6 Feats of Aerial Photography Before the Airplane


The first aerial photographers didn’t wait for the invention of the airplane. There were other ways of getting a camera up in the air, with or without a human operator.

1. Balloons

In 1783, Etienne Montgolfier ascended in a hot air balloon, making him the first human to see the Earth from the air. But he didn’t have any snapshots to show for it. Photography didn’t exist yet.

It wasn’t until 1858 that Gaspar-Felix Tournachon, known as "Nadar," rose 80 meters above the French village of Petit-Becetre in a tethered balloon to produce the first aerial photograph. It was an astounding feat, considering what taking a photo entailed back then.

Photography had progressed since Nicéphore Niépce produced the first lasting image in 1826, but Nadar couldn’t simply snap a roll of film and drop it off at a drug store to be developed. In fact, the then state-of-the-art collodion wet-plate process involved applying emulsion onto glass plates just before exposure and developing them quickly afterwards. He had to carry a complete darkroom in the basket of the balloon.

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Unfortunately Nadar’s earliest aerial images no longer survive. The oldest existing aerial photo is this one of Boston, taken from a balloon in 1860 by James Wallace Black. 

2. Free flying balloons

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The invention of the dry-plate process allowed faster exposures and made it unnecessary to carry so much equipment aloft. According to the Professional Aerial Photographers Association (PAPA), Triboulet took the first free-flight photographs over Paris in 1879.

This aerial view of Paris was taken by Alphonse Liébert in 1889.

3. Kites

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The invention of the electrically released shutter in 1869 meant that photographers on the ground could control high-flying cameras. Using a string of kites with a camera attached to the last, English meteorologist E. D. Archibald became one of the first to successfully photograph from kites in about 1882. In 1889, Arthur Batut suspended a large camera from a single kite. A slow burning fuse triggered the shutter soon after the kite was launched.

The above photo is the French village of Labruguière photographed from kite by Arthur Batut in 1889.

4. Panoramic photos from kites

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George R. Lawrence designed a large-format camera with a curved film plate for capturing panoramas. The hefty, bulky camera required 17 kites to lift it 2000 feet into the air. His photos of the devastation following the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco are still some of the largest aerial exposures ever taken.

5. Pigeons

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The Bavarian Pigeon Corps was already using carrier pigeons to transmit messages in 1903 when Julius Neubranner patented a miniature camera that could be strapped to a bird. It was set to snap pictures every 30 seconds as the pigeon flew. 

6. Rockets

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Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel is best known for inventing dynamite and for establishing the prizes that bear his name, but in 1897 he was the first to successfully produce an aerial photograph with a rocket-mounted camera. In Germany in 1906, Albert Maul obtained aerial photos from a more reliable rocket propelled by compressed air. When the camera reached 2600 feet, the shutter would snap and the camera would be ejected and parachuted to the ground. Maul kept tinkering with rocket-cameras, but by 1912 airplanes had taken over as the way to get cameras airborne.

The above photo is an aerial shot of the Swedish village Karlskoga taken by Alfred Nobel's rocket in 1896 or 1897. 

Sources:  PAPA International, “History of Aerial Photography”; Lenman, Robin, ed., Oxford Companion to the Photograph; Marien, Mary Warner, 100 Ideas That Changed Photography.

5 Subtle Cues That Can Tell You About Your Date's Financial Personality

Being financially compatible with your partner is important, especially as a relationship grows. Fortunately, there are ways you can learn about your partner’s financial personality in a relationship’s early stages without seeing their bank statement or sitting them down for “the money talk.”

Are they a spender or a saver? Are they cautious with money? These habits can be learned through basic observations or casual questions that don’t feel intrusive. Here are some subtle things that can tell you about your date’s financial personality.


Casual conversations about finance-related topics can be very revealing. Does your date know if their employer matches their 401(k) plan contributions? Do you find their answers to any financial questions a bit vague—even the straightforward ones like “What are the rewards like on your credit card?” This could mean that your partner is a little fuzzy on some of the details of their financial situation.

As your connection grows, money talks are only natural. If your date expresses uncertainty about their monthly budget, it may be an indicator that they are still working on the best way to manage their finances or don’t keep close tabs on their spending habits.


If you notice your partner is always watching business news channels, thumbing through newspapers, or checking share prices on their phone, they are clearly keeping abreast of what’s going on in the financial world. Ideally, this would lead to a well-informed financial personality that gives way to smart investments and overall monetary responsibility.

If you see that your date has an interest in national and global finances, ask them questions about what they’ve learned. The answers will tell you what type of financial mindset to expect from you partner moving forward. You might also learn something new about the world of finance and business!


You may be able to learn a lot about someone’s financial personality just by asking what they usually do for dinner. If your date dines out a lot, it could be an indication that they are willing to spend money on experiences. On the other hand, if they’re eating most of their meals at home or prepping meals for the entire week to cut their food budget, they might be more of a saver.


Money is a source of stress for most people, so it’s important to observe if financial anxiety plays a prominent role in your date’s day-to-day life. There are a number of common financial worries we all share—rising insurance rates, unexpected car repairs, rent increases—but there are also more specific and individualized concerns. Listen to how your date talks about money and pick up on whether their stress is grounded in worries we all have or if they have a more specific reason for concern.

In both instances, it’s important to be supportive and helpful where you can. If your partner is feeling nervous about money, they’ll likely be much more cautious about what they’re spending, which can be a good thing. But it can also stop them from making necessary purchases or looking into investments that might actually benefit them in the future. As a partner, you can help out by minimizing their expenses for things like nights out and gifts in favor of less expensive outings or homemade gifts to leave more of their budget available for necessities.


Does your date actually look at how much they’re spending before handing their credit card to the waiter or bartender at the end of the night? It’s a subtle sign, but someone who looks over a bill is likely much more observant about what they spend than someone who just blindly hands cards or cash over once they get the tab.

Knowing what you spend every month—even on smaller purchases like drinks or dinner—is key when you’re staying on a budget. It’s that awareness that allows people to adjust their monthly budget and calculate what their new balance will be once the waiter hands over the check. Someone who knows exactly what they’re spending on the small purchases is probably keeping a close eye on the bigger picture as well.


While these subtle cues can be helpful signposts when you’re trying to get an idea of your date’s financial personality, none are perfect indicators that will be accurate every time. Our financial personalities are rarely cut and dry—most of us probably display some behaviors that would paint us as savers while also showing habits that exclaim “spender!” By relying too heavily on any one indicator, we might not get an accurate impression of our date.

Instead, as you get to know a new partner, the best way to learn about their financial personality is by having a straightforward and honest talk with them. You’ll learn more by listening and asking questions than you ever could by observing small behaviors.

Whatever your financial personality is, it pays to keep an eye on your credit score. Discover offers a Free Credit Scorecard, and checking it won't impact your score. It's totally free, even if you aren't a Discover customer. Check yours in seconds. Terms apply. Visit Discover to learn more.

Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?

Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]


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