You can probably guess what this is all about.
I traveled across my great state of Florida to watch the SpaceX Falcon Heavy test flight. My plan was to get down to the beach to be able to shoot from about two and a half miles away. I left St. Petersburg a little after 7:00 AM for the almost three-hour drive. At 8:15 AM, a friend called. He got to the beach. The park was now full and no one else would be let in. More on this at the end. You really want to read to the end.
I went to the A. Max Brewer Parkway hoping to be able to set up and shoot from the back of my truck. My friend had told me that the parkway wasn’t a madhouse when he drove in. By the time I got there at 10:30 AM, it was a madhouse. Vehicles were jammed into every available space and people everywhere. I somehow found a spot, but with no sight line to the launch pad. I walked over to the water and found a spot. I was 11 miles from the launch pad. The header picture was my view right after the launch.
The launch was scheduled for 1:30 PM but was delayed until 3:45 PM. The launch window closed at 4:00 PM, so as 3:45 approached, one more delay would mean that the launch would be scrubbed for the day. By 3:30 PM there was a weird energy that everyone could feel. It was a nervous but hopeful feeling. The thousands of people that lined every place with a sightline to the launch pad were ready to blow. It was like a powder keg of happiness.
And then it happened.
A few notes... The spots that look like I have a dirty lens, those are hundreds and hundreds of birds flying out of the swap as the sound from the launch reaches them. And that sound, even at 11 miles, was incredible.
As far as shooting, I used my 18-300mm at 300mm. I could have used my 2x teleconverter, but it’s not good for tracking a moving object like a rocket. I also set the camera in Aperture Priority mode at f/7.1. With the changing scenes as the rocket went up, I let the camera deal with shutter speed and ISO. It worked out pretty well.
A few minutes after the Falcon Heavy vanished from view, its two boosters made a synchronized landing. The also produced a total of six sonic booms. That alone was worth the trip.
Wow. I witnessed mankind’s crowning achievement: Sending a car into space because why not. Fun fact, I ended up shooting from virtually the same spot (within 25 feet, if not the exact spot) that I watched the very first Space Shuttle launch from in 1981.
Here are a few shots of the more than two-hour traffic jam to leave. I didn’t even bother. I just sat in my chair in the back of my truck and hung out until it started to clear out. There was still crazy traffic all the way to Orlando. I got home about 10:30 PM.
So... The beach. At the beach, you can get as close as two and half miles away from the launch pad. This is the difference between the two vantage points on a map.
I was going to meet up with my friend, but alas I could not get in. His pictures are fucking nuts. He actually walked out to waist-deep water in the cold Atlantic ocean to get a better angle, one that no one else would have. I could have been out there, too. I urge you to check out his shots on the Instagram. They are A-Fucking-Mazing.
A-Fucking-Mazing! I’ll leave a midnight next time to ensure that I get to the beach.