Assignment: First Tomahawk Launch

Tomahawk MIssile Launch

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.

Second Tomahawk Launch

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). 🙂

First Tomahawk Shooter

Second Tomahawk Shooter




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!


19 thoughts on “Assignment: First Tomahawk Launch

    • Thanks Joanne! I share what I know here on the blog, so feel free to stop by anytime and say hello! If there is something you would like to know, please ask and I’ll be happy to help out.

      All the best,


  1. Wow. Great shots and thanks for not just sharing the pics but also for giving vital info on photography.

    I happened to see your blog as it was on freshly pressed. your website is cool.

    You must come to India if your forte is family and children. You will be amazed at the variety you can find here.

    • Hi Rohit,

      I’m a firm believer in sharing what you know, and that’s I why I do what I do here on my blog. Thank you for the kind words and compliments!

      Maybe one day I will make a trip to India!

      All the best,


  2. Nice shots, like how you captured the Tomahawk coming out of the launch bay; while also liking the two sailors.

  3. Great photos! Kudos, really, you have a good eye.

    As a retired Navy wife, I’m concerned that the launches characteristics and Intel will be viewed by less than savory enemies and will be carefully archived for future reference. Just a thought to ensure you protect the information and hopefully got the clearance to publish on your blog? It’s better to be safe rather than regret the information getting in the wrong hands!

    • Hi Annie,

      Thank you for the compliments and!. In answer to your question, all photos and videos have been approved for media release, so no need to worry.

      Thank you for the sacrifices you have made for your husband’s service to Our Nation!

      All the best,


  4. Stephen,
    MC1 Yepez told me about your site and your work. Just stopped by to say, “nice job.” I look forward to seeing more of your pics in the future!

    MCC Joe Kane
    Chief of Photojournalism Dept.
    Combat Camera Pacific

  5. Hey Stephen: Wow, really great shots here! I like the not too over done “spotlight” on the subjects with some of the ambient showing through. Nice work! I especially like the shot of the four men. And I see a Tiger look-alike there too. Always appreciate your blog and you sharing your knowledge! 🙂

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