Landscape Photography – the Moon – Fact, Fiction and Fantasy

PAN_AM_CLIPPERIn the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film 2001 Dr Heywood Floyd takes a Panam flight from the earth to the moon.  Science fiction has an uncanny knack of showing us the future, but in this case I have been let down.  It is now 2015.  Not only do we not have a moon base, but we no longer have Panam.  2001 did not turn out like it was predicted.    Camera Camera 2

It was the following year, 1969 that Apollo 11 actually landed on the moon.  To date only a handful of people have had the opportunity to stand on its surface.  There were 12 in all. You can name them.   Besides Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin – there were also Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, David Scott, James Irwin, John Young, Charles Duke, Eugene Cernan, and Harrison Schmitt.  They spent their time erecting flag poles, collecting rocks, driving around in a rover, exploring craters and doing landscape photography.  What kind of camera did they take to the moon?   According to Wikipedia it was a Hasselblad 500 EL/ medium-format camera, with motor drive and large shutter button. The photographs (above) depict an original camera and an anniversary reproduction of the camera.


And what have we learned?  Well according to several theorists we now know that the moon landing was fake.  There are no stars seen on the black skies, there was no impact crater under the Apollo 11, no one can explain why the flag was waving, there was inconsistent lighting, we have evidence of a cut and paste job where the lunar module is superimposed on another landscape.  It all makes fascinating reading.  Of course there is also the refutation that explains away all of these so called proofs.


What do you believe? Personally I get confused with all these arguments.  For instance, why is it that the moon landing was a hoax, and yet the CIA spends it’s time covering up UFO sightings.  What are they not telling us?  Is it a battle zone? Are we fighting off aliens on our moon?  This is the plot of a 1969 TV series called UFO.  (picture above) Space plots were popular in the 1970’s.  I remember there was another TV series called Space -1999 where the moon was set adrift from the earth by an explosion and the astronauts on the moon base “Alpha” had to defend themselves against UFO’s.  It stretches belief.   I think that people just love a conspiracy theory.  However it must be said that movie makers have spent a lot of effort faking moon photography.

Behind the scenes - space 1999

There is something about those lunar landscapes that speaks of another world.  Something other than earth.  The moon photos have spurred our imagination and changed the way we view our world.  They excite me more than all of the remote photographs from the voyager space craft and the remote rovers to mars and the other planets.  I guess it is the presence of humans that changes the landscape and makes it accessible.  For this reason I believe that these are some of the most important photographs of our time.


Pink Floyd named their 1973 album “The dark side of the moon”.  This refers to the opposite side of the moon, the side we cannot see.  Human kind has looked at the moon for millennia and never seen its other side.  It is weird that the moon turns the same face towards the earth throughout its entire rotation.  Back_side_of_the_Moon_AS16-3021It seems that this happens because of the earths gravitational pull on the moon.   (The same force that the moon exerts on the earth when it creates the tides)  But the far side is not dark.  Roger Waters was correct when he said, “There is no dark side of the moon”.  It gets as much sun as the side we see.  It is only unseen.  It wasn’t until October 1959 that the Soviet probe Luna 3 took the first photographs of the lunar far side.  Perhaps the first step in a journey of lunar discovery.  It looks strangely unfamiliar with a greatly increased number of craters and far fewer of the lunar ‘seas’.

NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-EarthriseOn Television last week I heard another astronaut tell of his contribution to lunar exploration.  In 1968 William Anders was aboard Apollo 8 as it emerged from the moons “dark side”.  He took an iconic photograph of the earth rising over the lunar landscape.  Although the picture is filled by the lunar landscape and a black sky, the tiny planet earth glowing blue and white rising over the horizon sends a shiver of nostalgia through my spine.  That’s our home.  It seems to say, we don’t belong out here in space.


The makers of science fiction have used the moon as a device to unsettle and reposition our sensibilities.  Although filmed in the Tunisian desert this scene from star wars looks like it’s another planet because of the twin moons in the sky.

Perhaps my favourite moon landscape I have left to last.  The Moon of Nick Park, destination of the “Grand Day out” of Wallace and Grommit.  The moon is made of cheese that can be cut off with a cheese knife and eaten on crackers.  It is inhabited by an intelligent oven on skis.


Perhaps I will never travel to the moon to take photographs.  However the photographs of the moon (true and fake) have certainly had an influence on how I see the earth.  Perhaps they have changed the way I see landscapes and how I approach photography.

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