Another awesome Space Coast night launch! SpaceX launched a Sirius XM Radio satellite into orbit. The SXM-8 was sent to replace SXM-7, launched last year. SXM-7, also launched by SpaceX, was successfully placed into orbit but was D.O.A. and was unable to be revived. SpaceX successfully placed SXM-8 into orbit. It will be several days until the health of SXM-8 will be known.
Usually when I do a streak photo of a night launch, I like to get the arc. As a rocket launches, it ascends into the sky. When it reaches altitude it levels off and continues to fly. Due to the curvature of the earth, from the ground, it almost looks like the rocket is coming back down. During a long exposure night photo, you are actually photographing the light from the rocket engines. This makes a streak in the sky, due to the curvature of the earth the streak makes an arc in the sky.
Now, to work out the exposure. A typical rocket takes 3-3.5 minutes to reach orbit. I usually use 3 minutes for my shutter speed for testing my exposure. In real time I will hold the shutter open until I can no longer see the rocket. To work out the f-stop, I do a series of test exposures at different f-stops. The amount of lighting on the foreground will determine the proper f-stop. When the foreground is exposed properly with a 3 minute shutter speed, that’s the correct f-stop. In this case it was f-16.
This launch had two issues. The first was trajectory, the rocket was flying due east. From Titusville it was flying directly away from the camera. So no arc, it would look like it was just going straight up. The second issue was cloud cover. Shortly after launch the rocket was going to go behind the clouds. Once again no arc, no matter what direction it was flying. Normally I use the widest angle lens I have, my 24-70mm at 24mm. Knowing the rocket was going to go behind the clouds shortly after launch, I zoomed in to compress the scene. This sort of, solved both issues to make a pleasing image. Also because the rocket was going behind the clouds, it wouldn’t be visible for the full 3 minutes. To make the exposure correct I still needed to keep the shutter open for the full 3 minutes. In this case I actually opened the shutter 1 minute before liftoff.
I photographed this launch from the newly renovated Rotary Riverside Park along US 1 in Titusville. The park had been destroyed by a hurricane a few years ago. It had just been reopened a few days earlier.
I ended up at the A. Max Brewer Bridge to finish my foggy morning photos.
We had a foggy morning the other day. I really like photographing the fog. I started at a small lake. After photographing around the lake, I moved to the Indian River Lagoon in Titusville Florida.
I have been waiting for a foggy morning to go out and take some photos. The other day we finally had a nice foggy morning. I started at a small lake near my home.
SpaceX sending four astronauts on their way to the International Space Station. Photographed from Space View Park in Titusville Florida.
Authors note: We took this trip in Oct./Nov. of 2019. I took a gazillion photos. It takes me a long time to sort and edit my photos. My plan was to write most of the posts about this trip before I started to post them. I am not the fastest writer by any means. It’s surprising how long it takes to write 500 or so words when you choose your words carefully. So I knew from the beginning that it was going to take me a while to start posting about this trip. Anyway, I’m ready to start posting and BAMM!! We find our self in the middle of a global pandemic! Cruise ships are stranded at sea and people are dying onboard! That sort of took the wind out of my sails. I didn’t think this was an appropriate time to start posting about a wonderful cruise. So I shelved my cruise posts. Time flies when you’re not having fun. It’s now been a year since we departed on our trip. What a year it’s been! I’m not sure what the future holds for the travel industry. I was hoping to be traveling again in the spring of 2021. Now it may be longer and even longer yet for the cruise industry. For now I hope that you will enjoy reading about our Italian, Aegean Sea cruise.
The adventure begins
My wife Robbie and I booked another cruise! This was our first European cruise. We sailed out of Venice, Italy making stops on several Greek islands, Israel and Croatia. Friends of ours, Sandy and Jerry found a great deal on this cruise and invited us and several other friends to join them. Sandy, Jerry and a few of the others started a week earlier. They took a short tour of Italy before joining us and some of the others in Venice. Sandy is a master at finding great travel deals and found insanely cheap flights to Venice with TAP Air (Air Portugal). They offer flights where you are able to layover several days in Lisbon if you like. Hey, come spend money in Lisbon! I’m sure that’s the plan but Lisbon is great! I wish we could have staid longer. Sandy and Jerry’s group stayed over a few days in Lisbon on the way over. We unfortunately could not be away from home for as many days. We did, however, spend the night in Lisbon on the way home.
Our inexpensive flights did start in Miami though. Our “home” airport is Orlando. Yes they were inexpensive enough to justify a night in Miami and a rental car to and from. Luckily we decided to leave a day early and spend the night in Miami; we had a horrible snafu with the rental car company and ended up leaving home several hours late! If we hadn’t gone the day before we would have missed our flight for sure. After finally getting our rental car sorted out, Robbie and I picked up our traveling companions, Barb and Jeneen here in Titusville. The trip to Miami went well and the next day we were excited to be starting our journey from Miami to Venice. Although we don’t look too excited in the photos, we really were! I think we were suffering from airport anxiety.
We flew from Miami to Lisbon and then from Lisbon to Venice. During our flights we saw the sun set over Bermuda and the sunrise just after takeoff in Lisbon. We had a bit of a thrill in the Lisbon airport. We had a 2hr layover in Lisbon, that sounded like enough time but, the flight from Miami was very full. We were not at the main terminal. We were way out on the tarmac. We used the old fashion roll away staircase to deplane. Then we were all loaded onto several buses and taken to the main terminal. At the terminal we needed to go through customs and then security. We were at the end of a very long line. We made it through customs but time was growing short to make our connecting flight. We spoke to airport officials who took us to the head of the security line and then escorted us at a trot to the gate. Just in the nick of time we boarded another bus to our connecting flight to Venice. Way out on the tarmac again!
We arrived in Venice on time. We visited Venice for a few days before our cruise. Robbie and I stayed in a Venetian B&B. The rest of our traveling group stayed on the mainland in Mestre. Barb and Jeneen grabbed a taxi to their hotel in Mestre. Robbie and I took the airport ATVO bus to Piazzale Roma, the transportation hub for Venice. From Piazzale Roma there was a short walk to our B&B. We did take a wrong turn and ended up needing to drag our luggage over one extra bridge. After checking into our B&B we were exhausted and jet lagged from our trip. We took a 2hr nap and then ventured out. We took a short walk to the Prix Discount Super Market for some supplies. Prix was awesome, they had great prices on wine, cheese, bread, and water. We got our first glimpse of Venice.
I have been following photographer Hudson Henry for a while. Hudson has been doing a live Zoom/YouTube session called Office Hours. The subject of the last episode was shooting a full moon. You can see the recorded session here. Hudson Henry Office Hours Hudson and a few of his friends discuss how they photograph the moon. On August 1st the moon rose about an hour before sunset. This provided an opportunity to photograph the moon while the foreground is still illuminated by the setting sun. The moon wasn’t quite full yet, but it is the best night to photograph the moon before sunset. Not only will the foreground still be lit, but the moon and the foreground will be similarly illuminated. So the moon and the foreground will have similar exposure values. Normally after sunset the moon is much brighter than the foreground. This makes it very difficult to balance the exposure for the moon and the foreground. So either the moon is overexposed or the foreground is underexposed. That’s why this full moon cycle is a good one to photograph. So a challenge was set for everyone watching Office Hours to photograph the moon on August 1st. Hudson will be showing and talking about everyone’s photos on the next Office Hours on August 4th. So I thought it would be fun to give it a try.
The best night for photographing the moon is Saturday August 1st. Enter hurricane Isaias, expected to hit Titusville Florida when? You guessed it, August 1st! I did some planning, using The Photographer’s Ephemeris to locate where the moonrise would be. I was able to determine that the moon would be rising just behind the Apollo Moon Mission Memorial. I thought the Apollo Memorial would be an appropriate moon subject. I wanted to do a practice run first. So I went out Friday night July 31st, to give it a try. With Isaias on the way, it could be my only chance. My results on Friday night were less than stellar. I did learn a few things though. Moonrise on Friday was two hours before sunset. This proved to be too early. The sky was still too bright; the moon looked small and dim. The monument was still in some pretty harsh light as well. The other thing was focal length, I needed a longer lens so the moon would appear larger. Being a starving artist, I only have two lenses. My main lens is a 24-70mm. It’s a great lens. I use it all of the time! For this photo of the moon though 70mm was not quite cutting it. My other lens is an old Sigma 50-500mm that I break out once in a while to photograph birds at the wildlife refuge. I didn’t bring the Sigma with me on Friday. I hung around until sunset hoping for a decent sunset photo. The sunset was not so great. There were some interesting clouds, but no color.
Hurricane Isaias was moving through the Caribbean on its way to Florida. Luckily Isaias weakened and slowed down. Isaias wasn’t predicted to make it to Titusville until Sunday August 2nd. With Isaias a few hundred miles to the south, Saturday night was a beautiful night to photograph the moon. Using my Sigma lens at 135mm I was able to get good composition with the moon a bit larger than before. If I were to do it again, I think I would try to get farther away and use maybe 200mm. The sky was a bit darker so the moon contrasted against the sky better. The monument was lit by nice warm golden hour light. I used ISO 100, f11, my shutter speed ranged from 1/30 to 1/6 of a second. I was much happier with my results from Saturday. In the end, Isaias moved offshore and never really made it to Titusville.
Comet NEOWISE visible over the Indian River Lagoon in Titusville Florida. NEOWISE is a newly discovered comet. It was just discovered this past March. It was discovered by the NEOWISE space telescope (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Explorer). The comet is visible from just after sunset until about 10:00pm. In Florida anyway, I think it’s visible later farther north. NEOWISE is low in the north sky just under the Big Dipper. The comet is pretty dim and hard to find without binoculars. Once it’s located with the binoculars, you can see it with the naked eye. NEOWISE will be visible until July 22. Happy comet watching!
A huge dust cloud from the Sahara Desert, floated over Florida’s east coast. I thought this may have an unusual effect on the sunrise. I woke up early one morning to find out. One of my favorite times of the day to photograph is blue hour. I got going extra early so I wouldn’t miss it. Blue hour turned out to be nice and blue. I’m not sure what I was expecting from the Sahara sunrise. It turned out to be a bit dull and lifeless. You can definitely see the haze from the Sahara dust. The sun was a few degrees above the horizon before it was visible. It was definitely not a typical Florida sunrise.
SpaceX Dragon Crew Demo-2, 1st attempt on May 27th. I went around to a few of the popular Titusville launch viewing locations to take some photos. I took these photos between 11:30 and 12:30. The launch time was 4:33pm. The east side of the Max Brewer Bridge was pretty full and filling fast. Sand Point Park was still pretty open. I wasn’t able to get to Space View park, but the parking areas were pretty full. All of the popular spots along US1 were pretty full. I stopped at the new Kirk Point Riverside park across from El Leoncito. The parking was full but there was still plenty of space for watching. Parking on side streets was available. El Leoncito was open as well as having an outside takeaway taco bar and a Kona Ice truck. So Kirk Point not only has a great view of the launch but refreshments close by! I was a little early and the weather was not great, although there were a lot of people, I was expecting more. I think the weather may have been a factor. I have to admit that I was pretty sure of a no go due to weather. So after I took these photos I went home and stayed home. I do plan to visit more locations for the Saturday attempt. I really enjoy getting around to watch all of the people that come to see launches. I like to see all of the equipment that people bring with them, from just an umbrella to a motor home. All types of cameras and all types of lenses. Telescopes from tiny to huge. There were people from all over Florida and the country. It’s almost better than the launch. I’m hoping for much better weather for Saturday, although rain is in the forecast. Fingers crossed!
Robbie and I visited the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida for my birthday. The Brevard Zoo has an awesome giraffe exhibit. The giraffes are free roaming in a large open field. On the edge of the field there is a large platform for humans. From the platform you can get eye to eye with the giraffes. You can buy some lettuce to feed the giraffes. If you are lucky one will come and eat the lettuce out of your hand. Giraffes have the strangest tongues. They are very long and it feels very weird to be licked by a giraffe. I was able to feed my new best buddy Greg the giraffe. He was very handsome and enjoyed posing for the camera. We had a great time with the giraffes at the Brevard Zoo.
We had a great day at the Brevard Zoo. When we go to the zoo, we like to visit the bird aviaries. They have two, one for lorikeets and one for cockatiels. You can just walk in with the birds or you can buy them a treat. We like to get some treats and feed them. They know you have a treat and you have several buddies as soon as you walk in the aviary. We actually have two cockatiels a budgie and an African grey parrot at home. We still like to visit with the other birds though.
My wife Robbie and I had an awesome day at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida for my birthday! The Brevard Zoo is a great little zoo. You can take a walk through Africa, Australia, wild Florida or the rainforest. There are lots of really cool animals from each region. The zoo is involved with lots of great community conservation efforts like, collecting oyster shells from area restaurants to make oyster mats. The mats are placed in the Indian River to bread oysters to help clean up the river. They help with the endangered Florida scrub-jays. The zoo also has a sea turtle healing center. There are many other conservation programs that the zoo is involved in. We didn’t do it this time, but the zoo has a really cool Treetop Trek. There are zip-lines and treetop trails. We had a really fun day at the zoo!
First, the rocket launch was a total success. It was my image of the launch that was a failure. The other night Space X launched a Falcon 9 rocket on a resupply mission to the ISS. Night launches not only make great photographs, but they are really cool to watch. You can watch the glow of the rocket engine all of the way into space. Photographing a night launch is very tricky. You only get one shot, literally one image. So if everything doesn’t come together, the photo is a failure. Photographers always like to share our amazing images that were a success. I think it’s also important to talk about the failures.
When you photograph a rocket launch at night, the idea is to use a long exposure. As the rocket climbs into the sky during the exposure, it makes a light trail through the image. It makes a really nice image. Using the cameras bulb mode, when the rocket ignites (trust me, at night, there is no question that the rocket has ignited) you open the shutter. As the rocket rises into the sky, you keep the shutter open until it goes out of sight, approximately 3 minutes. When it works, it’s awesome, when it doesn’t it’s not. This time it didn’t work.
The other part of the image is location, location, location. The rocket launch is really pretty on its own. To make the image even more interesting, I like to add something else. This can be either a silhouette of something interesting or something interesting that is illuminated added into the frame. A reflection would be great as well. For this launch I chose the Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral, Florida. It is several miles south of the launch pad. The tower is a unique structure that was designed to look like a sail. At night the tower is illuminated and stands out really well in the night sky. The tower is also lined up with the launch pad. If you line everything up properly the rocket makes an arc over the top of the tower. I looked up some launch photos from this location, so I knew where the rocket would be in relationship to the building.
The next hurtle is getting the correct exposure. The shutter speed is fixed at the duration of the flight of the rocket, approximately 3 minutes. This makes the aperture very important. Rocket engines at night are very bright. If your aperture is open too far the rocket will overexpose. If your aperture is too small the rocket will be underexposed. Typically I end up at f18, this works most of the time, especially for the rocket with a silhouetted foreground. When you add an illuminated subject this makes things more difficult. A 3 minute exposure will severely overexpose an illuminated subject. To overcome this I used a neutral density filter. After testing different apertures with a 3 minute exposure, I found that f11 and a 4 stop ND filter at ISO 100 exposed the tower properly. The rocket exposure would fall where it may. The important thing was to expose the tower correctly.
So what went wrong? I don’t really know for sure. To get the 3 minute exposure I needed to use the bulb setting. I made many test images that all worked perfectly. I was there with a fellow photographer friend, Chris. We also wanted to photograph the tower before the launch, so we arrived pretty early so we had some time to do that. After my final test shot, I didn’t touch my camera until the launch. We finished up a little early, so quite a bit of time passed between my last test and the launch. We had been talking with another photographer from Orlando. I think maybe something timed out and I was no longer in bulb mode or my remote switch may have timed out, I don’t know. The viewfinder indicated that I was still in bulb mode, but the shutter would open and immediately close. It was very frustrating to say the least. Several colorful words were going through my head. By the time I corrected the situation the rocket was over half way through its flight. At about 8 minutes before the launch, a voice in my head was telling me to do another test photo, I didn’t. If I had, I would have encountered and corrected the problem during the test. I will be doing that in the future. Once I got the shutter to stay open, I left it open for approximately 3 minutes. The rocket was still going so even though I wasn’t going to get the whole light trail. I wanted to see how my image would have looked if everything had gone as planned. The rocket flew right where I wanted it to be and the tower was properly exposed. I will need to try this one again.
I also made a mistake when I was photographing the tower before the launch. It makes me crazy because I have made the same mistake several times in the past. I am not a very technically disciplined photographer. I tend to concentrate more on the subject and composition. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in that and I forget about the technical side of things. Apparently the last time I used my camera I was using ISO 800. I never checked the ISO, I wanted to be using ISO 100. Once again my little voice was asking me, “Roy, why are your shutter speeds so fast?” I should have been smoothing out the water more. I was almost done when I realized what I had done. ISO 800 probably helped the shadow areas. If I would have used ISO 100 I would have been able to control the highlights better and I would have smoothed out the water with a slower shutter speed. I always promise myself that I will remember to check the ISO, and/or remember to return it to ISO 100, but every once in a while I forget. These are some of the things that make photography a challenge.
Last night SpaceX launched a Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A normal Falcon 9 rocket has, 9 powerful Merlin rocket engines. A Falcon Heavy is three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together! SpaceX has been continually tweaking it’s Merlin engines. This Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket flying today. Boy was it powerful! This rocket was Space Shuttle loud. You could hear the rumble building as it got closer and closer. The sound started to reverberate off of the buildings, then the sound waves hit, you could hear and feel the rumble! It was awesome! The reason for all of that power, the Falcon Heavy was carrying 24 assorted satellites into space. Advances in technology have made it possible to build smaller satellites. This allows rockets to carry multiple satellites into space on the same rocket. Not only is this more profitable for companies like SpaceX. It should also be less expensive for satellite users. Night launches are always beautiful, and this one was no exception. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, this launch was at 2:30 AM! It was worth getting up early to see it though. A very strange phenomenon happened during the launch. Looking through the binoculars, as the two Falcon 9 boosters strapped to the side, separated, the glowing engines and vapor, created an image that looked very much like Voldemort’s dark mark in the sky!
My wife Robbie and I have been doing some cruising. I have not blogged about any of our cruises yet. I thought I would start with our cruise to Havana.
Update on Cuba. This is a multiple part post that I have been working on for a few weeks. As I finished writing about our first day in Havana, we learned of a US ban on travel to Cuba. This is very sad, we really enjoyed our trip to Havana. We were looking forward to going back and seeing more of Cuba. I not only wanted to share our experiences, I also wanted to inspire readers to visit Cuba. Sadly, posts like these may be the only way that any of us will be able to visit Cuba in the future.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a cruise. I could probably do a whole post just about choosing a cruise. You may choose a cruise because of the departure port, cruise line, specific ship, cruising days, dates, cost, itinerary, destination, probably many others. The two most important factors for us for this cruise were destination and itinerary. We definitely wanted to see Cuba! There were several cruise lines going to Cuba and a lot of those were spending one or two days in Havana. We picked this Royal Caribbean Cruise because it was going to be docked in Havana for the longest period of time. We were in Havana for two full days. Some of the other cruises were spending the night in Havana, but leaving early on the second day. Only staying in Havana for a day and a half or less.
The hard part done it was time to pack our bags. If your going to do some cruising, living in central Florida has it’s advantages. We are about 20 minutes from one cruise port and only a few hours drive from 4 others. Not needing to fly to a cruise port is a huge advantage. This cruise was sailing out of Miami. So we packed up the car and drove to Miami.
This cruise was a bit shorter than our other cruises. Other than Havana we only stopped in one other port, Key West. We have been to Key West before, but it’s always nice to go back. The sun was rising as we docked. Cruise ships going to Key West, dock at Mallory Square. This is good and bad. It’s good because Mallory Square is walking distance to almost everything Key West has to offer. It’s about two blocks to Sloppy Joe’s bar and Duval Street. From there all of Key West awaits you. So there was no real need to purchase a shore excursion from the cruise line. In some ports doing a shore excursion is a good idea. Whenever possible though, we like to explore a port on our own. I was looking for something different since we have been to Key West before. I found Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden. Nancy runs a parrot rescue from her home. Since Robbie and I are parrot owners and enjoy visiting with parrots this was a great choice for us. We sat in Nancy’s beautiful garden chatting with Nancy and the parrots for quite a while. Nancy was telling us about her birds and we told Nancy about our birds. We were only a few months from a major hurricane that devastated the Keys and many other parts of Florida. Nancy was telling us about all of the hurricane damage. Key West and the Keys had recovered very well, but it had been a long few months. Nancy was great and we enjoyed our time in Nancy’s Secret Garden.
We walked from there to the Old Town Mexican Cafe for a nice lunch. After lunch we walked down to the Southern Most Point, the most southern point in the United States and only 90 miles from Cuba! From there we had a leisurely walk on Duval Street, taking in the sights on our way back to Mallory Square. We arrived in Mallory Square with enough time for a margarita before we needed to board the ship. The bad thing about docking in Mallory Square, is that it’s Mallory Square! Probably the most popular place in the country to watch the sunset. But who can see the sunset with huge cruise ships in the way. So the ships must be on their way before sunset. This somewhat limits your time in port and you miss the famous Mallory Square sunset. You should really see a Mallory Square sunset at least once. The sunset is the star, but there are lots of street performers and tons of people watching as well. The sunset is just as spectacular from the ship. We were excited to be on our way to Havana!
SpaceX sent their new Dragon Crew Capsule on a test flight to the International Space Station early this morning. Night launches are always great to watch and photograph. luckily they all aren’t at 2:49 am! If this test flight goes well, SpaceX hopes to start sending astronauts to the ISS later this year.
I was taking a drive through the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, near Titusville Florida, doing a bit of bird watching. I was seeing lots of birds but nobody was being particularly photogenic today. Even though the birds are not cooperating, it’s always nice to be out and about in the refuge. I was hanging around thinking that I would like to photograph the sunset. That wasn’t looking too promising either. All day the sky had been blue and cloudless. Not typically the best scenario for a great sunset. Sunsets are very unpredictable, you never know exactly what you are going to get. So I stuck it out taking in the sights and sounds of the refuge. About 45 minuets or so before sunset, I headed to the place that I had in mind to photograph. It wasn’t until I setup my camera and looked through the lens that I noticed the clouds. A few long thin windblown clouds had moved in, creating a very dramatic sky. Things were looking up. Now all I needed was a bit of color. As the sun slowly lowered into the horizon, the color filled the sky. I was glad that I stuck around. So along with your camera equipment, a photographer also needs a bit of optimism and perseverance.
Click on a photo to see it full size.
An excellent photo opportunity has presented it’s self. SpaceX has scheduled a resupply mission to the International Space Station, launching right at dawn. There was a really good chance 45 minuets before sunrise, there could be some really nice color in the sky. I could not pass this up, I had to give it a try.
Replicas of Christopher Columbus’ ships the Niña and the Pinta are visiting our little town this weekend. My wife Robbie and I took a trip to the marina to see them. The voyage of these two ships is pretty interesting; you can check them out at http://thenina.com/. One of my favorite things to photograph is tall ship rigging! Unfortunately, I rarely have the opportunity. When I do, I tend to go a bit overboard. (pun intended) So I apologize ahead of time for posting way too many photos. I just like them all and I hope you do too.
Replicas of Christopher Columbus’ ships the Nina and the Pinta are visiting Titusville Florida this weekend. The ships are docked at the Titusville Municipal Marina. I took these photos from Sand Point Park. I threw in some sunset photos as well.
I took my camera for a walk on the boardwalk at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I was just shooting anything that I found interesting. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I had a nice walk, taking some photos. At home when I downloaded my photos, I thought I had lost half of them. The first photo was one that I had taken half-way through my walk. I thought “well this is odd.” As I looked a bit more closely, I realized what had happened. Halfway through my walk I had taken photo #9,999 with this camera, so the camera started numbering the photos over again at 001. So here is the 10,000 photo that I have taken with my D600.
Also here are some of the other photos that I took on my photo walk.
Just some pinwheels from the Playalinda Festival of the Arts.