The Origins Of Aerial Photography

The first man to design and develop the physics of photography was Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest inventors to have ever existed. However, his ideas were not transformed into reality until after a few centuries, when the chemicals needed for photography came into existence. The first picture was captured some time during the year 1826, but the first ever photograph to be taken from air was the one by Felix Tournachon in 1858 over Bievre Valley using a tethered balloon. It does not exist anymore though – the one which does is a picture of Boston shot in 1860 by James Wallace Black from a tethered balloon.

In 1889, a shutterbug named Arthur Batut managed to fit a camera with a timer and attached the whole thing to a large kite. Using the same, he captured photographs of Labruguiere, France, from air. Next in the line was Julius Neubronner, who took the liberty of fitting homing pigeons with small cameras having timers that would trigger the cameras to take pictures after every half a minute. Then there was George Lawrence – he took a picture of San Francisco, six weeks after the devasting earthquake of 1906. He used a camera weighing 22 kilos and sent it as high as 2000 feet above the ground with the help of 9 kites. The shots were taken to create panoramic images, which were around 48 inches in width.

Aerial photography from a modern flying craft was done first in 1908, from an airplane piloted by none other than Wilbur Wright. L.P. Bonvillain captured the shot. Later, the method was applied in mapping, military reconnaissance and science.

In the year 1935, Captain Albert Stevens took a picture showing the earth’s curvature. The balloon used for the task scaled a height of 72,395 feet, but sadly the picture is not available on the Internet. However, there is an image of the first shot taken from space using a V-2 rocket, in 1946 from a record elevation of 3,43,200 feet.

The Corona Project, which was conducted by the CIA and lasted from 1959 to 1972, laid the framework for satellite photography by taking shots of reconnaissance in Soviet Union, China and other areas. Finally, mankind took its giant leap in aerial photography in 1969 when pictures of Earth were taken from the moon during the Apollo space mission.


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