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7 early feats in the history of photography
Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 09:00 AM
Photo: Bill Anders/NASA
Photography has come a long way since its humble 19th-century beginnings. In the mid-1800s, it was just an obscure technology reserved only for chemists and inventors. A century later, we were launching people into space and capturing our planet's portrait. In the image above, we see the Earth rising over the moon's horizon during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968.
Today, photography permeates almost every aspect of our society.
In honor of World Photo Day — which marks the 1839 release of the first patent on a practical photographic process — let's take a look back at the early, groundbreaking images that paved the way for today's high-tech DSLRs and cellphone cameras.
1826 or 1827: First photograph
Captured using a camera obscura focused on a bitumen-coated pewter plate, French inventor Nicéphore Niépce's "View from the Window at Le Gras" is regarded as the oldest surviving photograph. This "heliograph," as Niépce called it, required an extremely long exposure. Some researchers estimate the exposure time could have ranged between eight hours to several days.
1838: First photograph featuring people
Believe it or not, this image — taken by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype— depicts a busy street in Paris. Because the camera's exposure time likely exceeded 10 minutes, moving traffic and pedestrians were not captured. However, it is possible to see a man pausing for several minutes at the street corner to get his boots polished (bottom left corner).
1839: First selfie
This self-portait of Robert Cornelius, a photography pioneer and chemist, was taken outside his family's silver-plating shop in Philadelphia. Because delayed shutter releases didn't exist on primitive cameras, Cornelius had to capture the image by manually removing the cover of the lens, posing for a bit, and then replacing the cover.
1861: First color photograph
This color image of a tartan ribbon, captured by Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell, was actually captured three times — each time using a different color lens filter. After the images were developed, the three images were displayed on a screen using three separate projectors. The projectors were equipped with each image's corresponding color filter, which provided the final image with a combination that showed all three of the colors together.
1877: First color landscape
This idyllic scene of the Agen Cathedral in Aquitaine, France holds the distinction of being the first known color landscape photo. It was captured by French photography pioneer Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron, who helped develop the three-color principle for color photography involving additive and subtractive color mixing methods.
1887: First photographic speed series
English photographer and motion-picture pioneer Eadweard Muybridge was hired by a race-horse owner to do a motion study that would settle a popular debate at the time: Do all four hooves of a horse leave the ground while trotting and galloping? The limits of the human eye made it impossible to determine the answer to this question without the aid of photography. Not only did he find the answer — he made history, as well.
1888: First moving film
This brief, two-second clip was captured by Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince in the garden of a family home in Roundhay, a suburb of Leeds, Yorkshire, England. It contains just four frames, but it packs quite a punch in historical significance.
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