OK, this is not the kind of photography you and I will probably ever get a chance to do, but it is nevertheless cool! If you, as a NASA scientist, need to watch the Space Shuttle ascend from its launch pad and examine if there is any danger where debris may have dislodged thermal insulation blankets or heat shield tiles, what cameras would you use, where would you position them, and what focal length and exposure would you use? Good questions, eh? The video (long at 45 min) answers these photography-related questions and more. One tidbit: each camera is in an explosion-proof box fronted by a quartz glass.
Interesting facts: At liftoff, the shuttle burns over 1000 gallons of liquid propellants and 20,000 pounds of solid fuel every second. This generates approx. seven and a half million pounds of thrust. The shuttle travels at 5 miles per second and takes eight and a half minutes to reach orbit. This video shows what happens during this ascent. It’s amazing, spectacular and wonderful photography footage! Why is this not a TV documentary?
If this video is too long for you, start at 20:34 for an absolutely not-to-be-missed footage. Also at 23:43, 25:02, 27:23, 28:57 (how the cameras are triggerred), 30:52 (watch the birds fly away real fast — and really beautiful footage), 31:49 (tracking camera manually operated using a trackball), … . The detail is incredibly sharp. No focus problem here. In all, about 125 cameras track every shuttle launch.
Here’s how it actually sounds:
A different launch perspective and the view of Earth from above: