Assignments can be boring and assignments can be a blast – literally! This past week I was out shooting the first Tomahawk missile launch aboard the USS Sterett (DDG 104) off the coast of Southern California. The test firings went well and I was able to capture a few good frames.
Shooting a missile launch is quite challenging and it happens very quick, so knowing your equipment and your technique are the key to getting the shot. Timing and exposure are the two largest obstacles because you don’t want to miss the launch, and you also don’t want an under or overexposed photo that is completely unusable.
To counter the timing, I watched closely for the cell hatch to open as I knew I would have a few seconds afterward before the actual launch. Exposure being the other challenge, I underexposed the ambient by 1 and 1/2 stops in order to ensure I would be able to retain some detail in the fireball that would surround the missile.
I also got to meet a fellow photographer, Carmichael Yepez who also there to document the launch. He even put together a couple of videos from the launch, which was a nice addition to the photography. Sterett launched two missiles, and on day one we shot on board the ship and on day two we were out in a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB), 500 yards behind the ship to capture the actions. Carmichael’s videos capture some of the fun, as we proceeded to perform high-speed maneuvers in the RHIB after the launch in less than ideal seas.
The shot above was from the perspective we got while shooting in the RHIB. It was a lot of fun and something that I hadn’t done before.
I also took the opportunity to take several portraits of the crew, including the two gentlemen that actually fired the two missiles. I went for the bare bones as far as gear was concerned with my D90 and an SB800 triggered with CLS. Came up with some cool stuff though, thanks to a couple of VALs (Voice-Activated Lightstands).
All in all, I had a great week and got a lot of shooting done. I picked up some cool tips and tricks from my new friend Carmichael, and look forward to doing some more shooting with him in the future. The only way to sharpen you skills and improve your photography is to get out and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot some more. Can’t say that enough.
Have a great week!