Aerial photography is a powerful tool that has been used for centuries to capture images from the sky. From hot air balloons to drones, it has come a long way in the past 160 years and is now employed for a variety of purposes, from regional analysis to historical perspective. In this article, we'll explore the basics of aerial photography, including its history, technical concepts, and applications. The first aerial photographs were taken from balloons, kites, and even pigeons.
This type of photography was limited to large scale productions and those with large budgets due to the cost of gasoline needed to fly them. However, with the invention of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, aerial photography has become more accessible and economical. When shooting in motion, aerial photography is also known as aerial videography. There are several factors that can differentiate a photograph from another in the same area, such as the type of film, the scale, and the overlay.
Other important concepts used in aerial photography are stereoscopic coverage, fiducial marks, focal length, roll and frame numbers, and flight lines and index maps. An aerial photograph is any photograph taken from the air. To determine the scale of a photo, you can consider the relationship between the focal length of the camera and the altitude of the aircraft above the ground being photographed. Photographic analyst Dino Brugioni helped found the CIA's National Center for Photographic Interpretation (NPIC) in 1961. Aerial photography has been used for a variety of purposes over the years. It can be used to show a business's location, size, and proximity to nearby attractions or places of interest.
It can also be used for military operations such as reconnaissance efforts during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Vonvillain photographed the Centocelli military camp during this time period, foreshadowing photography's next aerial role in military operations. Platforms for aerial photography include fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, UAVs or drones, balloons, airships, rockets, pigeons, kites, or action cameras while skydiving or wearing an aerial suit. Brugioni's collection is in the Archives of the National Air and Space Museum and offers a fascinating story about the role of aerial photographic reconnaissance. These images captured a true “bird's eye view” of German streets but were soon surpassed by other forms of aerial photography. Vertical photographs are often used to create orthophotos or orthophotomaps - photographs that have been geometrically corrected so that they can be used as a map. With technological advances in the 20th century, aerial photography quickly became a tool for a wide range of intelligence efforts. Aerial photography is an invaluable tool that can provide us with insights into our environment that would otherwise be impossible to obtain.
From regional analysis to historical perspective, it can help us understand our world better than ever before. The next time you take an image from the sky, take a moment to reflect on how it fits into a larger narrative of aerial photography.