What a weekend! I don’t know how I managed to pull it off.
These pictures are out of order as far as the days they were taken. I’m saving the good stuff for the end.
These first ones were taken on Sunday. I went down to the Gasparilla Festival of the Art in Tampa, which is the same fest I had work in through their Emerging Artists program back in 2017 (seems like sooooooo long ago!). A few weeks back some of this year’s Emerging Artists contacted me to pick my brain. I think I mentored people! May all of the gods have mercy on their souls!
I went down on Sunday to check out their work and chat. Good times were had. I brought my camera along and snapped a few shots in downtown Tampa, starting with the header up there.
After leaving GFA, I went to a park along Tampa Bay to shoot an Iridium flare. I think there are only nine satellites left in orbit that are making flares, and they won’t be there for too much longer.
Um, there is no flare. I was watching the little blip of light move across the sky. As it started to get brighter, I realized it was going to flare before it was in frame. I tried to move the camera, but it was too late. For a while I cursed myself for screwing it up. But after rechecking the predicted time and place in the sky that it should have happened, it really wasn’t my fault.
The flare was predicted to happen at 43 degrees above the horizon. It happened at probably 60 to 65 degrees. The key word here is “predicted.” The calculations are pretty spot on, but the slightest change in anything can throw it off by a hair.
I got a nice picture of out it, so ok. I will be using this spot for something else real soon! And I have another Iridium Flare chance tomorrow night out at the beach.
The real fun of the weekend was on Friday and Saturday. I got up on Friday morning around 8:00 AM and did all my normal stuff during the day. A little after 8:00 PM I hit the road, headed for Cape Canaveral. Once there, I met up with two photogfriends and we headed out to our swampy spot for the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo launch.
Our normally vacant spot had a few other people out there to watch the launch, which is expected as it was a pretty significant spaceflight event. First, I set up the old D3100 with the 50mm lens to shoot some star trails to what I thought was north. It was more north-northwest than north. I only did some minimal editing to this so far. This is just shy of 200 exposures. I have some work still to do on this picture.
While this was shooting, I turned my attention to the direction of the launch. First I shot 117 minutes of star trails. While that was happening, some interesting this went down. First, the Air Force helicopter that patrols the launch hazard zone (where no boats, planes, or people can be as they will die if something goes wrong) gave us a very slow and low fly-over. As it approached, one friend called out “lights off.” I responded with “you know they have infrared cameras, right?” We had been spotted.
A few minutes later, a patrol boat came around from behind the little peninsula of land we were on. It was maybe 50 meters away and lit us up with a spot light. We were pretty sure the next thing to happen would be someone hiking in and removing us. Nope. That was it.
As all this was going on, a thunder storm was throwing lightning bolts way out in the Atlantic ocean. It was in frame. The lightning continued through the launch.
Oh yeah, the launch. So we knew the rocket would be heading a bit more north than the typical launch trajectory. We were not prepared for how far north. Very shortly after lift-off, I knew the light trail was well out of frame. Soon, we were looking almost straight up as this thing flew about as close to over head as one wants to or should be for a rocket launch. But the view was amazing. Had something gone wrong in the first minute or so of flight, we’d have been in trouble. We did get a spectacular view of the first stage re-entry and landing burn. It was still way out in the ocean, but we were at the closest spot to it.
The whole thing was spectacular. The launch pad used (LC-39A) was about five miles closer to us than the one SpaceX uses for most other launches. It’s simply amazing to watch each time.
That squiggly light trail in the lower right corner is the helicopter on its approach to us.
After the launch, the Milky Way would be rising so I attempted to shoot it. The launch pad lights were still on, and the Milky Way was still really low and in the haze. I might be about to coax a little more out of this shot later. This is a very rough edit. We’ll see what I can do with it.
I arrived home at 7:00 AM on Saturday and went to sleep at 8:00 AM, a full 24-hours after waking up. Totally worth it.