Saturday, January 19, 2008

An aerial view of the Val de Bièvre

Before photographs could be taken from aeroplanes, aerial landscapes had to be captured by other means:

  • The first aerial photograph from a balloon was Nadar’s image of the Val de Bièvre near Paris, taken in December 1858. (as depicted in the Daumier cartoon above). However, the result was not a great success. Soon, however, clear images were being taken, like the aerial view of Boston taken in 1860 by James W. Black using the balloon, Queen of the Air.
  • In 1869 John A. Scott invented the Ophthalmos, where a camera was sent up in an unmanned balloon on the end of rope. Inspired by this, Arthur Batut in France devised a kite from which aerial photographs could be taken, publishing them in La photographie aérienne par cerf-volant (1890).
  • Finally, in 1903 Julius Neubronner devised a lightweight camera which could be attached to a carrier pigeon, the shutter being released every sixty seconds, thus enabling birds to create landscape images... A Nature Conservancy site refers to the photographs taken by the Bavarian Pigeon Corps: “while their images (that sometimes included wingtips in the frame) were of limited use, the birds looked great in uniforms”. They do indeed look very smart and I rather like their photographs too.

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