We've all seen close-up photos of fire-belching rockets as they break free from the launch pad. But have you ever given any thought to how such dramatic images are captured? After all, the only people who are allowed within miles of the launch pad are required to have a reserved seat inside the rocket!
As it turns out, shooting rocket launches requires a photographer with a wide array of skills and a few bits of custom equipment in their kit. These artists set up their gear near the launch pad well in advance of the final countdown. They will be miles away during the moment of truth, where all they can do is cross their fingers and hope that everything works as planned.
Between unpredictable weather conditions, the harsh environment near flaming rockets, and random gremlins, there are far too many variables involved to ever be totally confident of success. Meticulous preparation is key, and a little luck doesn't hurt either. Even so, these photographers have more at stake than just missing the shot with no chance for a mulligan. They could actually lose their camera gear in the process. Because…well, sometimes the rocket photography gods demand a sacrifice.
An Expert's Insight
Ben Cooper has been shooting launches for 17 years. During that time, his photos have earned many awards and appeared on countless magazine covers. You've probably seen his work. I recently had a chat with Ben to find out how he approaches the challenge of shooting rocket close-ups.