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.
We took in the sights of the beautiful city of Lisbon Portugal for most of the day. It was after dark and we were in the Parca Rossio. The Rossio is a large plaza with two beautiful fountains. It is paved with a wavy mosaic. Our group was ready to head back to the hotel. We had a flight back to Miami in the morning. I really wanted to see the Elevador da Gloria. I wasn’t sure exactly where it was, but I knew it was pretty close to the Rossio. So as Robbie and the rest of the group started back to the hotel. I set off to find Gloria in the direction that I thought it might be.
Lisbon has several fairly steep hills. They have several ways of getting to the top of the hill to the Barrio Alto. We passed the Elevador de Santa Justa earlier, an ornate iron elevator to Barrio Alto. The Elevador da Gloria, also known as the Ascensor da Gloria, is a trolley/funicular that carries people up the hill to and from Barrio Alto. Gloria is actually two trolleys that are designed to climb the steep hill. One trolley goes up as the other trolley comes down. They pass in the middle of the hill so there is always one at the top and one at the bottom. A new group of passengers climbs aboard and the process starts all over again.
After leaving the Parca Rossio I passed the Rossio train station. It was a beautiful building and I wasn’t sure at the time that it was actually the train station. I continued past the train station and only a few blocks farther I found Gloria. It was totally worth the extra walk. Gloria was amazing! I spent quite a bit of time watching Elevador da Gloria making the trip up and down the hill several times. I was able to get one of my favorite photos of the trip. I set up my tripod and camera and pointed it at the empty tracks waiting for Gloria to make the return trip back down the hill. A cute couple in orange coats stopped on the corner under a streetlight also waiting for Gloria. The guy was looking at his phone, and just as Gloria appeared the girl nibbled on his ear. I took the photo. It was one of those fleeting moments in time that unless captured, go unnoticed and unseen. I doubt that I could have setup the image any better. It’s possible that she did the ear nibble for my benefit. I had a big camera set up on a tripod pointed in that direction. I’m pretty sure they knew I was going to photograph Gloria. I had lots of fun photographing Gloria. I probably could have stayed longer, but it was getting late and I thought I should get back to the hotel.
Robbie and I woke up early the next morning and packed our bags for the last time. One of the perks of cruising is that you travel to all of these wonderful places and you unpack and pack once, while you’re on the ship anyway. We checked out of the hotel and met everyone in the lobby. Sandy hired a van to get us all to the airport. We got a box breakfast from the hotel that we ate while we waited for the van. The van arrived and we loaded our suitcases into the back and made the short trip to the airport. The Lisbon airport is bigger than it seems. It was pretty far from the front desk to the gate. We were a little early so we got a little more to eat on the way to the gate. Once we were at the gate, once again, we needed to take a bus out to our plane on the tarmac. Just like on our previous flights to and from Lisbon. We boarded the plane and found our seats. This plane was a little bigger and more comfy than the one we had on our first flight from Miami. Robbie and I were in the middle row with 4 seats. Luckily we had all 4 seats to ourselves, whoo-hoo! The flight to Miami was good, well as good as a long flight can be anyway. We picked up our rental car, Robbie, Barb, and I drove back home to Titusville. Sandy, Jerry, Marcia and Jack had another rental. Sherry and Jeff were not going to Florida, they took different flights out of Venice and were not with us in Lisbon. Kris and her sister Kim made other arrangements out of Venice as well. Everyone made it home safe and sound.
Wow, what an awesome trip! Robbie and I had an amazing time! I know everyone else did as well. This was a trip that we will always remember. A huge thank you to Sandy and Jerry for inviting us to come along with them! Sandy did an awesome job arranging flights and the trip! We had a great time with everyone. What a great group of people to travel with, we had fun, it wouldn’t have been the same trip without all of you! Stay tuned, we have been making plans for our next trip after Covid in 2022. It’s going to be full of lions and leopards and giraffes, OH MY!
Robbie and I along with our other traveling companions explored Lisbon all afternoon. We really enjoyed this beautiful city. The sun was setting and it was time for a break. We moved off of the main street to find a restaurant for dinner. We found a quiet little Portuguese restaurant. Although we were quite hungry, it was still a little early by European standards, for dinner. That was good for us, we had the place to ourselves. We had the undivided attention of the owner and staff, we were treated like kings! We had a really nice Portuguese dinner and relaxed with some refreshments. We were all refreshed and ready for more of Lisbon.
Lisbon really shines after dark. It becomes even more charming, almost fairy-tale. The lights of the city were beautiful. We meandered down the mosaic sidewalks. There were chestnuts roasting on an open fire, adding to the charm. As we were walking, someone would see a shop they wanted to go into. While they were doing a little shopping, I would take the opportunity to take a few photos. We found ourselves at the beautiful Santa Justa Lift. Lisbon is by no means flat! The old town area where we were, the Baixa Pombalina district is in a valley, surrounded on three sides by large hills. We in fact had a bit of an uphill climb to get back to the hotel. The Santa Justa Lift was built in the early 1900s as an easy way to get to Barrio Alto on the top of the hill. It’s a beautifully ornate iron elevator. The lift was designed by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, an engineer from Porto who was a student of Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame. You can see the similarities in the ornate iron work on both towers.
We continued taking in the beauty of Lisbon after dark. We then found ourselves at the Rossio (town common). Its official name is Parca de Dom Pedro IV. The centerpiece of the huge plaza is the bronze statue of Dom Pedro IV, king of Portugal, on top of a tall column. An interesting urban legend about the statue says it is actually a statue of a Mexican king who looked like Dom Pedro and was purchased at a bargain price. The statue is flanked by two beautiful fountains. The plaza is paved with a wavy tile mosaic. It’s meant to mimic waves, highlighting the seafaring explorers of Portugal’s past, as are many of the mosaics. If you stare at them, you actually feel like you are on the ocean. The beautiful National Theater and the Rossio Train Station are at the far end of the plaza. The group was ready to head back to the hotel. I wanted to try to find the Elevador da Gloria. So Robbie and the rest of our group set off for the hotel, I went in search of Gloria.
SpaceX launched another flock of 60 Starlink broadband internet satellites. I stayed close to home this time. I took this photo from my driveway in Titusville Florida.
The first Space Coast rocket Launch of 2021. SpaceX launching a Turkish telecommunications satellite into orbit. Photographed from Kirk Point Riverside Park in Titusville Florida.
I was in downtown Titusville to photograph a night rocket launch. The rocket launch was scrubbed. So I started roaming around town taking photos. I really like this old Hotpoint sign. I have photographed it several times over the years. The woman’s clothing boutique that is now located in the old appliance store was named for the sign. It is called Hotpoint Boutique. I was happy that they restored and kept the old sign.
After dinner we walked back to Piazza San Marco to see the lights. There are several cafes in Piazza San Marco that feature live music. We stopped to listen for a while. San Marco is really pretty at night. We started the walk back to Piazzale Roma via the Accademia bridge. Robbie and I said goodnight to the group near our B&B. Everyone else continued on to the bus stop.
We found out the next day that there was a horrible incident on the bus ride back to Mestre. One of our friends had her purse stolen. She lost money and her passport! The cruise line would not let her on the ship without a passport. Unfortunately, she needed to go to Florence to get a temp passport, then a flight home. It was a very sad situation; we all felt so bad for her. Buses all over Europe are notorious for pickpockets.
Later on our first full day in Venice, we returned to our B&B. After we freshened up a bit, we decided we needed a few things at the store. We stopped at the Prix grocery the day before, so tonight we thought we would try Crai, another grocery store in a different direction. Both stores were nice but we liked the Prix better. Anyway, we took a few photos along the way.
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!
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.
SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 Starlink satellites. Although the satellites were small, it was the heaviest load a Falcon 9 has lifted into space. The satellites are the first of up to 12,000 satellites that will make up a blanket of satellites that will provide a space based internet connection. Technological advancement or space pollution? Astronomers are already complaining, satellites are impeding viewing of the stars. Only time will tell.
The launch took place at 10:30pm. Night launches are awesome to watch. They make a really cool photographic subject. But also watching a launch at night is really beautiful. The flames from the rocket engines make all sorts of interesting shapes and colors. On a clear night with a pair of binoculars, you can follow the rocket all the way into space.
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 like to get out at night to do some photography when I can. On our trip to Toronto we had full days with lots of walking. So by the time the sun went down I was pretty beat. Luckily the Strathcona Hotel, where we were staying, was a half block away from a pretty decent view of the CN Tower. So one night I grabbed my gear and walked down to the corner to take some photos. A woman was walking by and stopped to ask what I was photographing. She followed my lens and answered her own question. When she realized that I was taking a photo of the CN Tower, she said that she hadn’t noticed you could see the tower from this corner. I had to admit to her that the first time I walked by, I missed it too. We had a nice conversation, she was from New Brunswick CA. We were also right next to the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, the building with the flags. The Royal York is where Queen Elizabeth II stays when she comes to Toronto. Pretty much the whole royal family has stayed there at one time or another. This was the weekend of the big royal wedding, so none of the royals were there. Fun fact: the Royal York has 350,000 honey bees. They have a garden on the roof to grow veggies for the restaurant. The bees pollinate the garden and provide honey.