Monday, January 25, 2010

Great Photographs - Buzz Aldrin on the Moon

In 1969, a event occured which had an irrevocable impact on human civilisation. America became the first country to land people on the moon. Travelling in the Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins spent two and half hours on the moon setting up experiments and taking photos, including the photograph of Buzz Aldrin above taken by Neil Armstrong, before sucessfully returning to Earth.

The photographs that resulted from this brief sojourn are perhaps some of the most scientifically analysed shots of all time, raising questions of how exactly photography works and how the physical conditions on Earth determine how we shoot. Consipiracy theorists who believe the moon landing was staged have questioned everything about the shots from why no stars appear in the images to the source of the light casting the shadow in the image above. The answer to the first question seems to be as basic as "Because there was a fair amount of light, the shutter speed used was too fast to capture background stars".

Some of the other questions aren't as simply answered, and come down to the physics of the interactions between light, air and subject. Ian William Goddard explores some of these issues on his site, using models of the lander and the astronauts to recreate the physical conditions under which the shots were taken.

The camers used by the astronauts were chest-mounted Hasselblad 500ELs using both black and white and colour film. As Michael Light notes, colour film in an interesting concept in a vaccum and it may be that the colours we're seeing aren't actually the colours you would see if you stood up there yourself. The astronauts were given photography lessons and practice cameras, allowing them to be confident in using the equipment on site. Overall 3584 images were taken on the mission, not a bad shoot!

Remembering Apollo 11 has a selection of wonderful photos from the era along with quotes from the astronauts, and is well worth a look to people interested in space, photography and/or the 60s.

As a final memo - keep in mind that astronauts don't take well to being told they're lying about landing on the moon!

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