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Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Well, I'll be... it actually *is* a nice photograph (tones, composition, action, and telling the story). Talk about "beginner's luck!"

I was wondering what you might need to know about the speed and diameter of the propeller to calculate the shutter speed. An interesting take on the typical word problem.

No horizon, Mike.

Pretty good for his first photo.

Hmmm, it is a lovely photo, but should he really get credit of any sort for taking it? It seems a bit like asking a stranger to take a picture of you on vacation and then giving them credit if it is a great picture. Given that you (Wright Brothers) probably setup the camera, set all the automatic options on (ha.....!) and then developed the glass plate. I'm even thinking the wood bench in the shot was placed there as his mark to take the shot. You know, when the center of the plane gets to this spot, press the remote. Perhaps one or both of the Wright brothers should at least share in this?


Forever a lovely shot!

Thank you for sharing, always interesting to learn a bit of history about the photographer.

It's not 100% certain that the Wright brothers were first. There was a gentleman in New Zealand flying around in 1903 as well, possibly earlier in 1902 as well.


Pearse was evidently quite humble, and freely admitted that the Wrights' efforts were more successful than his own.

Regardless of who was first, they were all pioneers. Exciting times!

Maybe this guy had a natural talent for photography (just don't tell that to Craig Tanner)! ;-)

[Several years ago Craig wrote an article titled "The Myth of Talent")

Dear Robert,

Even if the Wright Brothers set up everything (a huge stretch of an assumption), John still decided when to make the photograph. Beginners' luck? Perhaps... but it was still HIS luck. He gets the credit.

And, yes, if I ask someone to make a photo of me on vacation, they should get all the credit if it's a great photo. All I did was suggest a subject. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It's execution that's everything.

(Famous authors get letters from readers which include "a great idea for a novel" accompanied by the notion that the author should then write that novel and split the proceeds with the reader. Good luck on that one, too.)

pax / credit-where-credit-is-due Ctein

It is a nice photo. I bought a small (5x7 ?) print of it while visiting Kill Devil Hills some 20 or so years ago and still have it hanging on the wall. I don't think the statue of the photographer was there - I'm pretty sure I would have shot it. I remember having signed up for a tandem hang glide on that vacation (it would have been my first time) only to wake up to a windy day. We kept driving north (I forget where exactly the place was) and calling every so often (pay phones, of course) and finally had to call it quits when we reached Duck because the wind wasn't dying down. So I never did get to take my "first flight" on the Outer Banks. (I actually never did get around to hang gliding at all, but did fly in an open cockpit biplane at the Olde Rhinebeck Aerodrome).
So anyway, it's a nice photo, a historic photo, and one that brings back memories - a trifecta.

Square crop, heavy vignette, fake cross process filter, distressed border and THEN you've got yourself a timeless photo.

To answer Ed Kirkpatrick's (hmmm, unusual name!) question, the engine the Wright brothers and Charles Taylor created for this flight ran at 1100 rpm. Ford engineers replicated it and tuned it years later, see http://www.countdowntokittyhawk.com/news/031017_fact_sheet.html .
The blades of their propeller were fairly fat, so I would estimate from Mike's blowup of the technically quite excellent picture that the leading edge of the blade moved through 10-20 degrees or about 1/20 of a revolution. The chain drive from engine crankshaft to the propeller, in another of Mike's blowups seems to five a 2:1 reduction in prop speed, so let's assume that the propellers were rotating at 500-600 rpm, or about 8-10 times a second. This implies a shutter speed between 1/150 and 1/200 of a second. That sounds like a pretty good quality shutter for the period, but not impossible. The exposure? Using the "sunny 16" rule and perhaps f/8 as the best avaiilable light lens speed of the period, the film speed would have to be about ASA 40-50. Could the Pan films of 1903 achieve that speed? Altogether this sounds like the Wright Brothers took pretty good care of this aspect of their work, like all the others.


It's not 100% certain that the Wright brothers were first.

It's 100% certain that they were not!

the first powered heavier-than-air flight took place in 1890 (Clement Ader, steam engine on bat-winged monoplane, 60 yards).


There was also a Frenchman who flew quite far some 13 years earlier:

Clément Ader, France — October 9, 1890
He reportedly made the first manned, powered, heavier-than-air flight.

Clearly the Wright brothers were part of that internet cult:

"Ain't real unless you show the pic"

On 12/16/2003, I flew from Los Angeles to London, on a non-stop flight. Amazing progress for one hundred years (I knew the significance of the date, and the Captain announced it on the public address system). Of course, more amazing is that 34 years previous, two men landed on the surface of the moon (if you believe that sort of thing (g)). I have a personally autographed picture (litho) of Buzz Aldrin which is one of my prized possessions.


And the dunes have sprouted forests!

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