What is the common thing about all space explorations and shuttles taking off for space? They look damn marvelous during launch and NASA makes it look even cooler by publishing those pictures where you can see tons of fuel being burnt and mighty shuttles taking off. However, did you know who takes these photographs?
Say hello to Ben Cooper who has been shooting NASA’s rocket launches since July 1999 and has photographed more than 100 of these launches. The recent entries include his work on the space shuttle Endeavour’s last flight. We shall move to his pictures shortly once we’ve talked a bit about how does he manage to get such great stills.
In his own words; ‘My equipment is subjected to not only the elements while waiting, but the ferociousness of the launch itself. The rocket exhaust comes flying out at tremendous speeds and, if you’re close enough, with extreme heat from the rocket engines. It is also very corrosive when it lands on your camera or tripod-some of the exhaust contains hydrochloric acid, among other things. I’ve lost two lenses so far, most notably an expensive Nikkor 16mm fisheye, for which you can’t fit a good filter on the front. But, like any true photographer, as long as I get the shot, I’m happy! ‘
One needs to be close to the launch pad in order to get a good shot and that’s a pre-requisite. However, it is quite dangerous to get close to a launch site especially at the time of ignition. In most cases, it is prohibited due to the threat it poses for the photographer. The strategy employed by Cooper is very simple; he and his team sets up their cameras about a day before the launch and make use of triggers to take photographs while they are miles away, safe. These triggers basically depend upon sound to fire and are self-made by Cooper.