The Falcon has Landed – Working with film from the Apollo 15 Moon mission

The Falcon has Landed – Working with film from the Apollo 15 Moon mission

I recently had the amazing opportunity to work with some very interesting historical media. A retired NASA engineer friend contacted me having found a box of photographic films in his desk drawer. Turns out the box contained two partial rolls and several cut slides of 70mm film from the 1971 Apollo 15 mission! What a find!

According to my engineer friend, these are not unpublished images. They are, however original films from the customized Hasselblad EDC (Electronic Data Cameras) medium format cameras used on the lunar surface, and include numerous images of the astronauts, the Lunar Module �” the �œFalcon” (LM-10), and Lunar Rover (LRV).

There are also multiple images from orbit featuring the Command Module �“ Endeavor (CM-112). As a photographer, I found it interesting that there is one image showing the camera mounted on a bracket on the chest of the astronaut�™s space suit. The cameras were essentially point and shoot �“ whichever direction the astronaut was pointed, it shot.

The actual composition of the film remains something of a mystery, but was reportedly a custom Ektachrome formulation that Kodak developed for the NASA missions. The 70mm sprocketed film was thinner than typical film �“ allowing for more frames per roll. (Imagine trying to change film in a space suit). The team took multiple cameras to the moon, but brought back only the expended film magazines. The actual camera bodies were left behind to conserve weight on the return voyage.

There were a few challenges in photographing the film. The film was in pretty good shape for having been stored in a box in a desk drawer for 40+ years. It has a heavy blue-ish color cast. I�™m not certain if that�™s a function of age, or something unique to the particular film stock. So it required some significant color correction in post.

I digitized the film with a Nikon D810 DSLR / 105 macro lens combo and an LED light panel. I considered scanning, but the scanner�™s 60mm medium format negative carrier would not accommodate the slightly wider 70mm film. However, with a little trial and error, and the help of my son�™s 3D printer, I was able to create a film holder to fit the NASA film that enabled me to capture the entire width / frame numbers, film stock info, etc. This worked great for most of the film, but was not usable with the cut frames since there was no glass to keep them flat. For those remaining images, I purchased a piece of anti-newton glass, and was able to sandwich them between the glass and the LED panel.

How these treasures ended up in my friend�™s desk drawer at NASA may never be determined. But the fact that they�™ve been to the moon and back makes this film just about the coolest thing I�™ve ever had my hands on.

Jon C. Haverstick is professional photographer based in Orange County, California. Having come from a film photography background, he has recently dipped his toes BACK into the waters of analog photography with the acquisition of a pair of medium format film cameras. It�™s the venture back into film photography that ultimately led to the NASA Apollo 15 Film.

You can find out more about Jon on his website, follow his work on Facebook, or reach out to him through LinkedIn. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

7 Cool products in under 7 minutes from The Photography Show

7 Cool products in under 7 minutes from The Photography Show

The Photography Show is the UK’s biggest annual show. Held each year at the Birmingham NEC, it attracts all of the well-known brands, and a few newer ones. And while the main focus of shows now for me are the people I get to see and hang out with, you can’t ignore the gear. Because, like most shows, it’s packed to the gills with it.

DIYP went to The Photography Show 2017 last month, and we picked up seven of the most interesting products for your enjoyment:

Think Tank Signature shoulder bags

In the past, I’ve not been a huge fan of shoulder bags, preferring to go the backpack route. In the last couple of years, though, shoulder bags have really started to win me over. This particular shoulder bag drew our attention for a couple of reasons.

When I go out to shoot or travel with the camera, I usually have a couple of tablets with me. Either an Android tablet or iPad for social media and a Windows tablet for more serious work. This bag has pockets galore for these kinds of devices. You could fit two tablets and a laptop in here, each in their own separate pouches. There’s also room for a camera body and 2 or 3 lenses.

One very cool feature is the wide strap on the back that’s open at the top and bottom. This allows you to attach the bag to your roller case handle when you’re wandering around the airport or train station. Very handy when you’ve got to wait around for hours and don’t want to have to stand there with all that weight.

The Signature shoulder bags are available in two sizes and two colors.

Haida Filters

We have a special guest appearance in this one, Melvin ‘Fogbow’ Nicholson. Some of you might remember him for a particular photograph that went somewhat viral last November. Melvin has recently switched over to using Haida Filters for his landscape photography and has since become an ambassador for the company. After having now seen their products in person, it’s easy to see why.

While I didn’t get to go out and play with them (Birmingham isn’t really known for its sweeping vistas), they appear to be extremely well made. But what really caught my attention were the filter holders themselves. What makes them rather unique is how they house the polarizing filter.

Other systems typically have the polarizing filter in front of the holder itself, with NDs or grads in front of that. Where Haida’s system differs, is that the polarizing filter actually sits behind the slots for holding the filters and rotates independently. This means that if you’re lining up a scene with graduated ND filters, you can easily access and rotate your polarizer and without it rotating your grads.

That’s a super handy feature when you’re trying to work quickly on location so you don’t miss light at just the right moment.

Haida makes three variations of their holder system and filters to go with them. One is for small mirrorless cameras, the second for standard 100mm for DSLRs with regular lenses. These hold 2mm filters, but on close inspect, it appears that these can be rearranged to also hold 4mm glass filters if needed. The third size is 150mm for ultrawide and bulbous lenses like the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G.

A set of these are definitely going on my shopping list.

The SPIG 1420 VAL spigot

I was first introduced to the SPIG 1420 VAL spigot a few months ago. After getting one it comes with me on every single shoot. At its simplest, it allows you to turn a very inexpensive painters pole into a lighting boom. It converts the large thread into what you would get on the end of a light stand. This includes the 1/4-20″ tripod thread at the top.

Why use something like this when you can get actual boom arms designed for this purpose? Well, for me, it’s primarily down to cost and versatility. Lighting booms can be very expensive, and I shoot on location, so I’m not too delicate with it all the time. Painters poles are cheap to replace, and you can have a bunch of different sizes for different purposes.

I have a short one that I’ll use for booming microphones overhead during filming. And I have a much longer one that I can use with my Zhiyun Smooth-C gimbal to get stabilized clips from 3-4 meters in the air. Very handy if you want shots over a crowd when you can’t exactly fly a drone.

But it also means you can turn anything into a light stand. I’ve used the SPIG 1420 to suspend speedlights and small softboxes from tree branches on location. When attached to something more substantial like a metal railing, they can easily hold a lot of weight, too.

The SPIG 1420 is one of those things I didn’t really even know I needed until I got one. Before I had one, I didn’t miss not-having it, I just accepted there were certain places I couldn’t put a light and things I couldn’t do. Since getting one, it comes out on every shoot and has saved the day on more than one occasion.

Godox AD200

The Godox AD200 (Pixapro Pika 200 in the UK) is a new breed of light. It’s a 200Ws strobe/speedlight hybrid with interchangeable heads. If you want that speedlight look, it comes with a Fresnel head like you’d find on a speedlight. But, you can also remove that head, and add a bare bulb, just like a studio strobe.

When you consider that it manages to pack everything inside a unit not much bigger than a straightened out Nikon SB-900, it’s extremely impressive. It has its own internal battery, so you don’t need to deal with external packs, like you do with the AD360II. And that battery is a powerful little beasty, too. Offering 500 full power pops on a full charge. But if that’s not enough, it’s interchangeable, so you can carry spares in your bag.

200Ws doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but it’s enough that you can just about overpower the sun depending on the modifier you’re using. I have a pair of Godox AD360II, which are each only about 2/3rds of a stop brighter than the AD200. Inside a 4ft Octabox, I’ve had those beating the sun into submission at only a quarter power. So, the AD200 should easily be able to stand up to the job.

But, this will depend in the kind of distances you need and modifiers you want to use. If you’re using an 81″ Parabolic from 15ft away, it might not feel so powerful. But inside a 4ft Octa from 6ft away? Easy.

Genesis Gear

Genesis Gear is an equipment company based in Poland. They’re available across Europe and are currently expanding into the UK and the rest of the world. They offer a range of equipment for photographers and cinematographers including tripods, heads, camera rigs, stabilizers and other devices. And all of the products I played with at the show felt very well made.

Their products split up into three lines. There’s Base, which is their range for photographers and includes tripods, monopods, heads, macro rails and similar camera supports. I’ve used a lot of cheap and expensive tripod systems over the years, and nothing at that stand felt cheap, by any means. As soon as they get an official UK retailer, I’ll definitely be putting an order in for a few items.

Next is Cruise, which is their line of camera bags and backpacks. I have to admit, I didn’t pay as much attention to their bags at the show as I should have done. But, I’ve got about 15 camera bags, so I’m not really in the market for more. Looking at the bags on their website, though, there’s definitely a couple there that could replace some of what I already have and offer a little more versatility.

The final range of products is the Cine line. This wasn’t really represented highly at the show. But it’s a photography show, not a video show, so it’s not too surprising. There were a couple of items there, though, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of what they offer in the future.

Elinchrom ELB 1200

We’ve shown off some of what the Elinchrom ELB 1200 is capable here on the site before. But this was our first time seeing it in person, and it’s an impressive piece of kit.

The Elinchrom ELB 1200 pack weighs in at 4.3KG. So, it’s not exactly ultralight. But it’s far from being the heaviest portable pack out there, either. For comparison, the Bowens Explorer 1500 weighs a whopping 11.2KG, almost triple. The ELB 1200 is also physically a fair bit smaller than the Bowens, too. But this little pack has one heck of a punch.

While the obvious benefits of massive power on location are important, what’s cool about this for me are its video lighting options. Because it’s an Elinchrom, you can use it with all your favorite Elinchrom modifiers for video. Softboxes, beauty dishes, parabolics, the works. And it’ll give you an hour of 800-lumen video.

Like the strobe, the video light is also daylight balanced. We actually lit this segment of the video with the ELB 1200 inside a white reflective umbrella so you could see for yourself.

You can have one or two heads plugged into the pack, either symmetrically or asymmetrically. You get around 215 full power flashes from the standard battery or 400 from the heavy duty.

It’s still not quite released just yet. It is available to pre-order, but it won’t be shipping out sometime in the next 3 or so months.

Pansonic Lumix GH5

As far as gear goes, this was the thing I was probably looking forward to seeing in person the most. The Panasonic Lumix GH5. There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this camera since its initial announcement, and a couple of complaints, and I wanted to see it for myself.

Other than shooting stuff at the shows, I don’t really do much video work these days. I have, however, been convinced to start vlogging, and I definitely need something better than my current options. So, the GH5 has been a serious contender. They let me borrow it for an hour or so to wander off and have a play with.

Despite the fact I’ve never used one of the Panasonic Lumix Micro Four Thirds cameras before, it was pretty easy to get to grips with. All the settings were in fairly intuitive places, and even the things that did initially confuse me were still pretty simple to solve. If you’ve used pretty much any kind of interchangeable lens system before, it shouldn’t take too long to adapt.

The camera wasn’t quite shipping yet, and the unit they let me borrow was a pre-production body with the final version of the firmware. It felt very similar in size and weight to holding something like a Nikon D5x00 series camera. When it comes to capability, though, the GH5 definitely wins.

Even though I had an hour with the GH5 all to myself, I didn’t really do any fully extensive tests. The first chunk of my time was taken up just figuring out what some of the buttons did and how to get it taking stills and shooting video. After that I just wanted to see how easy it was to get to grips with. And overall, it was painless and straightforward.

I wish I’d had longer with this to fully explore its capabilities, and I really didn’t want to have to give it back. Fortunately, we had action sports filmmaker and photographer, Steven Clarey, to give us the rundown.

In my brief time with it, I could immediately see the advantages over the current cameras I use for video. But, until I get to really put it through its paces, I’m not sure the cost of making the switch would be worth it for my own needs (I’m not making Hollywood here). If I didn’t already have video-capable DSLRs, though, this would definitely be high up on my list.

Did you go to The Photography Show?

So, that’s it. All in all it was a great show, although pretty quiet on new gear. As I said at the start, though, shows for me are all about the people. They’re about connecting with friends I don’t get to see very often, meeting people I’ve only known online, and entirely new people.

The new equipment and cool toys are great, sure. We need gear to be able to create what we want to create. But don’t get hung up on it. Don’t pine after the stuff you don’t have. Look at what you do have, and then go and make something with it.