Up – Part I, The Spaceport

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

Up.

That’s all you need to say. Last November, we took on a project with Wired UK magazine to photograph Richard Branson’s latest venture in attempting to conquer the final frontier: Space. We spent the good part of a week in the deserts of New Mexico and California, photographing the spaces and places, the infrastructure, the people, and ultimately Sir Richard himself.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

We’re starting off our behind the scenes coverage with the first part of the shoot – photographing the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space. We were granted unrestricted access to world’s first commercial spaceport. Still under construction and still very much under-wraps, we had the day to explore and make photos of this incredible piece of architecture. Keep reading for the full story…

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

We were up and on the road early – we spent hours cruising south from Albuquerque headed towards destination unknown. No address for the GPS, no coordinates to get us where we needed to go, we were only told to meet our contact in the last town before nowhere; Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

After a successful rendezvous with our Virgin Galactic guide, we were off again – speeding through the desert towards the first passenger spaceport in the world.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

All the security clearances were in order. Weeks of pre-production, permits, and negotiation took care of that. We entered the gates of the spaceport and broke out the cameras.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

We found ourselves feeling as if we’d been transported to another planet. Empty runways stretched towards the horizon and blended in with the surrounding mountain ranges.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

As usual, superstar photo assistant Jared was only a moment away with the tripod, ready to spring in to action.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

Surrounded by nothing but sand and distracted by no one, we worked throughout the day, covering the spaceport from every possible angle we could think of.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

That includes the angles which require Chris to hop on the roof of our rental car and get driven around the spaceport. Wired worked these shots into an amazing animated sequence for their iPad edition of the magazine (which you can download here. It’s hard to find a physical copy of the magazine in the states so this might be your best option).

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

No day shooting in the desert would be complete without some tumbleweed shots. It’s too bad I couldn’t fit these guys into our luggage to take back to the studio in Philly.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

Exploring the spaceport and surrounding runways, we realized the uniqueness of this location. We’ve photographed lots of places but nothing quite like this.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

As the sun set on the Gateway to Space, we shot our final frames and started back to Albuquerque. In less than a year this jarringly quiet spot in the desert will be the bustling hub of commercial space tourism, with over 200 flights already booked. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the next time we’re back this way we’ll be headed Up.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic spaceport america photos

Want to see more? Stay tuned… we’ve got two more blog posts to share about this incredible editorial project. We’ll be going behind the scenes in the Mojave desert in California to show you how we shot the spaceships themselves as well as breaking down the cover composite featuring Sir Richard Branson himself.

11 replies to “Up – Part I, The Spaceport”

  1. Kind of an odd gear question, but what tripod do you guys use? Are you happy with it, or would you recommend another.
    Thanks!
    Ben

  2. Hey Ben, not an odd question at all. We use a Gitzo Series 3 6x tripod with a Gitzo GH3780QR center ballhead. They are excellent pieces of equipment and a worthwhile investment.

  3. I live in the UK and saw your portrait of Sir Richard Branson on the front cover of WIRED on the magazine stand and it just stood out from all the publications on display. I was intrigued enough to go and pick it up and have a flick through when I saw your shots inside then I just had to buy it. It is the first time I had bought this magazine! The shots are making this edition…simply brilliant. I look forward to seeing your follow up blog posts.

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