Early Aerial Photography With the Help of Pigeons


Before man was able to take photographs of cities and landscapes on airplanes, aerial photography was done either by flying up on hot air balloons or equipping pigeons with cameras. Yes, photography with the help of birds isn't a new idea, so learn more about its early days after the jump!

Julius Neubronner. Photo via PetaPixel

In 1907, German apothecary turned photography pioneer Julius Neubronner invented a contraption that allowed small wooden cameras to be strapped on pigeons. The idea came to him after one of the carrier pigeons that he used to quickly deliver medications came home four weeks late. Wanting to find out what his carrier pigeons have been up to, he devised a little pigeon camera rig.

Here are some photos showing his pigeons equipped with cameras:

Photos via PetaPixel

According to Wikipedia's pigeon photography wiki, Neubronner developed a small and light wooden camera that could be equipped to a pigeon’s breast using a harness and aluminum cuirass. The miniature camera models weighed between 30 to 75 grams, which was the standard weight of the medications that he made his carrier pigeons carry and deliver. The birds were carefully trained to carry the camera.

To take an aerial photo, Neubronner would bring a pigeon to a location up to about 100 kilometers from its home, equip the camera contraption, and release it. The pigeon, wanting to be relieved of the load, would fly home on a direct route at a height of 50 to 100 meters. The cameras had a pneumatic system that controlled the time delay before each photo was taken.

The “double camera” design which Neubronner eventually got patented in 1908. Image via prempiyush.posterous.com

Below are some of the photographs taken by Neubronner’s birds, the first being famous back in the days for the captured wing tips.

Photos via PetaPixel

We hope you enjoyed that bit of photography history! Share with us your thoughts on this photography history tidbit with a comment below!

All information from this article were sourced from PetaPixel, Gizmodo, and Pigeon Photography on Wikipedia.

written by plasticpopsicle on 2012-10-17 in #lifestyle #history #pigeons #aerial-photography #photography-julius-neubronner #lomography #analogue-lifestyle


  1. adi_totp
    adi_totp ·


  2. plasticpopsicle
    plasticpopsicle ·

    Now that you mentioned it, @adi_totp, they do kind of look like Horizon shots!

  3. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    We need to train a pterodactyl to carry a Horizon...

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