Mental Floss

The History of Aerial Photography.

Miss Cellania

Just a couple of weeks ago, Randall Munroe of xkcd posted aerial photographs of Boston he took with his Kite Cam.

It made me wonder about how old aerial photography is, and whether the earliest photographs still exist. I was surprised to find the oldest existing aerial photo was also of Boston!

435_firstairphoto_boston.jpg /

Although DaVinci wrote about the physics behind photography, the chemicals were not properly developed til a few hundred years later. The first real photograph was taken around 1826. The first aerial photograph was taken in 1858 by Felix Tournachon, known as Nadar, from a tethered balloon over the Bievre Valley in France. Those photographs no longer exist. The oldest surviving aerial photograph is this one of Boston, taken by James Wallace Black in 1860, using a tethered balloon.

More historical aerial photos, after the jump.

435_batutimg.jpg /
435_bavarianpigeoncorps.jpg /
435_sanfranearthquake.jpg /

Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) is still popular, and you don't have to have a pilot's liscence to do it. Charles Benton of Berkeley has been involved with KAP since 1994, and runs a website with lots of information and photographs. There's also a KAP blog and regional websites.

435_Passchendaele_aerial_view.jpg /
435-V2image.jpg /
435_Corona_pentagon.jpg /

The Mercury and Apollo space missions took aerial photography to a new level. This image of "Earthrise" over the moon was taken from Apollo Ten in May, 1969.

435_apolloearthrise.jpg /

The many other photographs of earth taken from space, and the current photography of other planets, is an extensive subject to leave for another day. For more details, see the History of Aerial Photographic Interpretation. For a short course in early photography in general, see this post at Neatorama.