Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pictures from Space: the Final Photos from Washburn’s Expedition Camera

Pictures from Space: the Final Photos from Washburn’s Expedition Camera
A Presentation by Astronaut John Grunsfeld, “The Hubble Repairman”

September 30, 2009
American Mountaineering Center
710 10th Street, Golden, CO

VIP Reception:
$35 for AAC members and
Friends of the Library/Museum
$50 for non-members
Includes admission to the presentation, appetizers and drinks
RSVP by September 25 to Dana Richardson
303-384-0110 x10

Sign up here.

$5 for AAC members/$10 for non-members
Seating is first-come, first served

In Ansel Adam’s preface to Mount McKinley: the Conquest of Denali, the great photographer wrote, “Without exaggeration, I fully expect to hear someday that Brad has visited the moon, climbed Copernicus, and photographed the lunar Apennines from a private, orbiting module.”

While Bradford Washburn didn’t make it to space, we’re happy to say that his expedition camera did. Last May, as a crew of NASA astronauts completed the final repairs and enhancements to the Hubble, astronaut John Grunsfeld brought along a much smaller, older camera. Grunsfeld, an avid climber, snapped the final photos that will ever be taken with the late-Washburn’s famous expedition camera, a 1929 Zeiss Maximar B 4x5.

On September 30, Grunsfeld will return the camera to the American Alpine Club, to be displayed in the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum. He will also talk about the mission and present the photographs he took from space, which will be displayed alongside a collection of Washburn’s personal favorites. We suspect that Earth’s mountains will look smaller in the photos from space, but no less spectacular. Come see for yourself!

A limited number of autographed prints are expected to be available, free of charge.

Background information: Washburn was one of the leading American mountaineers in the 1920s through the 1950s, putting up first ascents and new routes on many major Alaskan peaks (often with his wife, Barbara, who attended the shuttle launch). Washburn pioneered the use of aerial photography in the analysis of mountains and in planning mountaineering expeditions. His thousands of striking black-and-white photos, mostly of Alaskan peaks and glaciers, are known for their wealth of informative detail and their artistry. Washburn was responsible for some of the finest maps ever made of mountain regions; his maps of Denali and Mount Everest are perhaps the most notable. He founded and served as Honorary Director of the Boston Museum of Science.

In 2008 the Colorado-based Mountaineering Museum named in his honor opened to the public. The historic building that houses the museum is also home to the American Alpine Club’s library, where Washburn’s signed personal collection of over 150 of his favorite photographs reside on permanent loan. Through November, a select number are displayed in the museum.

Washburn was a long-time member of the American Alpine Club, and so too is Grunsfeld. When the astronaut asked the AAC about bringing something special belonging to the club into space, a staff member, Jason Manke, suggested Washburn’s camera. Executive Director, Phil Powers (who in 1988 made the first ascent Denali’s Washburn Face), thought it to be a fitting recommendation. After all, In 1951 Washburn made the first ascent of Denali’s West Buttress. 53 years later, Grunsfeld reached the summit with a small team of NASA climbers. Taking Washburn’s camera into space for its final shots was an opportunity for Grunsfeld to honor the man whose photos greatly inspired him, guiding his way to the summit of North America’s highest mountain, and beyond. During a pre-mission NPR interview Grunsfeld said, “Brad lived just a tremendous life. He is one of my heroes and during the 1920s did just a fantastic number of tremendous climbs all over. As part of that he started pioneering the use of cameras from airplanes. I definitely plan to take some pictures of Hubble with the Zeiss camera but also of mountains which I know Brad would appreciate.”