By SnapSquad - June 09, 2019

This post will take us away from our usual photographic interests, as I hope it will. Indeed, why limit our field when we can adjust our focus to the universe? That’s what astronauts do who take pictures of their amazing space adventure. Unlike astronaut photographer Don Pettit, these intrepid scientists are not usually familiar with sophisticated camera equipment and have to contend in space with most of the challenges we encounter on our home planet, and more. So here is a brief account on those photographers of exception and where we can find their pictures and indulge in letting our mind travel in space.

Astronauts Taking Pictures

Back at the beginning of space travel history (yes 20th century), Soviet scientists were the pioneers but most photos were taken on the ground and often than not edited for propaganda while pictures in space were shot by automated cameras fitted on the capsule. The first pictures taken in outer space were taken in 1961, sadly not by Yuri Gagarin (there was no room on board for a camera or any extra weight) nor by American astronauts Alan Shepard or Gus Grissom who flew on the same year. 
The first in-space photographer was 25 years old Gherman Titov on board Vostok 2 who, on August 6th 1961, orbited the Earth 17 times to study the effects of a prolonged period of weightlessness on the human body – it made him sick.                                                                   
Titov’s camera was a 35mm Konvas movie camera; you can see some of the photos that were part of a 2011 exhibition in Moscow here.

Here is what he said of his visual experience:

“It was strange to have a black dome above me and our earthly blue sky below. The Earth flashed as a multi-faceted gem, an extraordinary array of vivid hues that were strangely gentle in their play across the receding surface of the world…framed in a brilliant, radiant border. The colours were extraordinary—vivid, yet tender—and the light streaming through the cabin carried a strange shade as if it were filtered through stained glass.”

Another astronaut, NASA Commander Terry Virts also tells us how he “learned to see the Earth in terms of colours”: He knew he was over Canada (during winter) if he saw “nothing but white”; the Bahamas a “large turquoise pattern”. Virts is also a National Geographic photographer and author (View From Above – foreword by Buzz Aldrin). See Virts photos at

So what is it like to be at the International Space Station, travelling a mere 17,000 miles per hour and
taking pictures of what you see outside?  We can guess that the vantage point should be 1st class, yet how to deal with gravitational effects on your senses, extreme brightness or pitch darkness when the rules of photography still apply? Ask NASA astronaut photographer Don Pettit who has also become a speaker on the subject. 

His book, "Spaceborne" was published by Press Syndication Group, 2016 and you can see some of his amazing work at

Chris Hadfield is another astronaut who shares his experience shooting from the International Space Station on a video by Big Think which lasts 5 minutes. See more here.

Here is what he says: 

“You don’t always get it right, I mean, the National Geographic photographers — they take thousands of pictures for everyone that makes it into the magazine. Same for us. But the world is a very generous photography subject and you have the best tripod in existence, so it’s a great place to take pictures.”

Hadfield took some 45,000 photos; he picked 150 to share with the world in his book Around the World in 92 Minutes.

It just wouldn’t be right to not mention the most famous and unique out of space shot taken on July 20th 1969 by Buzz Aldrin; the only full-body photograph of Neil Armstong on the moon. Armstrong was the one holding the 70-millimetre Hasselblad for most of the Apollo 11 lunar expedition somewhere in the Sea of Tranquility; fortunately, Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon did manage to take this amazing shot. On this picture of Armstrong, his face cannot be seen; instead, the reflection on his visor has immortalized the man who stepped on the moon right behind him who was taking the shot!

For the entire collection of photos taken by Apollo astronauts, you can visit The Project Apollo Archive at flickr.

For amazing pictures taken by astronauts check out HongKiat.

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