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Old October 25th, 2010, 05:36 PM   #1
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Taking my EX3 to the Space Shuttle Launch

I just booked my flight to Orlando so I can attend the launch of the next shuttle (Nov 1, 4:40PM). Our tickets are for the Hall of Fame area - not the best, but that's life.

Since I only have one chance a this, does anybody have some tips for shooting a launch?

Do I need additional ND filters? We'll be 12 miles away.

Any suggestions would be great!

thanks!
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Old October 25th, 2010, 08:43 PM   #2
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See this thread: Tips for shooting a Shuttle Launch?

Get there early. Like 4 hours ahead. Be prepared that it will be cancelled. We traveled 3 hours and just when we pulled into the hotel, it was scrapped.

[EDIT: Confused location with another one.]

Do the research to find out if the launch is sending it northward or southward.... so you know.

In the above thread you'll find links to my two videos on YouTube.

The key tip is to raise the pan bar above 90 degrees so you have all the tilt you need.

On my shuttle launch video, you can see the effect of removing the ND after the Shuttle was down range. I wish I had done it earlier but you can only do so much. Plan on clamping down the light as it fires otherwise it becomes a giant orange ball. All the folks on automatic will have footage like that. Your's can stand apart if you set your ND so the iris can be wide for a nicely exposed prelaunch image, then you have the full range of the iris to close at the beginning and then open it up during the flight. So yea, ride the iris and use the builtin ND. Practice the lens operation. Don't use a polarizer

I personally prefer the launch from a wide POV because it gives the viewer a better feel for what it's like to be there. There's tons of zoomed in footage from these things. YMMV

Last edited by Les Wilson; October 26th, 2010 at 06:36 AM.
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Old October 25th, 2010, 09:08 PM   #3
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Thanks for the tips! I had searched dvinfo and read the posts and watched the videos - good stuff!
I'll be using the stock lens so I didn't think I would have to worry about zooming in too close.
I understand that from this site you can not see the shuttle on the pad - I think they said there are some buildings that it has to clear before it can be seen.
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Old October 25th, 2010, 10:49 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Spahr View Post
I just booked my flight to Orlando so I can attend the launch of the next shuttle (Nov 1, 4:40PM). Our tickets are for the Hall of Fame area - not the best, but that's life.
Since I only have one chance a this, does anybody have some tips for shooting a launch?
Do I need additional ND filters? We'll be 12 miles away.
Any suggestions would be great!
thanks!
Hey Kevin,

I am also headed to Florida to shoot the launch on Monday. In fact, this is really weird, I've stopped in Carlisle, PA today to visit family on my way down South. Small world.

I'll be shooting with my F800 from across the water in Titusville. I've previously shot another launch from the press area next to the VSB, but I don't have any legitimate reason to request a pass this time. At only three miles, there's nothing else like that location!

I also shot a night time launch two years ago from Titusville with my EX3 and I'll go back to the same location this time. The launch looks okay from that location, and I don't really have any reason to put any more effort into it since I'm just doing it for the fun. If I get something good, terrific. If not, who cares?

You can see my EX3 shot at the beginning of this video: vimeo.com/5671232
I was using a Fujinon 18x5.5 lens.
I would highly recommened getting an Adaptimax and using a Nikon 300mm or 400mm lens on your EX3. That option was not available to me at that time, and I sure wish it had been. The stock lens (or the Fujinon that I used) doesn't get you very close from 12 miles out.

I actually think the shot I did with the EX3 is not very good because it's not smooth enough and I regret even using it the video on Vimeo. Being a night time launch, and with a pretty stong wind blowing across the water, it was a bit of a challenge to get the camera steady. Ultimately, I don't like what I got. Next week's 4:40PM launch should be a lot easier.

My advice is to expose normally (maybe 1 stop down) for the lighting conditions and use manual exposure. The shuttle exhaust will be overexposed but that is okay. Do not try to expose for the exhaust plume. Be prepared to slowly dial the iris down a little as the shuttle rises, but don't go too far. Let the plume be hot. I hope you have a good tripod.

Also, just to warn you, after it's over you'll feel like you missed it because you were glued to the viewfinder. If you don't have a good shot due to location, wind, etc, I suggest locking down the camera on a wide shot and just enjoy the launch with your naked eyeballs.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 06:36 AM   #5
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Wow Doug that is wild!
We even live next door to some Jensens on West South Street...

You did a nice job with that night launch, I can't think of a more extreme difference in lighting.

I had thought about renting a large Nikon lens but I've noticed some people recommending additional support when using those lenses - which I don't have. Plus I'm trying to conserve money and this shoot is just for fun. I wanted to see a launch for a long time and we're coming to an end of an era...

The Titusville location looks like a better spot than the Hall of Fame, but I'm going with some other people.

Good luck with your shoot.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 06:54 AM   #6
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I edited out my comment about your location.

The problem with some of these areas is that they get REALLY crowded. You may have a clear view when you arrive but it's amazing how people stream in and crowd up in the last 30 minutes...everyone standing holding up cameras, iphones, etc. So getting a perch where your tripod can shoot over everyone's head would be key for that location.

As has been said, I think there's something to be said for a rock solid steady shot that lets the shuttle move through the frame. Not that you have to shoot the whole launch that way but having land in frame at the start and then pushing in a bit all the while letting the shuttle move thru the frame before recomposing seems to be a little more interesting .... I think a stabile shot with manual exposure and nice composition makes good footage stand apart from the the rest. YMMV
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Old October 26th, 2010, 07:22 AM   #7
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My understanding is that Titusville refers to a public viewing area north of the hall of fame and it is closer to the launch site.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 07:39 AM   #8
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Yes. I later googled your location and it has the issue of trees and such as I originally thought. There is a public park in Titusville that gets very crowded. It has some busts of astronauts which I thought was "Hall of fame" but I was wrong. The hall of fame, as u said, requires a ticket. It's a tough shot I think. Do yourself a favor at some point and look up to see it with your own eyes.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 08:00 AM   #9
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Kevin,
I've attempted 3 launches but only one actually went. There's a bazillion clips of the launch that hit YouTube each time. As a filmmaker, you have the chance to do better and I've tried to express that in my posts.

That said, you may get to see a really unique event and I wouldn't want you to regret not having experienced it. I can walk 30 feet and watch a launch from my house, go 3 miles and watch from the beach or ride 3 hours to Titusville. I've seen enough of them. You are investing far more than I so FWIW, take all this how-to-shoot with a grain of salt and do what you won't regret later in life.

Now, there's only been a scant few productions I've seen that actually turn the camera around and shoot the crowd instead of the launch. A well done documentary on the Hall of Fame site and the crowd you experienced or even the scrapping of the launch will exercise your gear, filmmaking skills, storytelling skills and still let you experience it with your human senses. Throw in some humor or human interest and you might have a nice interesting production. People come from all over the world so be on the alert, you may trip over a nice story.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 10:42 AM   #10
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I'm with Les on this...

Not to discourage anyone whose primary purpose for attending the launch is to shoot video of it but if you are going there to SEE the launch, I really encourage you to NOT shoot video -- or at least just set your camera(s) up static and watch the launch with your own eyes. IMO, you'll dilute the experience by placing your attention on your camera rather than those few seconds of incredible sound and sight.

After all, launches are massively photo/video documented, so it's a good idea to decide ahead of time whether soaking up the experience or getting video of it is more important to you. Just a suggestion; enjoy an increasingly rare spectacle!

If you do actively run your camera, be prepared to ride the exposure. The exhaust is perhaps as brilliant as the sun so if you expose pre-launch, your image will be totally overexposed by the time they clear the tower.
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Old October 29th, 2010, 05:16 PM   #11
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Maybe...

iTWire - Discovery, STS-133 launch delayed a day or so
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Old October 29th, 2010, 06:11 PM   #12
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Likewise, I'll be watching from Titusville.

I'm not there to shoot, but will have my 7D + 1.4x + 300mm f/4 L IS.

Pete and Less are offering excellent advice, as usual. My goal is to
experience the event (only my second one) and maybe grab a snap
shot or two. No video for me; I'm not watching through a viewfinder.

For the latest updates on STS-133, stay tuned to Spaceflight Now

Anybody who wants to get together afterwards for a DVi post-launch
meet-up, I would be happy to host one at a Titusville watering hole.
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Old October 29th, 2010, 07:38 PM   #13
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That would be nice but I'm staying (and traveling) with other people and I can't be sure of the game plan.
I have to fly out Wednesday AM so if the launch is delayed further - I'll miss it.
That's the way the cookie crumbles...
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Old October 29th, 2010, 09:04 PM   #14
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converted post to have attachment (below)

Last edited by Les Wilson; October 30th, 2010 at 08:09 AM.
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Old October 30th, 2010, 08:13 AM   #15
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For those without honkering image stabilized 300mm L lenses <grin>, the alternative wide angle shot is still there for the taking. My wife had success with a 14mm on a Canon 20D using the settings shown in the attached. Tripod and cable release let her enjoy the launch
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Taking my EX3 to the Space Shuttle Launch-screen-shot-2010-10-30-9.08.53-am.png  
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