Dark Room in a Hot-Air Balloon
The first known aerial photograph was taken in 1858 by French photographer and balloonist, Gaspar Felix Tournachon, known as "Nadar". In 1855 he had patented the idea of using aerial photographs in mapmaking and surveying, but it took him 3 years of experimenting before he successfully produced the very first aerial photograph. It was a view of the French village of Petit-Becetre taken from a tethered hot-air balloon, 80 meters above the ground. This was no mean feat, given the complexity of the early collodion photographic process, which required a complete darkroom to be carried in the basket of the balloon! Unfortunately, Nadar's earliest photographs no longer survive, and the oldest aerial photograph known to be still in existence is James Wallace Black's image of Boston from a hot-air balloon, taken in 1860. Following the development of the dry-plate process, it was no longer necessary carry so much equipment, and the first free flight balloon photo mission was carried out by Triboulet over Paris in 1879.
(left) Nadar "elevating photography to the condition of art", caricature by Honoré Daunier. Published in Le Boulevard 25th May, 1862. (center) Nadar's earliest surviving aerial image, taken above Paris in 1866. (right) Boston from a tethered balloon, 13th October, 1860, by James Wallace Black. Kites, Pigeons and Rockets
Gradually, improvements in photographic technology made it easier to take cameras into the skies. Besides hot air balloons, early pioneers also used kites, pigeons and rockets to carry their cameras aloft. The English meteorologist E. D. Archibald was among the first to take successful photographs from kites in 1882. He used a string of kites, with the camera being attached to the last. In France, Arthur Batut took an aerial photographs from a kite in 1889, in Labruguiere, France. He suspended his still rather large camera from a single kite, and set an automatically timed...