Up – Part II, The Features

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic richard branson editorial

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 richard branson editorial

The second part of this series on the blog highlights our shoot in Mojave, California -  a few very intense minutes photographing the enterprising entrepreneur Richard Branson, followed by a day of shooting the key elements of the Virgin Galactic space program. We may have only had a few moments with Sir Richard, but we made the most out of it, resulting in a handful of feature images as well as in-depth coverage of his still very much in-progress space ships. Keep reading to see more…

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic richard branson editorial

It goes without saying that Richard Branson is a very busy man. He was incredibly generous to give us ten minutes of his time for shooting the cover (we’ll report about that in a later blog post) and the feature images for this article. So three distinctly different shots in under ten minutes – no problem.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic richard branson editorial

How did we make it happen? Planning, and lots of it. Knowing that we had a very short window of time with our subject, we made sure that each of the three shots was mapped out ahead of time, and ready to shoot one right after the other – All Chris had to do was switch channels on his pocketwizard. With such a short window of time, we left nothing to chance.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic richard branson editorial

No matter who the subject or what we’re shooting – we always have to test our light. In this case, our superstar assistant Jared Castaldi is standing in for Sir Richard and making this photo happen.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic richard branson editorial

If you were wondering how Chris managed to shoot the expansive photo of the White Knight Two aircraft that we shared at the top of the blog post… Well, he had a little bit of help from a conveniently placed cherry-picker. Our tripod is tall, but it can’t go five stories up in the air.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic richard branson editorial

After our very limited engagement with Sir Richard Branson, we had the better part of the day to photograph the final piece of the puzzle – SpaceShipTwo, the actual spacecraft that will carry those lucky few into orbit.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic richard branson editorial

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic richard branson editorial

Although still under construction, we were given unrestricted access to photograph the vehicle that will ultimately be the first commercial spaceship to carry passengers to space.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic richard branson editorial

When I say unrestricted access, I should explain a certain caveat… While shooting the spaceship we were allowed to photograph any piece and part we wanted, but once we were finished and wrapping our gear, a security rep approached us and very politely asked for our memory cards.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic richard branson editorial

Our what?

We were a bit confused and a bit shocked but understanding the very secretive and sensitive nature of where we were shooting, we complied. I will tell you that there are photos we shot that never made it out of the hanger that day… photos that were deemed too sensitive to project at hand.

It’s not every day that you’re given the chance to photograph spaceships. When you are – you better play by the rules.

chris crisman wired uk virgin galactic richard branson editorial

When it’s all said and done, we made a handful of amazing pictures and we owe a big thank you to to Scaled Composites and The Spaceship Company. You took us into your hangers and put up with us meddling with your crews. We couldn’t have made these photos without your help.

Looking for more? We’ll have the complete breakdown of our cover shoot next week – from the planning to the lighting to the compositing. Until then let us know if you have any questions @crismanphoto or stay tuned.

7 replies to “Up – Part II, The Features”

  1. WoW! What an incredible opportunity. I’ll bet your heart was in your throat when the request for your CF cards was made. One wrong key stoke, by mistake, on their part, could conceivable erase all that hard work.

    What they let Chris keep is just magnificent.

  2. It was wonderful to meet you all! Thanks for making such wonderful images that I can show to my friends and family so they can better understand what I’m doing out here in the desert. Best of luck, I’ll be following this blog to see what other adventures you get yourselves into!

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