Customer Stories

Customer Stories – Photographing the SpaceX Falcon Major Launch

Something we’ve discussed before on this blog is how Lensrentals.com operates. While many of the people who work here are photographers and videographers as well, we’re still very much a specialty service. Our job is to get the tools you need to help create your work. So while we’re in the service industry, we still have a creative side to us, and occasionally get to see some of the incredible work others have created with gear rented from us. We want to start a new series here on the Lensrentals.com blog, where we can highlight some of the incredible work that our customers have created.

To kick off these community stories, we were introduced to one of our customers who had the incredible opportunity to photograph the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center on February 6th. For those who missed the news last week, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world and, in spectacular fashion, was the first time that SpaceX was able to successfully land the outer boosters for reuse on future missions. Watching this footage in real time was inspiring to say the least, and singlehandedly created the next generation of kids (and maybe this 30-something year old) who want to be astronauts when they grow up.

So let me introduce Brady Kenniston, a portrait and wedding photographer out of Bay City, MI, who has an affinity and talent for photographing rocket launches. Shooting something like rocket launches takes a whole lot of planning and talent no doubt, and this wasn’t Brady’s first experience in the trade. Shooting rocket launches now for the last couple years, with the help of his friends at NASASpaceFlight.com, Brady was able to get press credentials for this SpaceX Launch, and even had his photos shared by SpaceX’s CEO and billionaire genius, Elon Musk.

I was able to chat with Brady, as he walked me through the process of how to take photos for such an incredible and once in a lifetime event. With an event like the Falcon Heavy Launch, you only get one chance to capture this from your preferred angles, so Brady used six different cameras to shoot this launch at various shooting angles. His cameras of choice were an extensive collection of Nikon systems – The Nikon D500, Nikon D610, Nikon D3100, two Nikon D3200s, and the Nikon D7500 he rented. While the gear savvy among us may notice, a lot of the camera’s are not the latest offerings from Nikon, and that’s because they don’t need to be.

“I use crop body systems mostly because they’re cheap and good for what I need. We’re generally only shooting at ISO 100, so we don’t need the best low light system available.” Brady tells us. “When you have stuff that close to the rocket, you don’t want $10,000 worth of professional gear out there waiting to be blown over by the thrust and everything.”

But it takes a whole lot more than just a couple cameras and lenses to photograph something like this; it also takes an extensive amount of planning ahead of time. From camera placement to lens selection, everything needs to be done ahead of time, because, with a camera within 1,500 feet of a rocket capable of 5 million pounds of thrust, there is no going to change your settings last minute.

Sapce X Photography Launch Rockets

“We go out there, usually a day early. We’ll get on a bus, take all of our gear, and go to four locations where we can set up cameras. We put them on tripods and set up, and then basically leave the gear there, and have no control over our camera’s until after the rocket launch is complete. For triggering the camera, I used a Miops Sound Trigger, the same thing that most of the guys out there use. You just plug it using a normal release cable, and the system triggers the camera for you” Brady explains.

Space X Photography Rocket Launch

So the result is a lot of planning, a lot of technology, and a lot of wishful thinking as you watch the rocket lift off from a safe distance 6 miles away. It isn’t until after the rocket has left out atmosphere that you can get back on the bus, and see what your camera did, or didn’t capture. For Brady though, the end result is an incredible experience of another successful SpaceX launch (and landing), and some spectacular photos that have been shared all over the world highlighting this fantastic feat for science.

Thank you again to Brady Kenniston for sharing his story and photos with us and everyone else. Be sure you check out some more of his work on his Instagram and social media, and if you’d like to buy a print from Brady, we encourage you to check out his SmugMug store where he has some of his best photos from the day available for print purchase.

 

Have you used our gear to create something incredible and want to be featured on the blog? Feel free to comment below and we’ll reach out.

Author: Lensrentals

Articles written by the entire editorial and technical staff at LensRentals.com. These articles are for when there is more than one author for the entire post, and are written as a community effort.

Posted in Customer Stories
  • Russell McMahon

    Theyres’ awlweighs won 🙁

  • Ian Goss

    As always, plurals don’t come with apostrophes.

  • That’s a different photo shot at the same location. Likely another photographer with press credentials, who also positioned a camera at the same place and took the photo at roughly the same time. You can see it’s a different photo if you compare the position of the white pole on the launching platform, that sits in front of the smoke.

  • 1741

    Would be nice to know what lenses were used and a little bit more about exposure mode and the remote release, great pics

  • Ralph Hightower

    Incredible photos. I’d love to get access to restricted areas to place unmanned cameras; but I don’t have any cameras that I could spare.
    I want to go see a huge rocket like the Falcon Heavy launch. I saw the final launch of Apollo and to see, hear, and yes, also feel, the power of the Saturn IB rocket was incredible. I also saw the final Space Shuttle launch and landing; I don’t have great photos of the landing since I was using ISO 400 film pushed 2 stops.

    Question for Roger:
    Is using rented equipment for remote photography in a dangerous zone subject to the new rental rules for photographing events such as Burning Man and color runs?

  • Joe
  • endinyal

    I’ve left my canon 5DM3 in for weeks and the battery is still at 75%. There’s no magic. DSLR’s put mirrorless to shame where battery life is concerned.

    Low-power LCD, analog viewfinder, etc. sip little to no power.

  • Carleton Foxx

    Wow! Those are great photos.
    Couple logistical questions… How do you protect all that gear from the Florida rain? Do you bag everything? Or pray to the weather gods for dry conditions? And does each camera get triggered only once? Or do they fire until they run out of room? And finally, do you set an exposure for the cameras? Or let the camera handle the exposure?
    Again, what a wonderful writeup.

  • DSLRs go to sleep and use basically no power. I’ve left bodies on for weeks on many occasions.

  • Kieron Taylor

    To be honest, I’ve left my camera on over night without realising it. There was still at least 50% juice in the battery – the camera is doing very little until the metering chip fires up. I imagine this is a hardware optimisation hanging on from when we had really crappy batteries and LCD viewfinder overlays in film cameras.

  • GulliNL

    standby and external power makes sense…

  • grubernd

    probably even the regular battery will be enough. DSLRs don’t need a lot of power in standby, that is where all the fancy liveview mirrorless are just useless. the remote trigger will wake up the camera and take the pictures.

    else there are battery slot adapters and the remote/timelapse community has been using external battery packs, e.g. from remote controlled cars/planes/etc, for ages. only recently manufacturers have been throwing stones at us with some stupid chipped batteries and cameras that won’t work without them; because “safety” and such. so sometimes older cameras are better than newer ones.

  • jakesm

    Just like GulliNL……..How do you keep the cameras powered for such extended periods of time?

  • GulliNL

    What i’m curious about; triggering the shutter doesn’t seem to be the problem, but how do you turn your camera on remotely. I can’t imagine the camera being left ‘on’ all the time the photographer is away from his camera all the way until launch time?

  • Look at those blown highlights. Rookie mistake! 😛

  • Munchma Quchi

    Awesome photos. Love the closeups of the engines.

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