This sequence of images was captured on Kodak Ektar 100 film with a sound-triggered Nikon N90s several hundred feet from the launchpad.


Because of the inherent danger and the violent release of energy necessary to send a rocket into orbit, the nearest safe vantage point to watch or photograph a rocket launch is, like Wallops’ press viewing site, at least a couple of miles away. In order to capture dramatic, up close photos and videos of the launch, photographers place remote cameras near the launch pad a day or more before the flight. These remote cameras are usually sound-activated by the deafening roar of the vehicle’s engines coming to life, or programmed to fire at a predetermined time to capture the launch. Because they are left out in the elements for days (and nights) at a time, the remote cameras must be protected from the elements, carefully secured to the ground, and often employ homemade solutions like timed trap doors and electric heaters to keep their lenses clear and dew-free. The remote camera setups pictured here were used to capture the photos and video in this project. 

A modified toolbox, mounted on a tripod, serves as a protective housing for a digital SLR, GoPro video camera and electronics to photograph the launch remotely from about 200 yards from the launchpad. The tripod is staked into the ground to keep it from being knocked over by weather or the blast of the rocket.

Inside the housing, an Arduino Nano controls a servo-actuated GoPro video camera as well as an electric heater to keep the SLR's lens warm so it doesn't get covered in morning dew. Hand warmers keep the batteries from freezing overnight with temperatures expected to be in the 20s.

Homemade camera sound triggers with variable sensitivity are set to fire the camera on the roar of a rocket engine without being triggered by the ambient noise of the seaside launch complex.

Various methods, ranging from elaborate housings, to less elegant solutions, are employed to protect remote camera setups from overnight weather while waiting for the launch. This Nikon D2Hs, outfitted with a sound trigger and Arduino-controlled dew heater is protected from the elements by a plastic garbage bag.

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