Latest

A taste of ubiquity; photographing the launch of GPS IIF-5.

We all wish we could be in two places at once occasionally. While in Florida last week shooting Daytona Speedweeks for NASCAR Illustrated, I would find myself in a predicament. The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket, the 25th flight, would occur during the same time as the Budweiser Duels at Daytona International Speedway. It would be a challenge, but I wanted to try my best to shoot both.

Knowing my schedule ahead of time allowed me to plan accordingly, luckily practice sessions at Daytona on the day of launch would not pick up until noon, this would allow me to be at remote camera setup early Wednesday morning.  I prepared four remote cameras for this particular launch, to be set up in three locations around the launch complex.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any behind the scenes photos of setup this launch since I was in a rush getting everything set up, however I was able to photograph the rollback of the mobile service tower (MST) that would reveal the massive, 205ft tall rocket.

Image

Image

Image

Following remote setup, I headed back to the speedway to begin a long day at the track photographing several Nationwide series and truck practice sessions. The Budweiser Duel qualifying races for the Daytona 500 would run the same evening. The launch was originally scheduled for 8:40 pm. but solar radiation would delay the launch by 19 minutes. As cars were on track to begin the second duel race I watched the Delta 4 rise above turn 3 as I prepared to photograph the race. While I may have been 50 miles away from the launch, my cameras were just feet away capturing all the action for me!

Image

ImageImageImage

ImageImage

Image

Can a camera be cursed? I have one camera body, a Canon 30D, my first digital SLR, that I have been trying diligently to get to work out at the pad. I have set it up at seven launches in the last three years, it has worked twice, three were complete failures and two the photos were unusable due to dew. Meanwhile my other cameras have had a nearly 100% success rate in that time. I am not sure why I continue to set it up, but it has kind of become a personal challenge.Image

A big thanks to Justin Ray and Stephen Clark who were kind enough to stay following the launch to retrieve my cameras!

And that concludes my third launch of the year at the cape.

For a complete gallery of photos and to purchase prints click HERE.

Be sure to “like” my Facebook page devoted to my photography where you can stay up to date on recent shoots.

Falcon 9 launches Thaicom 6

The start of the New Year always brings on new goals and expectations. I am always on an never-ending quest to keep my photography fresh and different, this proves to sometimes be a challenge, especially when it comes to launch photography. While each launch is quite different, there are only so many locations around a launch pad where you can setup before every image starts looking like the last.

After having missed the December launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 V1.1 lofting SES-8 into orbit due to a couple scrubs and other commitments, I was able to be back in Florida for the first US launch of 2014. It to was a SpaceX Falcon 9 launching a communications satellite for Thaicom on the 6th of January. Unlike the launch of SES-8, SpaceX allowed us to set up remote cameras outside the pad fence. Not having much room to move around I did my best to make it work.

Unlike most launches where we set up the day before, remote camera setup for Thaicom 6 was the morning of launch, this ended up being quite convenient.

As we rode out to the pad, the 224ft tall Falcon 9 came into view. The morning fog made for a very cool and unique shot of the rocket.

Image

The sun started to burn through the fog and onto the rocket. Time was limited for remote camera setup but luckily I had Justin Ray and Stephen Clark of  SpaceflightNow.com to assist.

Image

I set up two cameras for this launch, a wide shot and a telephoto shot.

While the weather was forecasted to be sunny, as is typical with Florida in the winter, it was cloudy. While this makes viewing a launch less than desirable, it typically provides for some sweet light.

The press site for this launch was from the ITL Causeway, roughly three miles from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Image

For the launch I would be shooting with a Canon 5D III and 500mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter. I took a few shots of the liftoff in the landscape orientation before quickly turning my camera to line up a vertical shot as well.

Image

Image

Following the initial ascent, I quickly switched to my Canon 7D with a 24-105 lens for a wider shot and then back to my Canon 5D III. All of this occurring in a timeframe of around 15 seconds.

Image

The launch was a success and I was even able to bring my girlfriend along to witness her first.

At around 45 minutes after the launch we headed out to the pad to retrieve our cameras.

Image

Image

Both cameras fired as expected, with the help of my Triggertrap V1 camera triggers. The closeup telephoto shot came out better than expected, partly due to the awesome light which made the details pop.

Image

Image

Image

And that concludes a successful first launch of the year! Now it’s time to prepare for next weeks launch of NASA’s TDRS-L satellite which will launch from nearby launch pad LC-41 on an United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The launch window opens at 9:05pm on January 24th. Launch updates can be found on SpaceflightNow.com.

For a complete gallery of photos and to purchase prints click HERE.

Be sure to “like” my Facebook page devoted to my photography where you can stay up to date on recent shoots.

Best Photos of 2013: Spaceflight

It is hard to believe that another year has already passed since I presented my favorite spaceflight photos of 2012, and wow, what a year that was with the Space shuttle delivery flights around the United States! This year however I got to focus on launches, five of them to be exact from the West Coast at Vandenberg Air Force Base to the shores of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Image

A ground squirrel emerges from its hole to check out the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Image

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from SLC-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base with NASA’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission.

Image

A remote camera view of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifting off from SLC-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base with NASA’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission from a nearby hill.

Image

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from LC-41 at Cape Canaveral carrying the US Air Forces’ Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) providing missile defense for the United States.

Image

Image

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Complex 41 at Cape Caveral, FL carrying a GPS satellite for the United States Air Force.

Image

Image

Orbital Science’s Lockheed  L-1011 “Stargazer” sits on the Hot Pad at the Vandenberg Air Force Base runway on Tuesday, June 25th. The venerable airplane, the final L-1011 in service in the United States is carrying the Pegasus rocket, a 55ft long and 51,000 lb rocket. The mission will carry the IRIS satellite, an exploration mission that will observe the suns atmosphere.Image

Image

Image

Space shuttle Atlantis sits on display inside the new 100 million dollar exhibit hall at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.Image

ImageImage

Storm clouds roll over Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is prepared for launch.Image

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Complex-41 at 9:00am Friday, July 19th. The rocket is carrying the U.S. Navy’s Mobile User Objective System-2 Satellite providing better communication for U.S. forces.

ImageImage

NASA’s Mars bound Maven spacecraft launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex-41 on an United Launch Alliance Atlas V. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN’s (MAVEN) prime mission is to study the upper atmosphere of the Red Planet.Image

Image

Image

And that concludes my look back at 2013! It was a privilege to cover these launches for Spaceflightnow.com and I look forward to another exciting year in 2014!

Be sure to “like” my Facebook page devoted to my photography where you can stay up to date on recent shoots.

scriptunas-images-logo-flame-two-line

Cass Scenic Railroad Celebrates 50 years!

On June 30, 1960, the final Mower Lumber Co. log train rolled off of Cass Hill and the Cass Mill fell forever silent the following morning. Shortly there after, Midwest Raleigh began the task of scrapping the logging railroad. Luckily, some railfans and local businessmen stepped up and brought attention of the scenic, former logging line to the West Virginia legislature. The scrapping was halted so the legislature could make a trip to Cass to view the railroad and to discuss turning it into a scenic railroad. Long story short, the railroad, along with three Shay locomotives, rolling stock, mill and locomotive shop was saved and a tourist railroad was born. Fast-forward nearly three years later to June 15th, 1963, the very first regularly scheduled Cass tourist train left the Cass depot with Shay #4 and engineer Clyde Galford at the throttle. The destination was Upper Gum Field, later renamed Whittaker Station, with dozens of excited passengers. The price of a ticket you might ask? $2.00 for adults, and $1.00 for children 12 and under!ImageFifty years, and a couple million passengers later, the Cass Scenic Railroad still remains true to its roots. Although there have been many changes over the years, Shay and Heisler geared logging locomotives still travel up the steep grades of Cass Hill nearly every day from Memorial day through October.

On June 15th, 2013 at 10:30am, 50 years to the day and hour, Shay #4, with engineer Gary Cassell and fireman Chris Lambert, along with a little help from Shay #5, with engineer Brad Hoover and fireman Derek Hannah, left the Cass depot with a train full of passengers to Whittaker Station. This began what is hopefully another 50 successful years of trains traversing Cass Hill.ImageShay #4 featured a special Cass, Greenbrier, Cheat & Bald Knob Scenic Railroad lettering scheme for this special trip. The scheme paid tribute to the very first name of the tourist railroad ran during a special trip chartered by the C.P. Huntington Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society trip during April of 1961 with Shay nos. 4 and 1 powering the train. The logo was actually a special magnet applied to the water tank, and was the result of hard work by Phil Martin, who digitally re-designed the unique lettering, as well as Tim Martin, James Newhouse, and myself. A big thanks also goes to the Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association for providing the funds to purchase the magnets. It was truly a group effort and I cannot thank them enough for all their help!ImageShay #4 arrives at the Cass depot as eager passengers prepare to board the train.ImageCurrent Cass Superintendent Scott Fortney along with the very first Cass Superintendent Ben Dickens cut a celebratory ribbon while two Pocahontas County representatives look on.

WSII-0103

ImageThe anniversary train departs Cass.ImageThe doubleheaded Shay duo belch smoke as they pass through Gum Field.ImageThe train arrives at Whittaker Station.ImageShays #4 and #5 sit at Whittaker shortly after arriving.ImageImageTrain crews and dignitaries pose in front of Shay #4 following the return of the 50th Anniversary trip to Whittaker Station.ImageShay #4 is topped off with water on the day following the 50th Anniversary before making the trip to Bald Knob.ImageShay #4 passes the emergency water tank below Bald Knob.ImageImageShay #4 heads back to Cass following the photo runbys.

Be sure to “like” my Facebook page devoted to my photography where you can stay up to date on recent shoots.

scriptunas-images-logo-flame-two-line

A trip through the California Redwoods

Just a week after celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Cass Scenic Railroad in West Virginia I found myself in Felton, CA visiting the Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad (RC&BTRR). The RC&BTRR has been high on my list of places to visit for many years and I finally got my chance during a recent visit to California.

The two railroads share many similarities, including that both are celebrating 50th Anniversaries in 2013 and both feature geared locomotives as their primary source of motive power.ImageThe Roaring Camp Railroad is a simulated narrow gauge logging railroad built through a forest of massive California Redwoods. The 3.25 mile line features two switchbacks, 9% grades and a 40 foot tall wooden trestle. Although the railroad was built specifically to haul tourists, the locomotives come from a variety of logging railroads and other backgrounds on the East and West Coast.

Currently the railroad has four serviceable locomotives including two Shays, one Heisler and a small tank engine. The #1 “Dixiana” is a 2-truck Shay locomotive built in 1912 for the Alaculsy Lumber Co. of Tennessee. The locomotive was acquired from the Coal Processing Corporation of Dixiana, VA in 1962 and was the first locomotive acquired by the RC&BTRR. The #7 “Sonora” is a 3-truck Shay built in 1911 and acquired by the RC&BTRR in 1986. The locomotive notably worked for the West Side Lumber Co. and Pickering Lumber Co. of California.  The #2 “Tuolumne” is a 2-truck Heisler built in 1899 and acquired by the RC&BTRR in 1963 from the West Side Lumber Co. The railroad’s only serviceable rod locomotive is the #3 “Kahuku” built in 1890 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and acquired by the railroad in 1966 from the Kahuku Plantation Railroad in Hawaii. The railroad also owns one other 2-truck Shay locomotive from the WM Ritter Lumber Co. and a 2-truck Climax locomotive from the Elk River Coal & Lumber Co. of West Virginia.

During my visit to the railroad, the Dixiana would have the duty of pulling the trains while the Sonora would be on standby. Having never seen a 2-truck, narrow gauge, Shay locomotive in service, I was quite happy to find this out.

Prior to my visit I made sure to research the best photo locations along the line as well as other tips for my visit, the ngdiscussion.net forums proved to be very helpful when it came to this task.

One thing that I could not plan for was the weather. While on most occasions sunny conditions are best, since the Roaring Camp runs through the woods and is mostly shaded with sunlight filtering through, a cloudy day is best for photographs. Luckily I received a beautiful overcast day for my visit!

The most challenging part was finding which series of trails to follow through the woods to where I wanted to capture the train. Through some trial and error, mostly error, I was able to find some pretty sweet spots showcasing the massive trees.ImageThe engineer oils around Dixiana prior to the first departure of the day.Image

ImageThe #1 climbs the grade with its 6 car train as it nears the Grizzly Flats crossing with the first train of the day.ImageThe Dixiana heads downgrade as it crosses the Indian Creek Trestle with a full trainload of passengers.Image

A view from the cab of Shay #1 as it crosses over the Indian Creek Trestle.  The train clears the Redwoods by only inches in many places along the line.

WSII-2206ImageThe fireman raises the spout after topping off #1′s tender.ImageImageImageThe Dixiana travels through the massive Redwoods as the train travels downgrade near McSkunk junction.ImageThe train prepares to depart the depot with a private, evening wedding special.Image

My first visit to Roaring Camp was very enjoyable and I look forward to visiting again!

Be sure to “like” my Facebook page devoted to my photography where you can stay up to date on recent shoots.

Image

Reaching for the stars from 39,000 feet

When most people think of a rocket launch, they think of a launch site along the sandy beaches of Florida’s Space Coast or Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California, however this is not always the case. I recently travelled with Spaceflight Now to VAFB for the launch of an Orbital Sciences Pegasus rocket carrying the IRIS satellite for NASA.ImageThe Pegasus is your typical rocket, with one major difference, it launches from the belly of a Lockheed L-1011 aircraft from 39,000 ft in the air!ImageThe Pegasus is a 58ft long, three-stage, solid fueled rocket. It is capable of lifting 1,000 pounds into Low Earth Orbit. Pegasus became operational in 1990 and has had a total of 42 launches. The three solid motors are produced by Alliant Techsystems (ATK), the same makers of the now retired space shuttles solid rocket boosters.Image

The carrier aircraft, named Stargazer, is a modified Lockheed L-1011 TriStar aircraft built for Air Canada in 1974 and acquired by Orbital Sciences in the early 1990s. The Pegasus made its first launch from the aircraft in June of 1994 and has had 36 launches since.

The L-1011 is a rare bird in itself, as of December 2012 only 13 remain in service around the world and the Stargazer is the last L-1011 flying in the United States.

The aerial launch platform allows the Pegasus to be launched from locations such as Vandenberg Air Force Base, Kennedy Space Center, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean or the Kwajalein Range in the Pacific Ocean.

I was able to photograph the Pegasus launch vehicle and L-1011 aircraft two days before launch on the Hot Pad at the Vandenberg Air Force Base runway while crews were preparing the vehicle for launch. ImageMy tour started with a walk around the aircraft where I was able to photograph the L-1011 and Pegasus from multiple angles.

Image

ImageThe Pegasus is attached to the L-1011 by a series of hydraulic hooks.Image

Image

A view of the aft-end of the Pegasus rocket. The first stage produces 163,000 pounds of thrust. ImageFrom this angle you can clearly make out the carbon composite delta wing designed by Burt Rutan. This wing generates the aerodynamic lift needed to guide the payload into orbit.ImageHere’s a look at the flight deck of the L-1011. This flight was crewed by pilot Don Walter, co-pilot Ebb Harris, who has the duty of releasing the Pegasus by pushing a button on the center console, and flight engineer Bob Taylor. The mission was commanded by Bill Weaver, who piloted all previous L-1011 Pegasus flights and retired following this mission after an incredible career.Image

Weaver, a former Lockheed test pilot, has an interesting story: he ejected from an SR-71 Blackbird at Mach 3.2 as the aircraft broke up around him during a test flight on January 26, 1966. More information on his incredible story can be found HERE.ImageHere’s a look at the Pegasus release button that would be enabled and pushed by co-pilot Ebb Harris during flight. Upon release, the Pegasus free-falls horizontally for five seconds before the first stage rocket is ignited. The total flight time for a typical Pegasus mission into orbit is around 10 minutes.ImageTwo Launch Panel Operators man stations during the flight. They are located in what was formerly the first class section of the aircraft. Jim Stowers monitored the Pegasus systems while Fred Foerst monitored the IRIS payload.Image

The rear of the aircraft is completely stripped of all seats and paneling to conserve weight.

Be sure to “like” my Facebook page devoted to my photography where you can stay up to date on recent shoots.

Image

Coast-to-Coast with the Atlas V

Just a month after photographing the launch of NASA’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission  from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, I made my way to Florida’s Space Coast for the launch of the United States Air Force’s Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) satellite. Like Landsat,  SBIRS would launch on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in the 401 configuration, meaning the booster has no solid rocket motors.Image

For the launch, United Launch Alliance hosted its first tweetup, giving social media users an up close view of the launch, facility tours and a chance to speak with mission personnel. SpaceflightNow Editor Justin Ray and I joined the tweeters for the Monday morning session.

If you are interested in attending a future ULA Tweetup, follow them on Twitter @ulalaunch for announcements.

First on the agenda was a trip to the beach mound to witness the rollout of the Atlas V from the Vertical Integration Facility.

Image

Image

Following the rollout, we were taken to a spot just outside of the pad perimeter fence for a great, up close view of the 189ft tall rocket.

Image

Image

Our next stop was a visit to the Atlas Spaceflight Operation Center (ASOC) where we were treated to lunch and talks from various officials close to the mission.

Image

Colonel James Planeaux, director of Infrared Space Systems Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center out of Los Angeles, CA. speaks to the Tweetup following lunch.Image

A Tweetup participant records the event.

Image

While the Tweetup continued along to the Range Control Center, we had to break away and head to remote camera setup at the launch pad. I set up four cameras in three different spots around the pad, including one just 150ft away from the towering rocket.

Image

I had been looking forward to the nice evening light the launch would offer. Although the clouds had me worried, they would end up clearing out for launch day.

Image

On launch day, my fears of an overcast launch were eased. The Atlas lifted off into the deep blue sky right on time at 5:21pm. About an hour after the launch we were cleared to go out to the pad to retrieve our remote cameras. All four of my cameras fired, providing some great shots of the launch!

Image

Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm, F/8, 1/1000, ISO 200

Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm, F/8, 1/1000, ISO 200

Image

Canon 7D, 24-105L, F/8, 1/1000, ISO 200

Image

Canon 40D, Sigma 10-20mm, F/9, 1/1000, ISO 200

My viewing location was from a causeway located 4.3 miles from the launch pad.

Image

Image

Image

Image

And that concludes another successful launch. My next launch is a Delta IV Medium currently scheduled for early May, followed by another Atlas V launch on May 15th. Sounds like a great way to celebrate my college graduation!

Most of the photos seen in this blog are available for purchase here.

Be sure to “like” my Facebook page devoted to my photography where you can stay up to date on recent shoots.

Image