as usually pictures in books are to a low resolution and copies of copies of copies. It recommends reading the book in the dark to get the full experience of absorbing the unique moment in history, I have a problem with this as the captions are in a light grey font on a black background!
Quite a few of the pictures have an artistic quality on par with the great masters like Constable, Gainsborough and Turner, yet things like the reflections in Buzz Aldrin’s visor of Neil Armstrong or the picture taken by Walter Schirra in Gemini VI of Jim Lovell taking a picture from Gemini VII has a strange eerie quality all of their own. The pictures taken on the lunar surface has a wonderful depth of intensity as you go from the grey regolith to the dark intense black of the shadows. The picture from Apollo 17 of the orange soil is a joy to behold and exploring the depth of tones in all the images requires some time to fully appreciate the work that has gone into producing this book.
So, to answer my question is it worth it, well I think it is and with Artemis looking like it’s going to launch what can be a better time to publish such a hefty tome. For those of us brought up with the Apollo era it brings back wonderful memories, for those who can’t remember it or were born after they have ended it’s a unique insight into a moment of human history and the book oozes quality in its presentation and printing. It will certainly while away many hours when the skies are cloudy, and a lot of the pictures are very thought provoking such as the service module of Apollo 13 showing the damage in a clarity unequaled in any image of this iconic moment I’ve ever seen before. But this is far more than just a picture book, it’s a fascinating study of a time in history where the human race reached beyond the confines of the earth and also a study of how the astronauts lived in their spacecraft. The phrase “a picture paints a thousand words” is never truer as each picture has been carefully chosen with a brief caption which lets the reader immerse themselves into the mood of the moment. It’s one of those books which I’ll revisit time and time again.14 September 2022 at 9:21 pm #612474David TotneyParticipant
It certainly looks very interesting, from what I saw in the link the image improvement is astounding. Alas the price is a tad steep for me.
Telescopes: One Newtonian, three Maksutov Cassegrains, seven refractors, and a large SCT.14 September 2022 at 9:50 pm #612475
The price sadly will put people off but what you get is a very big heavy book (3.2kg) with 400 pictures of which a sizeable quantity hasn’t been seen before. There are some very interesting pictures of the inside of the spacecrafts which required a lot of enhancement due to the low light levels. The clarity of them are outstanding as they are printed on high quality paper, they remind me of removing the dirt and varnish off a Caravaggio to reveal the dynamic vibrant colours underneath. The captions though brief are informative and the images are often thought provoking as they show the intensity of the astronauts’ expressions and bring a fresh human dynamism to pictures often taken for granted. The aim was to reproduce the pictures to the same intensity and details as the astronauts saw the scene before them, and I think the author has succeeded. The details of how the images were enhanced and about the camera taken I found very interesting, concise but informative. A lot of work has gone in to producing this book which I guess is reflected in the price, it’s certainly a book to ponder over for many hours when the skies are cloudy.16 September 2022 at 5:51 pm #612524Alan ThomasParticipant
I see it’s currently available from a well-known on-line retailer with Brazilian connections for £49.99.
Alan16 September 2022 at 6:56 pm #612525
Oh, Bother and other suitable words, I alas paid the full retail price, but I don’t regret it, each picture is a fascinating insight into the Mercury, Gemini and mainly Apollo missions. The clarity is on another plane entirely and some pictures are symphony of tones and breath-taking vistas. The pictures taken from Lunar orbit keeps drawing me back like a moth to a light as I absorb the extraordinary level of detail.16 September 2022 at 7:16 pm #612526Alan ThomasParticipant
On the bright (?) side, many of the purchasers complain about poor packaging and damage. So you may not have missed anything.
Many thanks for the review. It looks very interesting, and as someone who followed the Apollo missions I am tempted.
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