Exposures for fast moving objects

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by graham_martin|2, May 22, 2009.

  1. As we all know the RB67 lenses have a fastest exposure of 1/400 second (unless there are some lenses that I haven't come across yet). I am very fortunate to be able to take launch pictures of the Shuttle from the same location as the press photographers. I am 3.2 miles from the pad. So far I have been using my DSLR with good results. For a daytime launch the settings are usually ISO200, f/8 or f/11 with a shutter speed of 1/1000 of second. I also use a 600mm lens.
    For the next launch I would like to use my RB67 instead. I have a 360mm lens and a 2X teleconverter if needed. I have some ASA800 fujicolor film which should allow me to set the shutter speed at 1/250 at f/8 or I could set at 1/400 at an aperture of f/4 or f/5.6.Does this make sense?
    My concern is that even at 1/400 second, and with the shuttle accelerating so quickly, that I might still get an unsharp/blurred picture. I will say this. In the first few seconds after fuel ignition the rocket does lift off comparatively slowly which should help me. With the DSLR I shoot at 8 fps in machine gun fashion. This time I want to get a picture that I can really enlarge and be able to see the shuttle, the booster rockets and the launch superstructure in great detail. Perhaps I need to concentrate on the launch as it is clearing the tower rather than 6 or 7 seconds later when the acceleration is eye-popping. By the way, I do have a power winder which will help me take some fairly rapid shots. Nowhere near 8 fps, but perhaps one every second or two.
    I know that the RB67 is not really designed for this type of photography, but perhaps someone out there may have had some similar experience. Suggestions welcome.
  2. Most of the early space programme photos were taken with remote MF bodies - I beleive they were mainly Rollei (faster speeds) but that some including the one in the space center were taken with Fuji panoramic bodies (6x12 and 6x17) so I think that 1/400 should be OK.
  3. Thanks Philip
    I will try the 1/400 and see what happens. That's one of the beauties of photography. One gets to do some experimenting and sometimes the results are quite surprising and very pleasing.
  4. The key factor is not how fast the shuttle is going but rather how fast the image of the shuttle is skating across your film. If the camera is tracking the shuttle then even a slow shutter speed is fine. Conversely if, for example, the shuttle image is moving across your film at 5mm per second a shutter speed of 1/250 second will deliver a 0.02mm blur. Is that ok? If your final enlargement ratio is up to 10x then it is.
    A rule of thumb suggests final picture detail of 0.2mm is as fine as the eye can see at normal reading distance. Running this sort of arithmetic backwards should give you a good estimate of what camera work you need to do to get sharp shuttle pictures.
  5. Get the shot in the first 2-3 seconds.
  6. Philip,
    In the days of the early space program, there were no Rolleis with faster speeds nor, i believe, Fuji panaroma cameras.
  7. I agree with Maris: it is all a matter of 'angular' speed. A launching shuttle may be quick, but what matters is how fast it travels across your field of view.
    And being a long way away from you, that may still be slow enough. Even when using a very long lens.
  8. I'm surprised you are able to get any good shots from that distance. That's a lot of air and crap between you and the target. A polarizer might help to cut through the haze. On a MF camera f8 is not going to be very stopped down either. You can try it, but the combination of ISO 800 film, a 2x teleconverter, working distance of over 3 miles, and an aperture of f8 or larger may not give you the results that you seek.
  9. Thanks Steve, actually one can get some pretty darned good shots from that distance even with the haze. The extra light that the rocket adds overwhelms everything else. Why do you say that f/8 is not very stopped down? Is there something different on a MF camera compared to a 35mm when it comes to stops?
    Here is a link to a nighttime launch which I shot using a Nikon D300 and a 600mm lens.
  10. While i have heard that they were not taken with Rollei or Fuji panoramic I just checked Lief Ericksenn's book on MF photography. his shot in the press center of the Kennedy Space center was taken with a Fuji 617 at 1/250 and F22. He has other launch photos in the book Several taken with the Rollei 6006 Mk2 at 1/250 (no F stop given) and another on Velvia 50 (no exposure information given) He also has the Hubble launch taken with a Fujica 645 at 1/250 and F11. I hope this helps Graham.
  11. Thanks Philip
    I will have to see if I can find a copy of Ericksenn's book. By any chance did he say what speed film he was using?
  12. Why do you want to freeze a moving shuttle? If you want it still, take it when it's on the launch pad.

    Moving objects which are captured on film visibly in motion are a joy to view. A picture showing a totally frozen image of an object we know is in motion is disquieting.

    For subjects like planes and F1 cars, it seems unnatural. For athletes and people, it can look comical- esp if their weird expressions and features are completely frozen,

    There's a limit to what 1/400 can do to a moving object. If you want it really motionless- if that's of prime importance to you- use an slr with 1/4000.
  13. That's a good question and, generally speaking, I would agree with you. However, I am taking pictures for our local paper and they want the frozen action. Also, if you study the history of shuttle photography you will see that just about all the published pictures are taken with a fast shutter speed. When you look at the rocket during launch with all the ignited fuel roaring from its tail I don't think that there can be any doubt in the viewer's mind that this is one fast moving dude.
    With planes and race cars you always have another one coming along in a few seconds if you want to vary your shutter speeds. With a shuttle launch you only get one chance, and for that the frozen image is preferable. I will say that I do use a second camera with a wide angle lens that shoots a new frame every second and this captures the climb as it reaches high altitudes very, very quickly. Trust me, as the shuttle throttles up as it approaches 17,000 mph, you really do get the sense of speed.
  14. Only on one shot for which he states Velvia 50 for another Velvia (so 50 or 100 ISO as it was shot on MF) in one photo he states Fuji negative film. I suspect that he was using 50-100 in most cases given the other shots in the book. The book is one I bought many years ago - Medium Format Photography - Lief Ericksenn published by Watson-Guptill in 1991 ISBN 0-8174-4555-2 It is a general intro to MF photography which is why I bought it. I beleive he was the NASA staff photographer for many years and the book has a large number of photos from NASA. Many of the shots have no aperture data as they were taken using remote control cameras set to AE.
  15. Even 720 mm on 6x7 is going to have a smaller angle of view than 600 mm on a DSLR (especially if the DSLR is a crop sensor), quite significantly less. Thus you can also assume that a slower shutter speed is sufficient. If possible I would go with a 400 speed film due to the considerable increase in quality over 800. Also, take the shots immediately after the liftoff.
    You could try this out on some fast moving things in advance, e.g. cars or planes, ans see how the shutter speeds affect things.
  16. Thanks Philip and Oskar, I appreciate the information. I will try using the 400 speed film on some more earthly object prior to the next launch. I went down to the Kennedy Space Center this morning for the shuttle landing. All who were there were disappointed that the landing wasn't at KSC, but are all thankful for a safe landing at Edwards. This may create a new photo-op for when the shuttle comes piggy-back on top of a 747. That must be quite a site to see.

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