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04-15-2011, 08:05 PM   #1
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Rocket Photography

Hey everyone,

I've been trying to look for tips around this forum concerning model rocket photography with no success. I'll be in the desert tomorrow for the launch of about 20 model rockets, each equipped with motors that will fly the rockets at around 400-600 ft/s, with apogee being at around 4500 feet. I'll be taking a K-x with a Tamron 70-300mm lens with me, since we have to be pretty far away prior to launch. My goal is basically to catch at least 1 photo of the rockets mid flight while the motor is still firing. I only have about a 4 second window to catch the shot, so I want to get it right. What shutter speed should be appropriate and what focusing mode should I use? It should be pretty bright in the desert, so shutter speed probably wont be an issue, but I think continuous autofocus might be completely useless at the speed the rockets will be going. Any tips towards catching the rockets mid flight and in focus?

04-15-2011, 08:29 PM   #2
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I would think you would need as fast a speed you can manage with the available light and the lens you intend to use. I haven't been around a model rocket since my school days, but I think your hit rate for catching one going up may be a little low.
If you can manage it, try to co-ordinate with the person pressing the button.
I prefer manual focus, so personally I would try manual focus with either burst or continuous shooting.
Hopefully the weather and the light works out....
04-15-2011, 08:42 PM   #3
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I'll probably try to get the fastest shutter speed I can while still having enough light, and will probably just focus on the launchpad while burst firing. I'd like to get an apogee shot, so I'd somehow have to quickly turn on autofocus, loosen my tripod, and aim up (and find the rocket, too). I don't think that will turn out too well...
04-15-2011, 08:46 PM   #4
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You will need to get them within maybe 50 feet after launch. Manually focus ahead of time at the general distance as autofocus will be useless. If you can get reasonably close (10's of feet) you can pan with the rocket as it lifts off. If you are farther away it won't really matter.

You are not going to get a meaningful shot of a rocket at 1,000 feet, much less 4,500. Those must be some large rockets.

04-15-2011, 08:47 PM   #5
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Manual focus and continuous shooting. It shouldn't be too hard to get pictures at lift off if you start shooting a bit prior to ignition.

The other good option is to follow the rocket in the viewfinder, works best from a distance or when the rocket has gained some height.

It does take some practice, though!

Here are some examples I took with a manual focus zoom and the *istD!

Rockets in Scottsdale, Arizona
04-15-2011, 09:29 PM   #6
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Sounds like fun Hang,kind of a tough one tho,agree with "K" and Ole.Their approach
sounds like best bet.At apogee,as close as you'll be is 4500 feet and thats directly
underneath.Say you use a tripod preset at 45 degrees to catch moment there
is no up/down motion,you would have to stand off 4500 x 1.4(cosecant
45 degrees) or 6300 feet.(theoretical mid frame shot at apogee with camera at that angle) Long way to shoot,no doudt.
K-X is wonderful with high iso shots which you might want to increase because pointed
up you'll probably need some +(positive) exposure comp to render any detail and color,and still have fast,motion stopping shutter speed.
04-16-2011, 01:28 AM   #7
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Thanks for all the suggestions! Ole: the rockets we'll be launching are about 4 times the size of those . I guess I won't be looking forward to an apogee shot then. I'll check back if I get any good shots.
04-16-2011, 09:12 PM   #8
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Once they've cleared about 100ft they're moving so fast it becomes extremely difficult to get clean shots.
After a couple launches you can start to get accustomed to the timing of the launch crews and anticipate the lift-off shots.

Use a tripod, manual focus, shoot wide and be ready.



05-03-2011, 03:47 PM - 1 Like   #9
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checking back in

Hey guys! Just checking back in with some of the photos I took thanks to your help.

I ended up using a shutter speed of 1/3200 with AF.C so I could catch the rockets on descent. AF was turned off during launches.

Maximum rocket height was just about 1000 meters, so the rockets were unfortunately tiny.

Here are some of my favorite launches:










I'm really getting a great bang for the buck with the Tamron 70-300.
05-04-2011, 03:42 AM   #10
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Look good to me....
05-05-2011, 04:03 PM   #11
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I like the last shot. Must be one of them diesel powered rockets.
Well done.
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