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On specially built Hasselblad cameras, how did astronauts operate the camera controls with bulky gloves on, and how did they frame photos without a viewfinder?

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    $\begingroup$ See if this answers your question: space.stackexchange.com/q/30873/6944 $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 10 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ cropping the photos makes them look well framed $\endgroup$ – JCRM Mar 10 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ They did a lot of training before the flight to use the camera without viewfinder. In the archived raw scans there are a lot of badly framed photos. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Mar 10 at 21:25
  • $\begingroup$ unless I oversaw in answers already given - the manufacturer modified the controls of the camera slightly, the "rings" received levers so you could move them easy even with the thick gloves, and the usual small knob was replaced likewise by a lever that could be easier operated with gloves $\endgroup$ – eagle275 Mar 11 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ put in with a suitable source I found after a quick google search - but I first heart of the camera modifications in TV-documentaries about moon-landings - and even more in TV-documentaries about the moon-landing hoax or .. proof that it wasn't a hoax $\endgroup$ – eagle275 Mar 11 at 16:43
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The astronauts did a lot of training with the cameras. The used 60 mm wide angle lens (angular field diagonal 63°, side 47°) and the large image format (53 * 53 mm) helped them in framing.

The 500 mm lens had a special notch and bead viewfinder, see first image.

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Image of a suited training from this page.

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Apollo 16 geologic training-exercises in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada July 7-9 1971; Charles Duke (left) and John Young studying traverse map prepared for them during geologic traverses at Sudbury. Both astronauts have electric Hasselblad cameras, similar to the ones they would use on the Moon, mounted on their chest plates.

From this NASA page.

Astronaut Training for Lunar Photography

The Apollo astronauts underwent intensive training in preparation for their Moon explorations. Over the several years prior to the Moon missions, scientific and photographic training was provided. Astronauts were encouraged to take training cameras on trips to become more familiar with the camera operation and to enhance their photographic technique. Tutorials were provided to the crews on the equipment, its operation, as well as on the scientific purposes. The crews visited geologic sites in Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii, frequently simulating their lunar traverse, completely outfitted with sample bags, checklists, simulated backpacks, lunar rock hammer, core-sampling equipment, and typically using Hasselblad EL cameras similar to those they would use on the Moon. As the use of the camera was mostly automated, the most crucial training was in pointing the camera which was attached to their chest control packs for the suit's environmental control system. The astronaut would point his body in order to aim the cameras. Films taken during the practice exercises were processed and returned to the crewmen who would study the results.

From this NASA page.

If we look at some Apollo 11 images from this NASA page

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One image is nearly perfect framed, but sometimes the camera was not vertical and should be held a little higher.

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Aligning all images of a panorama was not easy, see the very different vertical positions of the horizon.

But all are magnificent historical images.

The camera was modified with large levers to be used in space wearing thick pressurized gloves, see the red arrows.

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Victor Hasselblad presenting the camera with the modifications for the Apollo lunar landings.

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    $\begingroup$ additional references to training and rehearsals: How were Apollo spacesuits cooled during simulations/rehearsals on Earth? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 11 at 4:21
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    $\begingroup$ This answers the question perfectly! Would you be able to include the photos with citation and/or explaining when and where they were taken? $\endgroup$ – user2705196 Mar 11 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ The image with the flag at center is (nearly) perfect framed? $\endgroup$ – Uwe Mar 11 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ Ag, I thought that might be the one - but I'd have the flag, or possibly the flag pole central. There's way too much dead space behind the astronaut, and there's either too much or too little of the LM.... $\endgroup$ – JCRM Mar 11 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ @JCRM: You're thinking in terms of artistic composition, which I'm sure was only a secondary or tertiary priority at most for the Apollo astronauts. As a documentary image, the flag picture is pretty much perfectly framed: the subject (i.e. the flag, the pole and the astronaut) is entirely within the frame, with plenty of margin on all sides, the horizon is straight and near the middle of the image and there's no unwanted clutter behind (or in front!) of the subject. The subject is also well lit and in focus, and shot from an angle that shows all parts of it clearly. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Mar 11 at 16:24
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Added as a (now largely unnecessary) extension to the explanation of the training

Well framed images, such as this one

iconic moon selfie

actually weren't that well framed

original moon selfie

a little black border added at the top really helps (thank goodness there are no antennas sticking up, eh?) and cutting out that noisy foreground has the double benefit of leaving just a single track of footprints. But let's be honest, a more level horizon would've been much better.

As Kubrick would never have said "We'll fix it in post[production]"

And, of course, for every "reasonably" framed photo, there were some not so reasonable framed ones:

middle left right
one out of three isn't bad...

door porch stepping out nearly down about to jump landed
come on Neil, if you're going to take a picture of someone leaving a spacecraft to step on the surface, can't you get one with both the door and the point where the "ladder" hits the ground in the same shot?


hopefully, it's no surprise that the image credit for these goes to NASA, and Neil Armstrong. I like this page, because it ties the images into the astronaut activity

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  • $\begingroup$ A comment on this answer space.stackexchange.com/a/32803/6944 explained why I can't see the images, your unorthodox image linking technique is blocked by Privacy Badger. Not judging, just remarking. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 21 at 14:44
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    $\begingroup$ I don't own the images @OrganicMarble, so I can't relicense them as CC-BY SA v4. I know most people on this stack don't care about IP theft. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Mar 21 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ Weird that it would block links to NASA. But I can toggle off that in the settings, and then it looks right. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 21 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ It's pretty much any images not hosted on the same servers as the page @OrganicMarble - because of single pixel image trackers. Imgur is apparently on Privacy Badger's whitelist, whereas NASA are not. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Mar 21 at 14:50
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And there are two other secrets in most professional photography: For one they sometimes reframe pictures before they get published. And this could be done even in good old analog time. Tilted a little - just move it when exposing the prints. Too much background - just crop the image so it fits better. And so on... And secondly: only publish the good pictures - until quite recently the huge archives were not so publicly available as they are now. You take hundrets or thousands of photos, but publish only the very best ones. And not the bad famings, bad exposures, ...

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    $\begingroup$ The out of focus ones, the ones where they left the lens cap on, the ones with the photographer's finger in the way, the ones where the moon-men are giving Buzz the bunny-ears gesture in the background - wait a minute... $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Mar 11 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ There are excellent professional photographers taking only very few shots of a subject, but very carefull planned and prepared shots. When they used large format cameras only very few shots were possible, but the results were excellent. But this cameras required very talented photographers. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Mar 12 at 21:16
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Unless I oversaw in answers already given - the manufacturer modified the controls of the camera slightly, the "rings" received levers so you could move them easy even with the thick gloves, and the usual small knob was replaced likewise by a lever that could be easier operated with gloves

https://cdn.hasselblad.com/e407a3b3-714b-4efa-aa74-06cd9083ea04_1969+moon+landing+press+release+-+english.pdf ...

  • Page 11 - Lever on the film magazin
  • Page 12 - Levers on control rings of objective and for taking photo on top of camera body

@Organic Marble: the NASA site seems to slightly exaggerate - according to Hasselblad themselves the magazines at least for Apollo 11 carried a 70 mm film with a capacity of 72 pictures which was already 6 times the regular number of 12 pictures as can be found in the pdf

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    $\begingroup$ Cool document, very 60s! $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 11 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ Also some info here: history.nasa.gov/apollo_photo.html $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 11 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ From this page: "In addition, Hasselblad said it constructed a new film magazine to handle 70 exposures instead of the standard 12." But that magazine was used during Mercury. "Known as the Hasselblad Data Camera (HDC), one camera had a Zeiss Biogon 60mm f/5.6 lens and a 70mm film magazine that allowed up to 200 images per magazine, with a specially formulated thin-base Kodak film. " $\endgroup$ – Uwe Mar 12 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ From this Apollo 11 page: "Magazine 40/S (Color) Frames 5844-5970", so 126 images were made with a single magazine, more than 72. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Mar 13 at 13:44

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