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The SS Thistlegorm, by Simon Brown

1 October 2018

This single image shows the lower deck cargo as carried on the SS Thistlegorm, a defensively armed merchant ship that was bombed and sunk in Egypt’s Red Sea during the Second World War.

Derived from over 5000 individual images and shot over two dives this ortho photo shows the the densely packed cargo of lorries, fuel tankers and motorbikes as loaded into the ship. The image itself is derived from a technique called photogrammetry – the process of shooting hundreds or thousands of overlapping photographs before using special software to create a scaled and representative 3D model of the subject.

Working inside the wreck and 25m underwater is not without its risks and to shoot the 24,000 images to create a model of the shipwreck and its cargo photographer Simon Brown spent over 13 hours diving the site, with a further 64 days of computer processing time devoted to aligning the images, building the 3D models and textures and creating the derived images such as this one. The master image of the lower deck is scaled at 1mm per pixel and packs an amazing amount of detail into the single image. The SS Thistlegorm is one of the world's most popular dive sites.

This image is to be included in a forthcoming book that Simon has collaborated on, drawing together new research, 3D models and 360 degree videos to present the wreck in a totally new way – the book is due for publication on October the 6th, coinciding with the anniversary of the sinking of the ship. From that date the book should be available from iTunes book store here. More models of the ship can be seen here.

Simon Brown is a professional underwater photographer who now concentrates solely on photogrammetry and 3D models. When working as an editorial photographer Simon would shoot tens of frames before selecting a single image – just one view of a subject – for publication. With photogrammetry Simon now shoots thousands of images, culls nothing and then allows the viewer to choose their own viewpoint in a 3D world. Clients include Historic England, Universities of Nottingham and Alexandria, National Geographic Television and Discovery Canada Television.

See more work by Simon Brown

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