Earthrise and the Overview Effect
Earthrise. On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders took the first photograph of the Earth from lunar orbit. The photo became known as "Earthrise," and it was the first time human beings had ever seen the Earth from the perspective of another heavenly body.
Renowned outdoor photographer, Galen Rowell, called it the "most influential photograph ever taken."
The Overview Effect – A term coined by Frank White in 1987 describes the emotional sensation that many astronauts experience when viewing the Earth as a whole from the stillness of space. This view, according to the astronauts, radically changes your perspective and enhances your appreciation for the beauty and fragility of life on Earth. You feel tenderness towards her because she is so small against the backdrop of infinite space and so beautiful too. And you think of all the lives of animals and species and humans who’ve lived there and all the drama of life on earth, its splendor and travail, its suffering and joy. And you have to ask: “What is it all about?” And when you do ask that question you are confronted with a profound mystery. A mystery that no one can fully explain or understand, not one living person throughout the history of recorded time. For we are all caught together in the same net of life and time. And we don’t know why. Yet we feel this profound sense of gratitude, humility, and awe. -Reflections on the Overview Effect, Kim Ashley.
Astronauts Speak – “The thing that really surprised me was that the Earth projected an air of fragility. And, why, I don’t know to this day. I had a feeling—it’s tiny, it’s shiny, it’s beautiful, it’s home, and it’s fragile.”
-Michael Collins, NASA Astronaut, Apollo 11
“And a little later on, your friend goes out to the moon. And now he looks back and he sees the Earth not as something big, where he can see the beautiful details, but now he sees the Earth as a small thing out there. And the contrast between that bright blue and white Christmas tree ornament and the black sky, that infinite universe, really comes through, and the size of it, the significance of it. It is so small and so fragile and such a precious little spot in the universe that you can block it out with your thumb. And you realize that on that small spot, that little blue and white thing, is everything that means anything to you – all of history and music and poetry and art and war and death and birth and love, tears, joy, games, all of it is on that little spot out there that you can cover with your thumb…. And you realize from that perspective that you’ve changed, that there’s something new here, that the relationship is no longer what it was.”
-Russell Schweikart, NASA Astronaut, Apollo 9
One of the classes I teach is "Mastering Exposure and Focus." This class shows students how to adapt creatively to difficult lighting situations (exposure) and how to improve their skills in getting tack-sharp images (focus.)
In this blog, I want to define some key terms relating to exposure.
Exposure. The amount of light reaching the sensor based on four factors: the ambient light, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. The ambient light is the light surrounding your subject.
Exposure Triangle. These are the three features on a digital camera that you control: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.
Aperture. The opening in the lens that is similar to the pupil in the eye. Various aperture sizes are designated by f/stop numbers. For example, f/4 is a wide aperture opening while f/22 is a narrow opening. The aperture range on a typical lens looks like this: f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, f/32. When you go from f/4 to f/5.6, you are doubling the amount of light on the sensor. This is called a stop of light. When you go from f/32 to f/22, you are cutting light in half.
Depth-of-Field (DOF). This is the range of sharpness within an image. Aperture sizes affect the DOF. Wider apertures, such as f/4 help create a shallow DOF, which is good for close-ups and portraits. Small apertures, such as f/16 or f/22, create a deep DOF, which is good for landscapes.
Exposure or Shooting Mode Dial. Advanced digital cameras offer a fully automatic shooting mode plus several creative modes: Program, Aperture, Shutter, and Manual. In Aperture Priority, for instance, you have creative control over DOF. Aperture Priority is designated on your mode dial as either "A" for Nikon or "AV" for Canon. In Shutter Priority, you have creative control over freezing or blurring action. "S" on the mode dial for Nikon. "TV" on the mode dial for Canon. "TV" means time value.
Shutter Speed. This is the amount of time your camera spends taking a picture. It's usually measured in fractions of a second. Advanced cameras offer a range of shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/4000 of a second or faster. You can freeze most action at 1/200 of a second. You can blur most action at 1/50 second or slower.
ISO. This measures the sensitivity of your sensor to light. ISO typically ranges from 100 to 6400 on most digital cameras. Here's the range given in full stops of light: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400. On a sunny day, the ISO setting might be 100-200. At twilight, however, the ISO setting might be 800-1200. As you increase the ISO, the sensor becomes more sensitive to low light situations. Some cameras offer Auto ISO.
When you understand the Exposure Triangle and learn to master Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO, you will be able to create more compelling images.
If you're in the market for buying a digital camera, then this class will help you make a decision based on your personal interests and budget. The class describes the three main types of digital cameras--Compact, DSLR, and Mirrorless--and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each. Based on your personal interests, you'll learn about the most important features to look for when buying a digital camera.
Class Details: 90 minutes. Cost $10. Class size: 3-7 students. Taught at Southwest Photos on the west side of Albuquerque. Sign up on the Contact page.
Note: If you want the 60-page Power Point presentation for the class, just email Kim Ashley. He will send you a PDF file for the class at no charge.
By Kim Ashley
Ever since George Eastman came out with the Kodak camera and the advertising slogan, "You press the button. We do the rest," photography became the art form of the masses.
Then came the digital photography revolution in the 1990's and now, according to a recent survey, snapping photographs ranks third among preferred adult activities behind, you guessed it, having sex and dancing.
This has led some to argue that digital photography is no longer an art form since anyone can do it. Sadly, a recent story on NBC's Nightly News seems to confirm this allegation.
Exhibit A is this self-portrait, selfie, taken by a macaque monkey in Indonesia. According to the report, wildlife photographer, David Slater, spent three days hiking into the remote jungles of Sulawesi when he came across an incredibly friendly troop of crested black macaques.
One day, Slater turned his back on his camera, and one of the more inquisitive macaques started admiring himself in the reflection of the lens. Then the monkey accidentally hit the shutter button. According to Slater, "the sound got his attention so he kept pressing it. He must have taken hundreds of pictures before I could get my camera back."
"Of course," Slater offered, "most of them were out of focus."
This latter comment is small consolation to the thousands of digital photographers of the human species who struggle mightily with the new digital technology, trying to figure out all the bells and whistles and trying to understand all the jargon: ISO, white balance, matrix metering, histograms, high dynamic range, etc.
Human photographers in fact spend thousands of dollars on the newest equipment. We join camera clubs, attend workshops, and read countless "how-to" books, for the sole purpose of getting just one compelling image. Just one image that arrests attention and that compels other humans to say, "Wow!"
In short, just one image like the one above, taken by a monkey in the remote jungles of Indonesia!
OK...let's chalk this selfie up to beginner's luck. That, at least, salvages some of our human pride.
Meanwhile, we continue our quest to learn this newest art form--digital photography--an art and a craft that's supposed to be so incredibly easy yet remains a mystery to many of us.
In the end, however, I hope we don't lose ourselves in the books, the technology, and the jargon. I hope our heads don't eclipse our hearts. And, most of all, I hope that we each get a chance to stand, for at least one moment, in the hairy feet of that Indonesian monkey and take one glorious photo for the sheer joy of it.