International Space Station photo
International Space Station photo

Astronauts get to see Earth from a rarely seen and beautiful perspective, and since the earliest days of humans traveling into space it has been important to capture images of our planet.

This responsibility isn’t lost on retired astronaut Chris Hadfield—who estimates he took nearly 45,000 photographs during the three space flights of his career.

“The world is a very generous photography subject and you have the best tripod in existence,” he says in a new video from Big Think.

Venice, Italy photographed from the ISS
Venice, Italy photographed from the ISS Chris Hadfield

Hadfield says he was trained by top photographers before his missions to space and while living on the ISS he shot on Hasselblads, Linhof cameras and IMAX cameras.

“It’s beautiful, it’s just raw, constantly changing beauty pouring by around you,” he says. “And it’s instructional, you learn so much about the world.”

Astronauts go through years of training and according to Hadfield when you are living on the ISS your time is meticulously scheduled. “But nowhere does it ever say–go look out the window, but you just can’t help yourself,” Hadfield says.

Editing 45,000 photos down to a reasonable number is obviously no easy task. How did Hadfield go about it?

“I thought if someone was floating next to me at the window of the spaceship what would I want to show them,” he says. “Trying to distill this whole planet down to 150 pictures is crazy. It’s an insult to the world, but it was the best I could do let people actually see what the world looks like.”