Out of this world exploration

Since we took our first tentative steps into the unknown, photography has allowed us to explore places we never thought possible—and make those experiences part of history.

Whether it’s off-world or on it, camera technology has enabled explorers and scientists to look before they leap into the unknown.
Photograph by Keith Ladzinski

In 1911, American explorer Hiram Bingham found a long-lost Inca city perched precipitously on the top of a mountain. But would the world believe him? For proof, Bingham used a prototype Kodak camera to take the first extraordinary photos of Machu Picchu. Published in National Geographic in 1913, the world looked on in wonder, and his images can still take our breath away. What Bingham demonstrated was the power of photographs to transport us to places we ourselves cannot go—providing evidence of discoveries and inspiring exploration. 

Ever since it was practical, explorers have carried cameras to record and share the wonders they’ve discovered. In 1953, Edmund Hillary carried a camera to the summit of Everest, removing his gloves to take seven historic photographs that proved the ascent and shared the spectacular view from the top of the world. In 1985, Dr Robert Ballard sent Jason Jr., a robotic underwater camera, 12,500 feet to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. There, it captured the first haunting images of the wreck of the Titanic, one of history’s most compelling mysteries. From the highest peaks to the deepest depths, photographs can show us what we would otherwise never see. 

Indeed, increasingly, cameras precede us into the unknown. In 1969, the Apollo 11 mission successfully put a man on the moon, and cameras were there to prove it. But first, NASA used secret defense technology to extensively photograph the lunar surface in their search for a safe place for the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle to land. A site was chosen, and the Sea of Tranquility is where Neil Armstrong took those historic first steps—while carrying a camera. This allowed him to take historic photos of the lunar landscape, the lunar module, and famously, his footprint in the lunar soil. These images were invaluable to science, and for the first time allowed everyone to see firsthand pictures of a place in the universe other than Earth. 

Photography is leading the way as we explore our solar system. Among the extensive range of scientific equipment carried aboard any space mission, there is almost always a camera. These cameras have photographed up close the gas clouds of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and the surface of Mars. Mars is the planet that humans have the most imminent plans to visit in person, and there have been 15 successful unmanned landings on its surface. These missions have sent back astonishingly detailed images of the Martian landscape, giving us a real feel for the Red Planet and energizing our drive to go there. As with the Apollo 11 mission, using photographs to see and select the best landing site for a manned mission to Mars will be fundamental to its success. 

Looking beyond our solar system, the Hubble Space Telescope has an array of specialist cameras that are sending back infrared, color-assigned images from the farthest reaches of space. These photographs of distant stars and galaxies allow us to actually see infrared wavelengths of light undetectable to the human eye and distinguish key features. Images are shared online for citizen scientists to analyze—and they are making exciting discoveries. Online chatter about “yellow balls” found on images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have drawn the attention of scientists. They investigated and discovered that the yellow balls are the missing link between very young embryonic stars and slightly older, newborn stars. Photographs are literally unlocking the secrets of our universe, and paving the way toward further exploration. 

If there is a limit to space exploration, it may well be a black hole. These most powerful of astronomical objects, devouring stars, planets, and even light itself, were once thought to be unseeable—we could only view their effects. But now we have photographic evidence: The Event Horizon Telescope project linked together observatories all over the world to act as an Earth-sized telescope focused on Messier 87, a galaxy some 50 million light-years away. This worldwide collaboration captured a petabyte of data that took two years to assemble into arguably the most extraordinary photograph in the universe—the silhouette of a black hole.    

Photographs like this allow us all to share in the wonders of the universe, and photographic technology has constantly advanced to help us take more and better pictures. Bingham’s camera was a prototype for panoramic shots; Armstrong’s camera had a motorized film advance; the Hubble can photograph invisible wavelengths of light. Coming down to Earth, our mobile phones now include truly impressive cameras—and the OPPO Find X3 Pro 5G is a leap forward for smartphone photography. It is the first Android phone to deliver an end-to-end full-color path of one billion colors, from capture through processing to display without any loss of quality. To this exceptional range, OPPO has added a class-leading wide and ultra-wide-angle lens, and the best micro camera on any smartphone, capable of delivering x60 magnification. 

This amazing technology enables everyone to take and share even better photographs, and we don’t need to go into space to get a great picture. The OPPO Find X3 Pro’s immense color range makes it possible to capture the authentic colors of the most vivid sunsets as light from the star is scattered when it passes below the horizon. The ultra-wide-angle lens enables you to capture epic landscapes, whether it is the vastness of a Mars-like desert or a star-like cityscape from the roof of an apartment building. From, the super large to the super small, the OPPO Find X3 Pro’s micro camera gets you even closer to a subject, capturing every detail of something as simple as a rock in all its crater-pocked beauty. Our planet, like our solar system, is amazing, and the OPPO Find X3 Pro is perfect for capturing and sharing its wonders through professional quality photos and video.

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