International Space Station (ISS) Alpha astronaut Ron Garan returned to Earth from a six-month stay in space last September 16. During his stay, he and fellow crew member Mike Fossum had begun experimenting with ‘time-lapsed’ photography in which a series of still images are “stitched” together to make a continuous flow (similar to an animation).
Recently (Nov. 21), Garan explained on his personal blog — Fragile Oasis — that the idea to do this came from the ISS astronauts’ photography instructor Katrina Willoughby (yes, astronauts need photography instruction, as most are not pro photogs or videographers).
“I hadn’t tried time-lapse yet because I overestimated how hard it would be to capture great images, and the time-lapse photography I had seen to date didn’t seem as impressive as the still imagery we had been taking with some of the new equipment onboard,” Garan said.
In addition, while on-board the ISS, Garan conferred with famed pop composer Peter Gabriel (how cool) about how best to use the imagery to tell the “Fragile Oasis story” (and a great way to get permission to use an artist’s song, too!)
“When I saw the results, I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep!” Garan said, adding that these videos really do give a great representation of what the view is like from space.”
About the Video (quoted directly from Ron Garan’s blog):
Time-lapse video like this one is about as close as we can come to show what astronauts see in space. Here’s how this came about.
A day or two after receiving Katrina’s email, I set up a Nikon D3S camera in the cupola (our windowed observatory on board the ISS). I took some practice shots, playing with the camera settings until things looked about right. I then set up the camera to take about 500 pictures at 3-second intervals (more details about the camera settings are below). When I saw the results, I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep!
I quickly loaded the pictures on the computer in my crew quarters and stitched together a time-lapse video. As I was doing this, Peter Gabriel’s song “Down to Earth” popped into my head, and I threw the first part of the audio track on to the video.
I posted the video to my blog on August 26th – “Sneak Peek From Space”. It is this sequence – Europe to the Indian Ocean – that opens the time lapse part of the video embedded here at 1:06.
The next morning, I gathered my crew mates together and played the time-lapse video while explaining how simple it was to stitch it all together. All of my crew mates experimented with this medium to capture the space experience, especially Mike Fossum, who has since elevated time-lapse photography from space to an art form. All the sequences for this video were shot by either Mike or me.
Although the International Space Station travels at 17,500mph, orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, time-lapse photography speeds up our apparent motion considerably.
The flashes of light you see throughout the video is lightning captured by the individual frames of the photography. Yet, only a small percentage of the actual lightning is captured in the imagery. While the video is sped up, I think it still accurately captures the paparazzi-look of lightening storms as we see them from space.
While still on board the ISS, Peter Gabriel and I brainstormed some ideas for using this type of imagery to help tell the Fragile Oasis story. The possibilities are truly exciting, and I can’t wait to see where this leads. I hope it will help people follow our missions not as spectators, but as fellow crew members, inspired to help improve life on our planet.
Watch Ron Garan’s time-lapsed photo experiment ‘The Journey Home’ (with music by Peter Gabriel)
Top photo: NASA
Michael Ricciardi is a well-published writer of science/nature/technology articles and essays, poetry and short fiction. Michael has interviewed dozen of scientists from many scientific fields, including Brain Greene, Paul Steinhardt, and Nobel Laureate Ilya Progogine (deceased). Michael was trained as a naturalist and taught ecology and natural science on Cape Cod, Mass. from 1986-1991. His first arts grant was for production of the environmental (video) documentary 'The Jones River - A Natural History', 1987-88 (Kingston, Mass.). Michael is also an award winning, internationally screened video artist. Two of his more recent short videos; 'A Time of Water Bountiful' and 'My Name is HAM' (an "imagined memoir" about the first chimp in space), and several other short videos, can be viewed on his website (http://www.chaosmosis.net). Michael currently lives in Seattle, Washington.