How Do Astronauts Take Photos in Zero Gravity?

What would you do if you were given the chance to meet an astronaut who also happens to be a photographer? What would you want to know?

Photographer Brendan van Son got the chance of his lifetime when he had the opportunity to ask a question of Canadian “astronaut, photographer, celebrity, rockstar,”  Chris Hadfield as a part of a media Q & A. (Via PetaPixel)

This is Van Son’s question:

“I want to know about your setup, like, are you stabilizing in zero gravity? Are you countering the Earth’s movement?”

Hadfield’s answer was both interesting and educational.


He first pointed toward where the pop-up flash would be on a traditional DSLR saying,

“Wouldn’t it be nice if the center of gravity was right here?”

Understandably, with the lens mounted, the center of gravity would be further away from the camera body.

With the center of gravity being more outward, it is that much more difficult to stabilize and then take great shots. Hadfield went on to explain that on Earth, a photographer has to worry not only about stabilizing the gear but also him or herself. He or she also must counter for movement resulting from breathing and heart beat. Then, the photographer has to decide how to best use his or her hands and shoulders as gimbals to track a subject and then take the shots. Quite a task when you come to think of it.

In zero-gravity however, a photographer does not have to worry about most of those things. The camera doesn’t need to be constantly pushed up to be held in place. It simply floats in front of the photographer! All the photographer has to do is track the subject (which in most cases would be Earth) and shoot away.

“We get so good at it in orbit that we can take free-hand photos at night with long shutter times and also of course with the motor drive so that you can get 10 or 15 in a row.”

“In orbit the only one you have to think about is your heart beat because just the pulse of your heart will make the camera move like that.”

Hadfield also went on to share interesting stories about how astronauts take their turns to float into a meter-wide recessed glass box inside the space station which overlooks the world as it spins by. He says the view is nothing like we are accustomed to seeing when traveling in an airliner. It is the most unobstructed view of the earth you could ever imagine and it gives them ample opportunities to shoot amazing images of Earth.

Hadfield belongs to a rare group of people, astronauts, who have the privilege of traveling to space and capturing images from the highest possible angle. It is certainly an absorbing conversation and a chance to hear experiences of a rare kind.

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