A group of friends planned on viewing and photographing the launch of the Space X Falcon 9. The launch was going to happen out of Vandenberg Air Force Base shortly after sunset. The idea was that we would gather up at an agreed upon spot in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
I had just gotten off work and it was a race with the devil to get up there on time. That meant bombing up a little mountain road that’s been beat up by logging trucks. Fortunate for me I’m familiar with the twists, turns, and gaping voids in the road that we’ll call “potholes” for the sake of argument.
Once I pulled up I saw the rocket launch from over 200 miles away. I barely had time to setup let alone truly dial in the exposure that I wanted. My first two attempts overexposed; I had never photographed a rocket launch before. I had setup the same way that I would shoot stars at night: ISO 3200 and about 25 seconds with my Canon 5d Mk III. Oh no, definitely not the way to go. I dropped the exposure time way down and got this shot just in time (ISO 3200, f/4, 2 seconds at 40mm using my 17-40 L-series). You can see the main booster coming back to earth in the bottom left corner of the frame. The other colors are mostly from the sun setting. This was a stunning display.
Time for some Milky Way fun
After the launch there was still time to shoot the Milky Way. There was no moonlight, it was pretty dark, and the clouds were cooperating. Why not? I setup a composition that I liked with my car and the Milky Way. I opened the door so the dome light would turn on for a few seconds, introducing a glow inside.