Saturday, October 27, 2007

How to take a great up-close picture of a shuttle launch...

What do you do if you would like to take a real up-close picture of a space shuttle sitting in the launch pad? Or even an up-close view of it launching? OK, the first thing you should do is obtain launch transportation tickets to the NASA causeway. That will bring you to the closest viewing spot available to the public.

But, hey, that spot is still six miles away from the launch pad. So you need a very strong zoom lens to get a real up-close picture. And, of course, most of us will not be able to afford one. In fact, most will not even be able to afford renting one. End of the game? For me, yes. I lend a 300mm lens, giving roughly 500mm equivalent on my digital camera. I was quite satisfied by the result.

A fellow launch viewer and astronomer did not give up that quickly. He actually took a Celestron C8 telescope and mounted it in front of his camera. The result was the great picture you see right at the start of this post. However, I find it even more astonishing how he managed to take those pictures. Have a look:

Using a Celestron C8 telescope to take space shuttle launch pictures

He even managed to hand-hold it while taking pictures! Congratulations to this great job!

As you can see, there is always a solution if you are motivated to do it. I think this is the spirit that made spaceflight a reality and I was extremely pleased to see it applied to solve launch viewing issues ;)

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Colin said...

Hey Rainer -

Here are the pictures of the launch as viewed through the telescope - just in case you are interested!

Hope your pictures came out well - what did things look like at 500mm?

Rainer said...


sorry for the late reply, I am still trying to catch up.

I have visited your pictures and they are absolutely amazing. I think I'll put some of them into the blog. Please let me know if that is OK with you.

I have some of my pics online at

STS-120 launch pictures from NASA causeway

more to come as I find time...


Colin said...

Please feel free to post the pictures - I hope everybody can enjoy them :)


Rainer said...

Hi Colin,

still somewhat catching up - family decided to end the launch viewing trip at a gulf beach ;)

Thanks for your permission, I'll post them either this evening or Sunday/Monday. We fly back tomorrow, so it is once again a busy time. :)


Brian said...

Awesome pics! How do you get to the spot where you were? I'm in AZ and planning on heading out there for a shuttle launch in 2009 and was curious! Any info you could provide would be nothing short of fantastic! Thanks!