Rocket Launch Photography: Camera, Triggers, Modes, and Settings
What often crosses your mind every time you hear the word, “rockets”? For people who grew up admiring this technological feat, rockets are something straight out of a science fiction movie. For kids, rockets are cool spaceships that can take them across the universe.
Meanwhile, for professional and experienced photographers, it’s a totally different yet equally amazing answer. This is true especially if you talk about taking pictures of rockets. But what is rocket launch photography? What makes this photography method special? It’s basically the fact that you’re able to witness and immortalize such historical moment through your camera.
If you want to take a glimpse at this photography method, this article will tell you the basics and most important pointers when shooting a rocket launch. Here are the camera triggers, modes, and settings that you need to remember.
1. Camera Settings
Find a camera that can be used in Manual Mode since you’ll be doing a lot of adjustments for this event. Your exposure will depend on the size (and type) of the rocket that you’re going to shoot. When setting up your ISO, the suggested value is -200. Your Aperture can be set to 20 or even to a smaller value.
Your goal is to limit your camera from taking in light from extreme sources like the ignited rocket engines. Avoid over-exposure by making sure to adjust your settings accordingly. Settings for a night shoot will obviously be different from a day-time shoot.
Additionally, your camera should be set in a Continuous Burst Mode. This is necessary to capture every single frame during the actual launch. Plus, doing so provides you with more than enough shots to choose from for post-processing.
Most importantly, always shoot in RAW. This is necessary especially if you’re only second-guessing the exposure value. Post-processing your images will be easier and more manageable especially in the aspect of exposure corrections.
Also read: Understanding Camera Modes for High-speed Photography Triggering
2. Tripod Setup
Just like any type of photography that requires careful precision, you’ll need a sturdy tripod. The fact that you won’t be anywhere near your camera during the actual event makes a tripod necessary. Most importantly, remember that the raw force of a rocket’s boosters can send objects nearby flying. But even if you’ve set up your gear in a safe distance, make sure they’re secured firmly on the ground.
Experienced launch photographers often go DIY when handling this common problem. Some even secure their tripod with homemade stakes or with tent stakes. These protect their gear from both the force generated by the boosters and even from windy weather.
3. Lens Types
Your choice of lens is important when shooting rockets but a telephoto lens is an obvious must-have. Typically, a wide angle lens is also ideal for this type of event. One thing that you have to avoid using is a lens Filter. Why? Aside from giving an annoying glare against the extremely bright rocket, there’s one more thing you should know.
Most of the time, rocket launch schedules are never fixed. Even with a specified launch date and time, factors like the weather and the condition of the rockets can delay this pre-set schedule. This might cause hours of delay or even a whole day (or night).
In other words, there is a big possibility that your gear could be left overnight, making it vulnerable to moisture from the changing temperature. Lens filters could add another layer for such buildup on the lens to occur, affecting the quality of your images.
Finally, NEVER use auto-focus. Set your lens to Manual Focus only. Do not even try to use image stabilization. Position your camera towards the rocket and aim for a clear focus. Most photographers set their lens focus to Infinity. To make sure the lens won’t move and shift focus, some even go into the trouble of taping the lens over the eyepiece to prevent possible movement.
4. Hand Warmers and Lens Warmers
In connection to the previous section, to prevent your lens from totally fogging up, go DIY. Most seasoned launch photographers opt for hand warmers around the lens of their camera. These protect the lens from condensation from the morning dew or a foggy afternoon.
Electronic lens warmers are also a reliable option. Such devices make sure that your camera is ready for action, regardless of the weather condition.
5. Camera Cover
Protect your camera equipment from the elements. Some photographers opt for plastic camera covers. Some even create custom-made boxes. These protect the entire gear except for the lens so that they won’t have to worry about the weather, most importantly, launch debris.
Sometimes, once the engines are ignited and the rockets begin its ascent, the shockwave from the exhaust could push around debris that could fly as far as where your camera is standing. Observe proper caution and anticipate possible scenarios.
Remote Camera Trigger and Specific Settings
6. Sound Trigger
For most rocket launches, photographers are allowed to set up their equipment near the launch site but are not allowed to handle their camera during the actual event. That’s why a good old remote camera trigger is crucial. Since the schedules are often changed and delays are common, setting up a timer for your trigger may not be practical. So what option do you have left? A Sound Trigger Mode.
Take impossible photos by turning your camera into a high-speed capture device!
A Rocket Launch is an extremely loud event so it’s a perfect subject where a sound sensor can do its job best. From the rumble of the igniting engines to the boosters lifting the rocket off the pad, to the final BOOM of the launch, your camera’s shutter will automatically be triggered to take multiple shots each time.
The best camera triggers, like MIOPS Smart Camera Trigger, for instance, have a Sensitivity Setting that allows your camera to only detect specific sound events. So, it won’t trigger your camera with just a clap or a sound from people talking. The best thing about a smart trigger is, it can be remotely controlled. Through your dedicated mobile application, you can adjust your settings without manually handling the actual shutter. It’s also easy to make last-minute adjustments with Exposure Value, Delay Timer, and Sound Sensitivity.
7. Remote Camera Trigger
Last but one of the most important gears you should have is a camera remote and a mobile phone. A camera remote like MIOPS Mobile Remote ensures the success of your rocket launch photography by giving the control of your camera to your Smartphone. Having a remote shutter release keeps you at a safe distance from the dangerous rocket engines. And with a remote trigger, you’re sure that your camera won’t fail to take those historical rocket launch photos.
Making History with the best Rocket Launch Photography Camera Trigger
Rocket launch photography is truly an unforgettable event that every passionate photographer should be a part of. Imagine being present in such moment as history unfolds while having the right gear to capture every second of it? Such rare opportunities should never be wasted – and you can do that by choosing the best equipment to bring with you.
As the most important gear in your camera bag, the best camera trigger for rocket launch photography is a worthy investment.
Related Article: How to Photograph a Rocket Launch at Night
Photo Credits in order: Richard Angle, Brady Kenniston, John Kraus