How to Take Mind-Blowing Space Photographs—From Outer Space

With the ever-evolving technology that imbues photography, we are never short of fantastic awe-inspiring shots. Digital cameras can capture things that the naked eye only wishes it could see, like streaking lights, rapid movements, and faraway objects, and it's fairly easy to capture these things if you know the basics.

But that's here on planet Earth. Once you transcend into the dark void of outer space, capturing an interesting photograph proves much more difficult. Donald Pettit, NASA astronaut and astrophotographer, recently detailed all of the hardships that came with space photography during his two trips to the International Space Station.

Image via airspacemag.com

In the picture above, Pettit can be seen enveloped by a black cloak and surrounded by several cameras. The reason for the cloak is to stop any reflections, especially at night, that might interfere with any of the photographs.

The reason that he is surrounded by so many cameras is because in space, there is no time for great photographs. Here on Earth, the sunset takes a couple of minutes; in space, astronauts only have about 7 seconds to capture one.

Image via wonderhowto.com

Another difficulty with taking pictures in space is the speed. The ISS travels at about 24,000 miles every 90 minutes. This can make it extremely difficult to create a time-lapse or take long-exposure photographs.

For auroras, the difficulty lies in taking a full-sphere picture of the size and colors. While cameras may have many advancements, auroras are hard to capture because cameras are only available to capture the green color, while not capturing the red. They can capture the red color, but the lights from Earth may smear and ruin the picture.

To combat this, Pettit would take several quick pictures and then layer the photographs using HDR and bracketing techniques.

Image via wonderhowto.com

With the use of long-exposure, bracketing and HDR, Pettit was able to gather amazing pictures that show star trails and orbital motions.

Image via fastcodesign.com

If you plan on ever making it into space with your camera, you might want to check out Pettit's entire talk on space photography and its difficulties in the video below, from a recent Luminance conference in New York.

Even if you don't think you'll make it into space by the time you die, if you're a photographer or space lover, you'll still find out exhilarating.

Photos by Don Pettit/NASA

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