How to photograph a shuttle launch

Discovery on pad 39A, night before her final launch
It’s launch day! Today! After one hell of an adventure (I promise I’ll explain more later) the #spacenomad is back in Florida and if all goes to plan, Diva Discovery will launch from KSC this afternoon at 4.50pm EST.

I managed to catch Bill Ingalls, one of NASA’s official photographers who will be capturing fantastic images of Discovery’s final flight, to ask him what tips he could give us on how to take a great shuttle launch picture. Here’s what he said:

“One quick note on Shuttle launch photography. Don’t do it!  That’s my 2¢.  There is something about having a camera between you and this event that removes you from it.  This happens quick and it is fantastic.  I highly recommend to everyone that they set their camera down and enjoy this moment and download NASA images for their use later.

For those who insist….

If using a long lens on a bright sunny day.  Under expose from daylight exposure by 1-stop. This helps bring out some details in the flames. I would recommend using manual exposure.

Again – I say – just enjoy the moment with friends and colleagues.  Cameras that are set up within the pad perimeter will get the best pix and are available for all to use.”

I’ll be setting my camera up on a tripod with a remote shutter release so I can watch this with my own eyes. It’ll be nice to have a photograph I can say is my own, but the best thing will be the memories. Here’s hoping for a safe flight this afternoon. Ad astra Discovery!

Rescued comments: 

4 Responses to “How to photograph a shuttle launch

  • Raymondsays:

    February 24, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    ReplyI’m so glad that your adventures here in the States were plentiful and rewarding, and that you finally get to see in person the launch of the Discovery!

  • Raymondsays:

    February 25, 2011 at 12:48 am

    ReplyAnd a beautiful launch it was!

  • Jonathan Marks says:

    February 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    ReplyYour audioboo was amazing..captured the emotion of the event which you never get unless you’re there.

  • John Richardssays:

    March 16, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    ReplySaw the launch of Discovery (STS-133) from the East Causeway. Flew all the way from the UK to see it. It was truly awesome, I’ll NEVER forget it. Your advice about taking pictures of the launch is spot-on. Just witness the spectacle. NASA has far more expertise in taking photos. To anyone going to see the last two launches. ENJOY; its the end of an era.

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