Out of dissatisfaction with the quality of previous SpaceX launch videos, photographer Jesse Watson decided to take the matter into his own hands and shot a time-lapse video that has impressed both online and photography communities.
Watson uploaded the 40-second footage showing the Falcon 9's whale-shaped glowing plume on Vimeo on Dec. 23 and shared it over social media platforms. Eventually, this post caught the attention of fellow photographer Nicole York, who featured it on the photography and videography website Fstoppers.
As of Dec. 27, it has been played more than 95,000 times on Vimeo and viewed for over 275,000 times on Facebook.
Watson Uses The Photographer's Ephemeris, Google Maps To Select Best Location
Watson shares through the video description that he learned of the Falcon 9 rocket launch from a few days before its schedule. The Vandenberg Air Force Base is about 400 miles away from his home in Yuma, Arizona. However, even at such distance, he notes that the spacecraft would still be "perfectly viewable."
To prepare for the shoot, he scouted four different locations across Yuma using The Photographer's Ephemeris and Google Maps. He ended up selecting a hill located downtown, which overlooks the city, noting it offers the easiest access for his equipment.
Since it was his first time to capture a rocket launch, Watson had no idea how to estimate the Falcon 9's trajectory. He resolved to bring four cameras and five lenses, which would allow him to shoot a wide coverage of the event. Three of them were designed especially for time-lapse, while one was for taking regular photos and videos.
Falcon 9 Rocket Launch Is Shot On Nikon D810
Watson arrived on location a couple of hours before Falcon 9's launch time, which was at 6:27 p.m. in Arizona. He had his equipment all set up and began rolling his cameras an estimated 45 minutes before the takeoff.
The photographer waited for 6:27 p.m., but no rocket was in sight.
"I was a little disheartened at first thinking maybe it wouldn't show up or that something happened and they did not launch, but continued to roll the time-lapses," he said.
After a while, the rocket flew into the horizon, leaving a mysterious glow behind its trail. It passed right into Watson's field of vision, allowing him to capture a time-lapse using two Nikon D810 cameras, which according to a report he fitted with a 14-24 mm and 85 mm lens. He stopped shooting after the plume faded.
Watson captured a total of 2,452 images during the SpaceX rocket launch, which was later trimmed down to 1,315 after editing using Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro.