The SpaceX Crew 3 launch, transporting 4 astronauts to the International Space Station. Photographed from the Project Gemini Memorial at Space View Park in Titusville Florida. This launch had been postponed several times. I picked this location for the original launch date. Once I pick a location I try to stick with it. I used this location one other time, but there was heavy cloud cover and the rocket disappeared shortly after takeoff. So I wanted to give this location another try. There was light rain falling as I left the house, not a good sign. The rain was supposed to stop by launch time, but what about the clouds? When I arrived, the moon was covered by clouds. It was looking like I may have a repeat of the previous cloud situation. As launch time got closer the moon and a few stars became visible, I was hopeful. The sky was pitch black and it was hard to see if the clouds were going to be an issue or not. As soon as the rocket ignited it lit up a huge cloud bank! Shortly after lifting off the rocket disappeared into the clouds. A collective “awwwww” arose from the crowd. I waited and waited, it peeked out and was gone again, finally the rocked reappeared, although partially covered by clouds. The clouds are not always bad. A good night launch photo looks better with some clouds. You just don’t want too many. If I try this location again and there is another cloud issue, I will begin to think the twins have a cloud curse. The area around the Gemini Monument was recently renovated. They installed some new LED lights. This is a really dark area and needed some light. From a photography standpoint, the lights created a bunch of crazy lens flairs and a shadow from my lens hood. I took the lens hood off for a test photo, this made way more lens flairs. I kept the lens hood on and dealt with the shadow. Over all I was pretty happy with my image and it was a beautiful launch to watch.
What a beautiful Star-filled night for a predawn Space Coast Rocket Launch! United Launch Alliance launched an Atlas V rocket carrying the Lucy Space Probe. Lucy will be exploring the Trojan Asteroid Belt in Jupiter’s orbit. After the launch the wind blew the rocket’s contrail into a cool smoke-ring in the sky.
Click on photo to see larger. You will miss all of the stars if you don’t.
After photographing the rocket launch, at Space View Park in Titusville Florida, I stuck around with a few other photographers and a few others that were just waiting for the sun to rise. It was a beautiful light show, a pod of dolphins went swimming buy as well. It was worth the wait!
Click on photo to see larger.
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.
Florida’s Space Coast is launching humans into space again! After a scrub due to bad weather, SpaceX launched two astronauts into space. Demo 2 is a manned test flight of the SpaceX Dragon Crew Capsule. Demo 1 was an unmanned test flight of the SpaceX Dragon Crew Capsule. Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley successfully docked with the International Space Station 18hrs later. They will spend several months working on the space station. After finishing their duties, they will board the Dragon and test the re-entry and splashdown capabilities of the Dragon Crew Capsule.
My main objective was to document the spectators that came to see this historic launch. I visited several of Titusville’s launch viewing hot spots. It’s very interesting to see how people come prepared to watch a launch. Most of them had been here for hours. A lot of them had tables and chairs and a pick-nick lunch. The big thing today was umbrellas. There were big ones and small ones. Umbrellas of every color of the rainbow. We were having small light showers, with bright sunshine in between. The umbrellas were keeping everyone in the shade and dry.
Photographing spectators is much different than photographing a launch. So I was not equipped to get awesome photos of the launch. I did take a video of the launch. You can hear the roar of the crowd cheering as the rocket lifted into the sky. Unfortunately I can’t post it here.
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!