Beautiful Slow Motion Footage of a Shuttle Launch

March 09, 2011

Some folks at NASA got together and put together a video with footage from various high-speed cameras that are used to film a launch. Gets points for being both interesting and beautiful. Fair Warning: The first one is 45 min long and you might watch the entire thing without meaning to. I figured I'd watch a few minutes of it, but got absorbed and stopped noticing time until it ended.

And here's a second clip with bonus footage that they couldn't get in the first one become of time constraints.

Hello, Geminoid (and welcome back to the uncanny valley)

March 08, 2011

That's right, he's a robot. Not as creepy as others and for the first time I can see how it might be possible to create something that doesn't cause the revulsion response of the Uncanny Valley

Sound of a Shuttle Launch

March 07, 2011

When STS-133 launched on Feb. 24, 2011 from Launch Pad 39A, I was fortunate enough to be in the VIP viewing area. At about three and half miles form the pad, it's about as close as you can get without working for NASA or being an elected official. I'd been to a few other launches before, but I was closer to eight miles away. Aside from the obvious visual bonus to being closer, the biggest difference at the VIP location was the sound. The video below is from a different launch, but it'll give you an idea. It was, in a word, awesome.

Make sure to plug in your external speakers to get the full effect.

Starting off with a bang: Black Joe Lewis - Gunpowder

March 06, 2011

Now that the blog is alive again, I'm going to post more music that I like in the spirit of sharing. To start off, Black Joe Lewis doing 'Gunpowder'.


... And we're back... again

March 05, 2011

So, toward the end of 2009, I decided that I wanted to move this blog back from (where it was for a while) and at the same time, convert the underlying blog software from WordPress to Drupal. At the time, it looked like Drupal had some stuff going for it that would make what I was looking to do with this site easier/better. Four things happened since I 'started' this move:

  1. I spent a lot of time working through Drupal's notorious learning curve, but still didn't really feel confident in it.
  2. The day job ate up way too much time in 2010.
  3. I got seduced by the giant time-sink that is Facebook.
  4. WordPress upgraded to version 3.

So, after all that time, all I've ended up doing is upgrading to the latest version of WordPress and moving the blog back to this site. Of course, in the mean time, all of 2010 went by without a post….

Now that I've got things moved, I'll shoot to post more than one post every 18 months….

Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery - STS-128

September 01, 2009

Note: This post was migrated from my old blog software. It hasn't been cleaned up yet (and might not ever be). Don't be surprised if the formatting, links, images, etc... are messed up.

Last week, I spent roughly three days doing reseach/planning, eight hours driving (split between two road trips) and stood around for another half dozen hours. This was all done in order take to make a single exposure that lasted for 167 seconds and had no chance for a do-over. The subject of all this effort was space shuttle Discovery as she and her crew launched from Kennedy Space Center for mission STS-128.

Here is the result:

Flight trail of space shuttle Discovery's launch for mission STS-128

As far as I'm concerned, it's completely worth the effort.

Of course, since the above image was made with a camera sitting on a tripod, I was also able to do some shooting with a telephoto lens for a more traditional liftoff image.

Space shuttle Discovery liftoff for mission STS-128

Finally, I had planned to attach my point and shoot camera to the tripod and shoot some video as well, but the crappy flexpod I bought that day fell apart on me. So, I ended up setting the little camera directly on the ground and crossing my fingers. I couldn't get a clear view of the sky, but figured it was worth a shot anyway. The resulting video falls squarely in the "Happy Accident" category.

(Note: At about 1:50 seconds into the video, the rumble that starts is the sound from engines. It took that long for it to get to where I was shooting from. Prior to that, the all the rocket noise is coming from the audio on the radio. The announcer was obviously much closer.)

To give credit where it's due:

  • Thanks to Dr. T.S. Kelso from for helping make sure I was setup to capture the entire flight path.
  • For a great set of notes on shooting launches, visit this page on
  • K4GCC (146.940) retransmission of the NASA audio which you hear in the video.
  • M.C. for letting me borrow some additional gear.

Sunpak FlexPod Pro Plus is a P.O.S.

August 31, 2009

Note: This post was migrated from my old blog software. It hasn't been cleaned up yet (and might not ever be). Don't be surprised if the formatting, links, images, etc... are messed up.

While planning a trip to photograph the launch of space shuttle Discovery, I decided to it would be fun to try to shoot a little video as well. To accomplish this, I purchased a Sunpak FlexPod Pro Plus. One of those little gripper tripods that are designed to clamp to things and provide a camera mount. The idea was that once my main tripod was positioned, I'd just clamp this thing on to one of the legs, mount my little point and shoot camera on it, flip it to video mode and let it roll.

Nice idea, but as soon as I tried to warp the thing around the tripod leg, one of its legs busted off.

sp-20090829-misc-110949.jpg I tried using gaffers tape to reattach, but wasn't comfortable it would be stable enough to hold the camera still for the several minutes that would be necessary. I ended up using another shorter one that has a similar type of legs, but is only designed to sit on something instead of attach to it. With no platform available to rest it on, the ground was the best I could do. The video turned out better than I expected in that "happy accident" way, but I would have much rather had it taken from above the weeds instead of in them.

When I returned the broken FlexPod, the guy at the camera store asked me if I wanted to swap it out for another one. I suppose it's possible that I got the one defective one they had, but as far as I'm concerned it's just a crappy product. Needless to say, I got a refund instead.

Time to get a Magic Arm

Shuttle launch lens determination

August 28, 2009

Note: This post was migrated from my old blog software. It hasn't been cleaned up yet (and might not ever be). Don't be surprised if the formatting, links, images, etc... are messed up.

I have no idea if this will work, but I'm trying to use Google Maps to figure out what lens I should shoot the Shuttle launch with tomorrow night. Taking data from the awesome AGI Viewer Launch Scenario STS 128 launch I plotted where the shuttle should be when the main engines cut off. You can't see that point without scrolling, but it's where the lines the head off to the upper right are pointing.

View Launch Site in a larger map The other locations are the positions I'm looking to shoot from and Launch Pad 39a where the shuttle will blast off from. By sticking a protractor on the screen, I get the angles of view which I cross reference with either this chart or this tool.

Hopefully, we'll see how this all pans out tomorrow night.

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