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Don Pet­tit has seen and shot many ex­tra­or­di­nary sights. So we asked him to choose just one sub­ject above all else…

If you only had one more day left for pho­tog­ra­phy, what would you pho­to­graph and where would it be?

Is this on Earth or in space? Well, that’s part of the ques­tion…

Okay, I would take it in space and I would sched­ule for one more day to in­clude a day pass and a night pass, and I would hope to make the or­bit coin­cide so that we would get good night passes with aurora and maybe just a lit­tle bit of moon so there’s enough light to get some de­tail on Earth, and I would spend my time do­ing some night-time pho­tog­ra­phy of Earth and the aurora. Did you ac­tu­ally do that, pho­to­graph the aurora from space?

Oh yeah! Our video cam­eras aren’t sen­si­tive enough to record the mo­tion of the aurora, so what we do is take a se­ries of dig­i­tal still images with the ISO cranked up, then those images can be put to­gether into movies.

They look like the time-lapse movies of clouds mov­ing, only they’re time-lapse movies of the aurora at night-time. Of course, you can pull out any of the sin­gle stills from the time-lapse that you de­sire and they’ll be sharp be­cause they’re from dig­i­tal still cam­eras.

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