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A Look At The Photography Training & Gear Aboard the ISS With NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams

By Hanssie on April 13th 2016

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.

You can see NASA’s database of images here and on their Instagram account here. Also find Jeff Williams’ personal account and see his adventures on the ISS on his Instagram and Facebook.

[Via Inverse; additional info Washington Post]


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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Warren Senewiratne

    I see Hasselblad tagged as well. do they have one on board?
    I believe Hasselblad was the first camera in space.

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  2. Veng Chhour

    Love how he just spins that 800mm around like that, like it weighs nothing…oh wait…

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  3. Jon Smallwood

    Wow!!! So cool. I would have thought they’d use Nikon D810a’s!!

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  4. Alex Kartashov

    Knowing they’re using Nikon gear on the ISS makes me all jolly inside.

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    • Hanssie

      Haha. I knew the Nikonians would love it!

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    • Scott Pacaldo

      just a question, I’ve always wondered how it was Nikon to be on board the ISS? why not Canon or Sony or Hasselblad? Why the change? hehe if anyone can answer this genuine question, I’d really appreciate it. It bothers me for a while now xD

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  5. Andy & Amii Kauth

    This is very cool.

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