An Astronaut on Planet White Sands

As part of a recent assignment for New Mexico Tourism I worked with the New Mexico Museum of Space History to create a series of images of Mike Shinabery (an employee of the Space Museum) in an Astronaut suit in and around Alamogordo, New Mexico. The Space History Museum had a $60,000 USD replica space suit based on Neil Armstrong’s suit used for the Moon landing in 1969. This is the suit you see here in these images. Of course, this suit looks perfectly new and is bright white since it isn’t coated in lunar dust. Interestingly, this replica doesn’t have all of the gaskets you would find in the original but it still weighs a lot. Mike brought along with him a co-worker, April James, who helped him get in and out of the suit, and who was also there to monitor his safety as the suit is such a good insulator that Mike could easily pass out from dehydration.

Since White Sands National Park was nearby, and offered an otherworldly landscape, we spent a few hours creating images of our astronaut wondering around the dunes and taking it easy near the iconic rest area shelters. With Mike on the dunes, it felt like we were on another planet and the location seemed to fit very well with the idea for this assignment. With the lifestyle images of Mike sitting in a picnic shelter (and leaning against it) we definitely were tipping our cap to the “tongue in cheek” nature of our photo shoot.

We ended up creating images in White Sands around noon–not typically the first choice for photography. But because the suit was white and the blazing sun filled in most shadows, this really helped lend itself to the high-key look I went after in the post-processing. It also just goes to show there isn’t really any bad light. It is all how you use it. For this assignment I worked with my FUJIFILM GFX cameras exclusively so all of the images were captured using a glorious 102 MP sensor and a variety of the FUJIFILM GF lenses.

As a space nut myself, and as someone who desperately wanted to be an Astronaut (and even got a B.S. degree in Physics pursuing that dream), this assignment was pretty fun to say the least. Mike and April had quite a few amazing stories gleaned from working with NASA. They also talked about the time, way back in 1982, when the Space Shuttle landed at White Sands as well as some of the lesser known details about the nearby test of the first atomic bomb back in 1945.

We got quite a few amazing images on this assignment. The images included here in this blog post are just a few of my favorites. The image above is definitely among the top images I have created this year.

My thanks to Mike Shinabery and April James from the New Mexico Museum of Space History for all of their hard work to help create these images. Also, a huge thanks to New Mexico Tourism and the City of Alamogordo for this assignment. Lastly, a huge thank you to Bill Stengel for bringing me in on this project.

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