Category Archives: Rocket Launch

SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch – 22 April 2021

Launches from the Kennedy Space Center have ramped up in the last few years, and here in the Central Florida area, we’re blessed with a good view of them. Lynn and I often go out and watch from our driveway. At times, we’ll be disappointed when clouds block our view, or if a low trajectory keeps the the vehicle down behind our neighbor’s trees. But last Friday’s launch didn’t disappoint!

SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch, from Winter Springs, Florida. About 2 1/2 minutes after lift off.

Photographing one like this is an interesting challenge. There are several approaches to try. I usually concentrate on the rocket itself. In the daytime, you might be able to use aperture priority and automatic focus. In the dark, shooting in full manual mode will likely give you better results. I preset my aperture to wide open and my shutter speed as slow as I think I can hand hold with image stabilization turned on. If your camera doesn’t have IS, use a tripod to stabilize it. I also pre-focus to infinity, since the small size of the rocket in the frame might make auto focus unreliable. While shooting, I adjust my ISO setting to get a good exposure. With mirrorless cameras I can see the effect of ISO changes in the viewfinder. If you’re using a DSLR, you’ll have to chimp to make sure your ISO is correct.

The photos above were made with a focal length equivalent of 525mm and exposure of f/6.3, 1/80 sec, ISO 2000. The one below was at 164mm eq., f/6.3, 1/80 sec, ISO 6400.

Crew Dragon and launch plume. About 3 minutes after lift off

I won’t talk about other techniques to try, but here are a couple of impressive examples from Friday’s launch: Chuck P. has a long exposure image at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chuckpalmer/51133507223/in/pool-lm-pigs/. And Matthew P. has a composite from all the way over in Tampa at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewpaulson/51132476677/in/dateposted/

I have my rocket launch blog posts collected here: https://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-in-florida/rocket-launch/, and launch images are in this album on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157719054007165

I enjoy this type of photography, especially at night with such a pretty launch. Have you tried it?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And when you can – photograph a launch!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

When the Experience Exceeds the Photo-op

Lynn and I met Howard and Nancy T. at the Cape last Tuesday to watch the first launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy first launchFalcon Heavy first launch – This is an Olympus Live Composite, multiple exposure image showing the ascent.  From ~12 miles away (the “Close” viewing area off of Vectorspace Blvd near Kennedy Space Center). 40mm eq. Field of View.

Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 and it’s amazing to think about how far they’ve come in so short a time – all as a privately funded company.  Their first launch to orbit was in 2008 and last week they launched an object into solar orbit with the Falcon Heavy, which is now  the world’s most powerful launch system.

SpaceX 1st Falcon Heavy LaunchSpaceX 1st Falcon Heavy Launch – sending a red Tesla sports car past Mars!  ~600mm eq. Field of View.

To me as an engineer, the capability to land and reuse boosters is even more impressive.  Especially when you watch two boosters simultaneously landing back near the launch site!

SpaceX: !st Falcon Heavy Launch - two simultaneous booster braking burnsSpaceX: !st Falcon Heavy Launch – two simultaneous booster braking burns.  These two successfully landed back at the Cape.  Unfortunately, the third booster crashed at sea.  ~600mm eq. Field of View.

If you’re a space fan like I am, you’ve been following this story.  But if not, here are a few pages around the web that you might find interesting:

It was truly a wonderful experience to watch this happen.  It seems to me that Elon is well on the way to earning his place as another Edison.

As far as the photo-op went, it’s a tough assignment.  We were about 12 miles away in the area NASA calls “Close”.  This is much closer than our usual viewing area (our driveway – about 35 miles away), but still a bit distant.  They also have “Closer” and “Closest” areas about 7.5 miles from the pad.  VIPs and press were only 3 miles away.  If you want truly great photographs, you’ll have to figure out how to get closer than we did.

Hey Elon – Central Florida Photo Ops needs a press pass!!!

It turns out this wasn’t really about the photo-op.  It was about the experience of witnessing history with thousands of other space fans.  And these photos will help me remember the thrill.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy first launch - vapor trail

Post launch vapor trail

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go witness some history!  And make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

SpaceX Launch

Space X launch - 3/4/16

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on 3/4/16, just after booster separation

It can be hard for Central Florida visitors to witness a launch.  Schedules often change because of weather, technical, or other issues.  It’s disappointing if you travel to the coast for one, only to have it cancelled at the last moment.  This Falcon 9 launch was postponed six times before it finally lifted off on Friday evening.    This Wikipedia article is a good reference on SpaceX launches with details about each mission.

But you don’t have to be right next to Kennedy Space Center to see a launch.  Lynn and I are fortunate to live about 35 – 40 miles from the pads, which is well within viewing distance.  We enjoy watching from our driveway.

Even though the space shuttle has been retired, it’s still exciting to see these and think about  new commercial technologies that people like SpaceX CEO Elon Musk are adding to the US space capability.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island – June 29th 2012

Waiting to launch...
Waiting to launch – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket sits on the pad at Launch Complex 37B before dawn at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

I got up very early on Friday morning and arrived on Merritt Island in time for the Delta IV Heavy rocket launch scheduled for 6:15am. I figured it might be very picturesque, since sunrise was scheduled for 6:30. Unfortunately, the sunrise happened on time, but the launch didn’t.

If you’re not a Florida resident, you may not be aware of how hard it is to actually see a launch unless you live very close to or are staying at the Cape. I live about an hour away, and going over is an investment of time and effort. The problem is that launches very rarely happen when they’re first scheduled. At least when I try to see them. There always seems to be a technical problem, hold, or reschedule. Maybe I’m a jinx?

Anyway, this one finally did go at about 9:15 – although it wasn’t as photogenic as I hoped.

Delta IV Heavy Launch
Delta IV Heavy Launch – From Peacocks Pocket Road in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. This is not the kind of bird I normally photograph at Merritt Island.

The delay gave me an excuse to drive around the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge while I waited. It’s the time of year when there’s not much happening there. But I did see some of the usual birds including Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Reddish Egrets, Red-winged Blackbirds, Turkey and Black Vultures, Killdeer, and others. I also saw a group of Black Skimmers, a Loggerhead Shrike, a few Terns and gulls, and some smaller shorebirds.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron – I know, I know: these birds are common around here, but they’re pretty and it’s hard to resist making a photo when they pose in good light.

I also (of course!) took advantage of the opportunity to make a few landscaped photos.

Sunrise crossing - from the Bennet Causeway in Cocoa Beach, Florida
Sunrise crossing – from the Bennett Causeway in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The rising sun’s reflection and a boat wake created the cross pattern in the water near the cruise ship dock.

I had a good time. You will too, as long as you keep your expectations in check and work the other photo-ops if the launch is late.

Please see this blog post for info about Kennedy Space Center. For several other articles about Merritt Island, see this link.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Shuttle launches from Orlando

Tendai asked me about camera settings for shooting space shuttle launches. Rather than write them down, I looked through my photos and posted the ones I’ve taken, along with the EXIF data (where available) giving the settings I used.

Space shuttle launch as seen from Orlando – 1/160 sec @ f/8, ISO 100, 300 mm, Cropped 1936 x 1296, Nikon D80

I took a new set of pictures yesterday. I’m really pleased to be able to see the Solid Rocket Booster sequence from my front yard. (We’re 35 – 40 miles from the launch site). I used my new Nikon 70 – 300, F4.5 – 5.6, IS lens and mounted the camera on a tripod on my driveway. I really like the lens.

My gallery of shuttle pictures is here.

©2007, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.