When I was a kid, if you asked any one of my classmates what they wanted to be when they grew up, eight out of ten times, you’d hear them say, “astronaut.” This was in the 1980’s when our space program was in full stride – the first space shuttle, Columbia was launched; Sally Ride became the first female in space, and the tragedy of the Challenger was watched on television worldwide. I remember going on a field trip to some long-forgotten museum and buying “Astronaut Ice Cream,” some freeze-dried sugary concoction that, as it turns out, was revealed never even to have been used in space (thanks for shattering my childhood illusions).
Every library visit was a race to see who could get to the shelf with books about astronauts and space missions, at recess we’d pretend our jungle gym was a space shuttle, and we were astronauts floating in the dark abyss of the universe. I was the envy of my class when I went to visit Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center one summer. Alas, neither my classmates nor I actually ended up going into the space program, but we sure knew all about it. We could tell you about the hundreds of hours of training, the various certifications and the various skills astronauts needed to have – one of them being photography.
Photography was then and still is now part of the training for all astronauts. One of their training manuals in the 1980’s was a photography manual with all the basics – from changing lenses to proper exposure – created by Hasselblad. The guidebook served to teach astronauts how to use the Hasselblad 500 EL/M cameras that the Space Shuttles were equipped with, but also, how to create “the best possible space photographs.” Now, NASA hires actual photographers to train their astronauts and to choose the equipment needed to capture the images we see from the International Space Station. The astronauts are also trained in a wide variety of photo and video techniques such as live-streaming, 4K video, panoramas, and photo stitching.
In the following video, Astronaut Jeff Williams gives us a look at the gear he uses on the ISS as well as his favorite “view from the office.” Among the equipment on board specifically mentioned are the Nikon D4Ss, and several gigantic $16,000 Nikon 800mm f/5.6 FL ED VR lenses (with a 1.4 teleconverter). Jeff then shows us the view from Cupola of the big blue ball we call home.