In the 1960s, when astronaut Bill Anders from Apollo 8 looked back at Earth and snapped a photo of an earthrise for what he called “the most important thing,” it was not just another scientific achievement. It is said that in looking out to his home planet again after many months alone on the moon, our own world appeared like some beautiful wonderland bathed in light with all its colors shining brightly through space. Now we can rediscover this same beauty by following these astronauts as they explore their new surroundings while snapping images themselves which later become digital artworks created painstakingly by philosopher Toby Ord who digitally restores them into stunning masterpieces fit for any wall or mantlepiece.
Ord wanted to find a true picture of the Earth from space. However, he discovered that cameras at the International Space Station cannot capture all of the earth’s circumference because they are too close, and other spacecraft that journey far enough away do not have cameras equipped for such cinematic shots. As Ord was searching for this image, he came across information about how Apollo astronauts were the only humans who had ever gone beyond low-Earth orbit so in order to find his desired shot; Urged turned into film–specifically images taken by these astronauts during their moon missions.
These NASA images are publicly available, but the originals were stored in a secret location. Luckily high-resolution scans of the original shots were generally available. The problem was that many film scans have flaws with exposure and color casts which dulled the beauty of these amazing pictures taken by specially designed Hasselblad 500EL’s equipped with Zeiss Sonnar lenses or Kodak films – Ektachrome for color and Panatomic X for black & white photos. In order to fix this issue while staying true to creating beautiful work; Ord set out – adjusting white balances, black points, cleaning up dust/scratches all alongside ensuring appropriate lighting is captured without overexposing any areas.
While people were watching the Apollo lands in 1969, astronauts on board took thousands of photographs and captured new breathtaking images that viewers quickly fell in love with. Now 50 years later these photos are being re-released for us to enjoy again, but this time they will be digitized as 3D scans so every detail is visible and no one can argue about what’s going on.
The resulting Restored Earth captures look just like when first published over 50 years ago – but now you get a more detailed glimpse into our planet from an interactive point of view!
Many different choices are made in developing a film and making prints, such as exposure, contrast, and white balance. If there were already canonical great reproductions of the original work available to him he would have focused on recreating those with more detail but since they weren’t available at all it was up to him to make these decisions for himself.
From space, Earth seemed beautiful and fragile in a way that was worth protecting. Ord explains “I decided my role wasn’t to create startling new interpretations of the images – to make my own mark – but to be relatively conservative and stay as true as I could to what the scene would have looked like.” The photos look old-fashioned with an authentic feel because they seem unaltered from when they were taken decades ago”
The restored photographs provide us with a glimpse into humanity’s past by showing how life once existed on this planet before being transformed by modern technology.