November 7th, 2014

First Hasselblad Camera Used in Space Up for Auction

Atlas CameraYou can own a piece of photographic–and space–history next week when the first Hasselblad camera body and Zeiss Planar 80mm lens carried into orbit on the Mercury-Atlas 8 goes up for auction.

The Hasselblad 500c was purchased by astronaut Wally Schirra from a Houston photo shop in 1962. The camera was not blasted into space as-is. Schirra, fellow astronaut Gordon Cooper and the U.S. Air Force camera lab made their own tweaks, such as adding a 100-exposure film container, an aiming device on the side of the camera and a new paint job to minimize reflections.

The camera snapped multiple images of Earth from orbit as it travelled on what was America’s fifth manned mission to space.

The camera will be auctioned by Boston’s RR Auction on November 13. The terrestrial version of the 500c is fetching $400 on eBay. The celestial version, with the custom film container and lens, may command up to an astronomical $100,000 in auction.

UPDATE: It did much better than $100,000. The camera sold for $275,000!

October 26th, 2013

PPE 2013: NASA Astronaut Don Pettit on Photographing in Space

© NASA

© NASA

NASA astronaut Don Pettit offered unique perspectives on photographic technology and the beauty and challenges of space photography in his keynote address at PhotoPlus Expo on October 24. Pettit, who has spent more than a year in space as part of three missions to the international space station, shared a few of the thousands of images he has taken from above the earth’s atmosphere, including breathtaking time-lapse images of the aurora borealis and other natural and manmade phenomena. He also described some of the ways he’s had to adapt to the unique challenges of shooting in what he calls “a frontier environment.”

On earth, for example, photographers don’t have to worry about “cosmic ray damage” to the CMOS chips in their cameras causing noise and spots in their images. Photographers on earth don’t have to account for the shift and speed of a spacecraft that completes an orbit of the earth every 90 minutes. When shooting through one of the windows on the space station’s cupola, Pettit has to deal with multiple reflections, because each window is made up of four panes of glass several inches thick. To block the reflections of the “nasty blinking things” on the control panels, he has created what he calls “my turtleneck.” He drapes a large black cloth over all the control panels. The cloth has a hole in the middle that’s big enough for him to poke his head through. He noted that the lavatory is located near the cupola; if the light is turned on, it’ll ruin a long night-time exposure. “I’ve trained the crew to pee in the dark.”

Pettit, a self described “uber geek,” showed a photo of the dozen or so cameras set up within the cupola. In the weightless environment, he can also attach the cameras to his clothes with Velcro. The cameras are always on, he said, because when a crew member sees something to photograph, the camera has to be ready or the moment is gone until the space craft returns to the same orbit track 11 days later.

While he favors wide-angle lenses when shooting the interior of the space station, telephoto lenses allow him to photograph areas on earth with far greater detail and fidelity than found in satellite images, which are typically stitched together from several images. From the space station, Pettit has been able to get “a continent-long perspective” on both natural and manmade phenomena. He has captured the lights of cities, for example, from Boston to Washington, and along the length of the Nile River. When he showed an image of New York City with a bright spot glowing like an ember in Manhattan, he said, “There are people in midtown who never sleep.” The images were made possible, he notes, by improvements in cameras that work at far higher ISO ranges than in years past. He showed a device he fashioned from several parts, including a handle that allows him to control the shift and compensate for the movement of the spacecraft during long exposures.

In some photos that were shot on minute-long exposures, glowing white spots appear on the earth below. These were thunderstorms, Pettit explains;  at a recent talk, an audience member told him he was using lightning as fill flash. Pettit has used the same long-exposure techniques that amateur photographers use to capture trails of stars as the earth spins; in Pettit’s space photos, however, the stars trace concentric circles in the top of the frame while the bottom of the frame is filled with colorful ribbons of light made by city lights. He also captured air trails from jets, which look, he said, “like the trails snails leave in your garden.”

Pettit ended his talk with a series of time-lapse videos that a colleague made for him by putting together thousands of images shot a second apart. These images show the mysterious green lights of the aurora borealis whirling and swirling near the arctic as the earth rushes by below the space station.

Pettit told the audience that he often faces “the photographer’s dilemma”: whether to shoot photos that will appeal to “earth-centric people” or to show the environment as it really is. He showed, for example, a posed group shot of Pettit and his crewmembers taken at the request of NASA. With the crew seated in two rows, only the floating ponytail of a female astronaut indicates that they are in a weightless environment. In reality, Pettit said, “you have people working around you oriented at all angles.” In his talk, Pettit demonstrated that he has been able to resolve the dilemma by showing earth-bound people things they will never see in a way that is both beautiful and awe-inspiring.

 

 

October 7th, 2013

An Astronaut, Mark Seliger’s Music and Rick Smolan’s Trek: PhotoPlus Expo’s Keynote Speakers Announced

@ Donald Pettit

@ Donald Pettit

Ever wanted to ask a question of an astronaut, hear how Mark Seliger captures portraits of musicians or know what happens on a National Geographic assignment? You’ll have your chance at the keynote presentations
at PhotoPlus Expo. The conference and trade show takes place October 23 through 26 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New  York City. Each of the keynotes is free to attendees who register for one of the conference passes at PhotoPlus Expo.

Our space enthusiast friends (including some PDN staffers) are particularly excited to get seats for Dr. Donald Pettit’s presentation, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Photography in Space,” on October 24, from 12pm to 1pm. He will share images shot from the cupola of a spacecraft, and explain the techniques used to capture images from this unique perspective.

Mark Seliger, who has shot over 100 Rolling Stone covers, will be discussing the evolution of his portrait and fashion photography, and his own journey as a musician, on October 25, from 12pm to 1pm.

Rick Smolan, the creator of the “Day in the Life” book series, was assigned by National Geographic to document a young Australian woman’s 1,700 mile trek across Australia’s Gibson desert accompanied only by some camels and a dog. The story became the book, Alice to Ocean, which is now being made into a motion picture by the producers who made “The King’s Speech.” In his presentation on October 26 from 12pm to 1pm, Smolan will present never-before-seen images from the project and clips from the film.

The keynotes are just one portion of the educational program at the PhotoPlus Expo conference. There are seminars covering lighting techniques, marketing and social media, mastering video, creating compelling portraits, “How to Create Advertising That Doesn’t Look like Advertising,” “The Art of Video Storytelling,” “Understanding Your Smartphone,” “Today’s Changing Marketplace for Your Photographs,” “How to Navigate the World of Fashion Photography,” tips and trends. Speakers include Zack Arias, Olivia Bee, Jeremy Cowart, Joe McNally, Art Streiber, Jody Quon, Gregory Heisler, Bob Davis, Douglas Kirkland, James Estrin, Guy Aroch, Cliff Mautner, Corey Rich, Ed Kashi, Ron Haviv, Tyler Stableford, Brian Storm, Mary Virginia Swanson, Gail Mooney,

Lou Jones, Zack Arias, and Alex Buono.

For more information or for frequent updates, visit the PhotoPlus Expo website, become a fan on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

Website:    http://www.photoplusexpo.com
Facebook:    http://www.facebook.com/photoplusexpo
Twitter:    http://www.twitter.com/photoplusexpo

By the way, in addition to hosting (and moderating) seminars at the conference, PDN will be exhibiting at PhotoPlus Expo. Please stop by and say hi.