How to Shoot a NASA Rocket Launch with a Remote Camera
When NASA launched its Insight rocket in the pre-dawn hours of May 5th, 2018, photographer Norman Chan of Tested was on hand with a remote camera setup to shoot his first launch. The 15-minute video above is his record of everything that goes into capturing a NASA rocket launch.
Several hours before the launch, Chan visits the site, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, to set up his remote camera equipment. Unsure of what exactly he’ll need prior to getting on site, Chan brings an arsenal of different cameras and lenses to make sure he’s ready with the right combo.
Chan ends up using a Canon 5D Mark IV (aperture priority, f/8, ISO 100), Sigma 50mm lens, tripod, sandbags, a trash bag, and a MIOPS trigger.
At 7 am, 3 hours after launch, Chan stepped off the bus back onto the site to check his remote camera gear. Once he got the memory card to his computer, Chan found that the camera had snapped 90 photos during launch.
The hazy conditions that morning ended up obscuring most details in the resulting photos, but Chan did end up with a sequence showing the flaming exhaust rising up into the sky and the giant plume of smoke enveloping the frame.
Chan says that if he were to do things over, he would boost ISO higher to ensure a faster shutter speed than the 1/400s that the camera used since motion in his photos were more blurred than he expected.