An Astronaut Discusses the 45,000 Photos He Took From Space and Some of His Favorites

I'll be the first to admit that Chris Hadfield is way cooler than me. I mean, how can I compete with an astronaut? This awesome video talks about what it's like shooting photos while in space.

Coming to you from Chris Hadfield and Big Think, this fascinating video talks about his experience as a three-time astronaut and specifically what it's like shooting photos from space (of which Hadfield has shot an astounding 45,000). I found it particularly interesting just how many photographic mediums Hadfield had to become proficient in, and it makes sense: of course, you can't send 10 specialized camera operators and photographers into space. In fact, you can't send any; it's the astronauts who have to learn the techniques as well as the artistry as a part of their extensive training, which is what Hadfield did, taking every spare moment (of which there were few) to move to a window and fire off a shot. And his shots certainly show off his proficiency. He became so good at it that he eventually gathered 150 of his favorite shots and made a book of them. You can purchase "You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes (Photographs from the International Space Station)" on Amazon

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12 Comments

Andy Barnham's picture

150 images out of 45k is 0.3%; that's a low hit rate. And he had three chances to go up into space, come home, consider what he took, go back up and improve. I find them incredible shots for sure, but to call him a good photographer is a stretch.

Marc Bee's picture

That's not his "hit rate". That's what they chose to include in the book.

Nick Johanson's picture

He said he narrowed them down from 45,000, choosing his favorites. And then after that, he narrowed them down again, to the final 150. I'm sure he got more than 150 good ones.

Andy Barnham's picture

*and also in reply to Marc Bee

Good points guys. I didn't consider that.

Alex Cooke's picture

In addition to what others said, he doesn't exactly get to go back into space and try again whenever he wants. He took photos (and lots of them whenever he had a chance) because it was his only chance.

Andy Barnham's picture

I didn't say he got to go back whenever he wants. To elaborate my point; he would have had time to looks at his shots in- between each mission, to improve (perhaps subconsciously) his composition, what worked and what didn't. Just because he had the chance to do something it doesn't follow he should necessarily take it every opportunity; I hope he was critical enough to only take shots if and when the conditions where right. 45k is an astounding figure, but I disagree that it's a positive thing; personally it sounds like continued hit and miss attempts to take photographs.

He obviously didn't pay attention on Basic Zero G Photography 101 class....

If you watch the video, he said that photography wasn't his primary task. He only got to take photos when there was a brief break in his other tasks. It's not like he camped out on a sight, studied the composition, and got to shoot when it was all ideal. Also, traveling like 17,000 MPH the whole time. Geeze.

Andy Barnham's picture

He didn't take shots when he had breaks; he took images because he deliberately made time in his schedule to take shots. And why not study composition? He would have had the time in-between missions to do so. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. And yes, he did actually get to shoot when it was ideal because he had multiple attempts at shooting the locations as he orbited the earth.

Not sure you watched the video.

So, he chose 150 images as the best of his 45,000 image library (which he took in his small amount of spare time as an astronaut on the space station) and published a book and .... so he cannot be called a good photographer. That is what I am getting from you.

He probably should have had you on call.

Andy Barnham's picture

He didn't have a small amount of time; he had small amounts of time.

He's taken one kind of image 45, 000 times, hasn't had to control lighting or any other factors, but rather photograph what is in front of him using the Sunny16 rule (mentioned in one of his videos).

The shots are great but no, I don't think he's a good photographer, based purely off the back of shooting what was continuously passing his window.

Your phrasing of 45k of images in a small amount of time makes it sound as if he used burst mode continuously without much thought. How does choosing 150 shots and publishing a book make someone a good photographer?

Joe Black's picture

Thank you so much for sharing. Incredible post.