A Brief History of Aerial Photography

Aerial Photography has long been a popular means of allowing audiences to see the world from a new perspective. Today, the use of camera drones has allowed more photographers than ever to capture stunning shots that no one else has ever gotten. However, dedicated photographers have been pursuing innovation in this field for centuries; read on to find out a little bit about the historical basis for today’s most stunning aerial shots.

Hot Air Balloons

Long before people were getting into planes and flying across the globe, photographers were using hot air balloons to capture the beautiful views from above the earth’s surface. The pioneer behind this technique and all subsequent advances in the field was a man named Gaspar Felix Tournachon, credited with taking the very first aerial photograph way back in 1858. His original intent was to use aerial photographs to facilitate mapmaking and surveying, though it’s clear that the parameters for this art form have grown considerably since then.

Kite Photography

The best option available to most aerial photographers around the turn of the 20th century was to use kites to capture their images. These were, obviously, far easier to obtain and to fly than hot air balloons, which allowed photographers like George Lawrence and Arthur Batut to capture timed photographs from above. The most famous use of kite photography occurred after the infamous San Francisco earthquake when photographers used this unorthodox method to capture perfect shots of the wide-scale devastation that came in the wake of the earthquake.

Pigeons and Other Birds

It may sound absurd, but the practice of using birds to carry photographic equipment is actually still in practice today, although the purpose behind today’s bird cameras is more scientific than aesthetic. One of the first known uses of birds to take aerial photographs occurred in the first world war when Julius Neubronner attached timed cameras to pigeons in order to capture aerial shots.

Planes and Rockets

The history of aerial photographs taken from planes dates all the way back to the Wright brothers’ heyday when photographer L.P. Bonvillain worked with Wilbur Wright to pioneer a system for capturing images from the brothers’ aircraft. Planes, helicopters, and even rockets are still used even today to capture detailed images of the earth’s surface.