How to shoot a rocket launch


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My T-5 talk at SpaceUpEU 2012.

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How to shoot a rocket launch

  1. 1. Howa roc to ph aun ket l otog ch raph#NASATweetup FTW!Good morning. As you might have noticed by my t-shirt I got to go to a NASA tweetup. As a matter of fact it was the launch ofAtlantis in STS-135, the last shuttle mission ever.
  2. 2. HIT Camera - CC Swiss JamesOf course I wanted to photograph it, but most of the advice I found about it said don’t do it. Enjoy the launch and don’t spend itbehind your camera.
  3. 3. EquipmentBut being a bit stubborn and a photo nut I just wasn’t able to do that. So here’s what equipment I used and what I did to bothenjoy the launch and take photos.
  4. 4. First of all, you’ll need a tripod. Any reasonably sturdy one will do as long as it has an movable head so you can point yourcamera were you want to.
  5. 5. / CC Maksim SidorovThen, of course, you’ll need a camera. It doesn’t have to be digital or auto-anything provided it has a motor drive. And don’tforget memory cards, batteries, film and so.
  6. 6. You’ll be a few kilometres from the launch pad, so you’ll also need a longish lens, but not necessarily a 12 hundred mm one.You can always crop later. And besides, the rocket will bet out of frame sooner the longer the lens you use.
  7. 7. And, last but not least, you’ll need a lockable remote switch. A wired one will be better to avoid possible interferences withother potographer’s equipment.
  8. 8. Launch dayOf course you can carry as much backup equipment with you as you can. And here’s what to do on launch day.
  9. 9. Set up the early. Maybe not necesarily the day before as I did with my tripod, but you really don’t want to be fumbling with it atthe last minute.
  10. 10. Totally jacked up aircraft photos: Subject-Matter Composition: A Highly Overrated Endeavour.And then compose your image. Choose a focal lenght and what to show in the photos. Of course composition is a quitesubjective matter,
  11. 11. Totally jacked up aircraft photos: Subject-Matter Composition: A Highly Overrated Endeavour.but when in doubt, just make sure the horizon is level and in the bottom third of the frame. You can’t go very wrong with that.
  12. 12. Totally jacked up aircraft photos: Out of This World - LiterallyThen focus your camera, either using AF or manually, check focus, and when set, if the camera has AF, turn it off.
  13. 13. Totally jacked up aircraft photos: Out of This World - LiterallyThe last thing you want is the AF hunting for focus during launch. And if you zoom the lens afterwards, remember to re-checkfocus.
  14. 14. Totally jacked up aircraft photos: "...And He Had A Shiny Nose.."Set exposure. ISO 100 at f/8 or f/11, which give a greater depth of field, should be OK for a daytime launch, although you’llneed higher ISO for a dawn, dusk, or night launch.
  15. 15. Totally jacked up aircraft photos: "...And He Had A Shiny Nose.."Then set the camera to manual mode with the values you’ve just used or you’ll end with a bunch of shots with differentexposures, many of them underexposed.
  16. 16. And the last step should be making sure that the motor drive is set on its higher setting. Don’t worry about filling up yourmemory cards, you won’t have time, but make sure they’re fast enough to cope.
  17. 17. STS-135 Atlantis Launch (201107080013HQ) - CC NASAAn then, a few seconds before launch, press and lock the button on the remote, forget about the camere, and enjoy theawesomeness of a rocket lauch. It’s OK if you tear up a bit.
  18. 18. With any luck, you’ll have a bunch of RAW files -because you always use RAW, don’t you?– to process and produce photos,time-lapses, etc.
  19. 19. Go, Atlantis! [#1 in Explore on july, 8, 2011]And then share those images. Flickr. Pinterest. Twitter. Your blog. Anywhere. For me, sharing is half the fun of it.
  20. 20. @wichoAnd you might even make it to the top spot on Flickr, or get retweeted by NASA. Thank you very much.