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The credit for the first aerial exposures must go the Frenchman Gaspard Felix Tournachon, better known as Nadar. A highly competent photographer, he believed that a good camera fitted to a balloon would be a reliable means photographing the land. At this time, photographic plates had to be coated, exposed and developed on the spot, so Nader turned his balloon basket into a darkroom by covering it with a tent and all this was undertaken in the year 1858.
It took Nadar a further tens years of trial and error before he obtained a clearly exposed image of the centre of Paris from a balloon at 1.500 feet.

Balloon Photo

The first American aerial photograph was taken by William Helme and James Black over Providence, Rhode Island in 1860, the trail photography they undertook, displayed evidence that aerial photography could be used for the production of 'bird's eye' views of towns and cities for mapping.

Jumping to 1911, Italy went to war with Turkey over the control of Libya. Captain Carlo Piazza of the Italian forces had a camera fitted to his aircraft, pointing vertically downwards, because it was a plate camera and the pilot could not reach it, he could only take one image per sortie. This image was then used to compared with the maps of the time. The Turkish-Italian war was a limited beginning for aerial photography, however it shown great potential.

In Britain, the Royal Flying Corps was founded in April 1912 and it was not until March 1913 that a Unit was set up to look at the 'novel' theories of aerial photography. Funds at this time were very short and if it was not for a few enthusiastic amateurs, aerial photography could have never started in the RFC.
Members of 3 Squadron RFC had to purchase their own cameras, they devised a Pan-Ross type camera with a 6in lens, this was to became the standard RFC camera until 1915. The crews had to developed the grass plate negatives in the air, so on landing they would be ready to print.
When the RFC sail to France at the start of WW1, they had only six cameras in their inventory.
France 1917
France, Tilloy - 1917

Type 'C' camera In 1915 the 'A type' camera was developed, being a hand-held device, the user on a number of times almost fell out of the aircraft taking photos.

In the summer of 1915 the 'C type' was developed, it used the body of the 'A type' however, it had a semi-automatic plate changing system made up of two magazines placed on top of the camera. Now that magazines were fitted, imagery could be taken in rapid succession and if a 60% overlap was obtained between each frame, pairs of images could be viewed through a stereoscope to produce a 3D effect.

I will be, in time listing and displaying all the type of cameras used in WW1 on the CAMERAS page of the site.

Royal Flying Corps RE 8.
Used for reconnaissance in the later years of the war

More information to follow very soon.

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Below are various images from WW1

Condé-Sur-Suippe 1917 Unknown area of France
Condé-Sur-Suippe 1917
Aérodrome Sous Bois Soulains 1917

Sud de Loivre, Nez de Ferdinand 1916
Sud de Loivre, Nez de Ferdinand 1916