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Challenges & Rewards of Astronaut Photography With Don Pettit & NASA

By Kishore Sawh on December 12th 2014


It’s a well known fact that photographers, by and large, like to look at a photo and think, ‘I could do that.’ Why there’s a need to have this thought when looking at another’s work is beyond my explanation, but it’s there. There are a few instances though, where we can look at the work of another, and that thought doesn’t cross our minds. Typically, it’s when the shoot has happened in some perilous environment, such as from the backseat of an F-14 doing a night trap on a pitching deck in the Indian Ocean, and even more so, from space.

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Space is about the most hostile environment known to man, its appearance of serenity from Earth is an illusion. Simply getting from our atmosphere into space requires an ungodly amount of power to bring a shuttle to about 17,500mph, and once there, as Don Pettit says in the video, your normal intuition doesn’t work. The rules are simply different, and the cost of error is that much worse. Yet, as with anything with high risks, the rewards can usually bring tears to your eyes, and up there, for a photographer, it really does.

[REWIND: Chris Hadfield On Shooting & The Importance Of Your Heartbeat]

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NASA and Don Pettit share a beautiful short film on what it was like to photograph Earth from the International Space Station. To say Don shot a lot would be a giant understatement, and that he introduces himself in the video as a photographer first, then astronaut, and seeing how many cameras he had to work with up there, you get a sense of that. Don explains the value of photography to the program and discusses some of the challenges faced when shooting in that environment; from the movement of different axes, to managing the speed. He also goes on to explain the insight into human patterns that can be gathered from the images. It’s damn inspiring stuff, and the pictures, all shot on Nikon I might add, are just magic.

See a full interview and images here.

Source: SmugMug, Images are screen captures from featured video

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jesper Ek

    So nice!

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  2. Graham Curran

    Not just a great vantage point but so muck kit to play with as well.

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  3. Clare Havill

    Truly stunning video.

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  4. Asad Qayyum


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  5. Dre Rolle

    Those guys are living everyone’s childhood dream. What I wouldn’t give to do that just once.

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  6. Sebastian Martin

    Very cool video. I’ve lived under the Aurora Borealis for four years, but see them from above is just mind blowing!

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  7. John Cavan

    What’s not to love about photography from space? There’s just no beating that view.

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