Entry 2 // Streaking

This blog post is about how to capture a rocket launch streak image. We asked people on twitter to submit questions and we’ve embedded their questions to keep it simple. Also, we could really get into the weeds on this topic because of the creative aspects, so, this will be just the fundamentals and the creative stuff is up to you!

Assuming you already have a DSLR and Tripod, you’ll also need an inexpensive camera trigger or the best camera trigger so that you can hold your shutter open for longer than 30-seconds.

Let’s go streaking!


The trick here Dan, is to put a strip of tape on the lens zoom & focus rings but leave the tape loose enough to make the following adjustments:

Turn on your ‘Live View’ function so that you can see the scene in your LCD screen.

While looking at the LCD screen, adjust the focus manually with your hand until lights in the background are sharp (I usually use street lights). When the lights are tack-sharp on the display, go ahead and push the tape down on the lens so it doesn’t move. That’s it.

Oh, and turn off lens image stabilizer or else your image will be blurry.


I’m not going to get into the Why? or How it works? so much…

Lens Focal Length

A guideline that’s always worked for me is that if you’re within 10-miles of the launch; use a 10mm lens or fisheye lens. Otherwise, use the widest lens you have, wherever you are.

Camera Settings

ISO: 200

Low ISO has better image quality.

But low ISO also slows down the rate at which your sensor absorbs light.

f-stop: 18-22

You can get creative with f-stops, don’t be afraid to try different f-stops, but, if you use a lower number you’re going to have to use less time on your shutter speed or else you have a white-overexposed image.

See examples below.


LaunchLife Example.jpg

Jetty Park

ISO: 200

F/: 18

Shutter: 3:35

Fisheye Lens

Launchlife example 2.jpg

ULA Press Site

ISO: 200

F/: 11

Shutter: 3:35

10mm Lens

See the difference a lower F-Stop makes with your streak?

The higher the f/, the more pin-stripe streak you’ll have.

Shutter: 3:40 3 minutes 40 seconds

You should check the SpaceX mission Press Kit when they post it to the website because it will have a launch sequence in times, like this:

Screen Shot 2019-06-21 at 6.02.43 PM.png

Find the event where stage separation occurs. In this case, 3:35. But keep your shutter open for 3:40 (room for error).

Don’t start taking your image early or late. Take the picture as soon as you see the rocket ignite.

Since Falcon Heavy will be landing, take 3 separate images for 3:40, immediately after the one before it.

If you have a Miops trigger, you can set it to do this automatically for you. But if you’re using a handheld trigger you’ll need to remember to stop and restart it yourself.


With the settings above, take a few practice images before launch. I usually look at the cloud movement, foreground elements, anything else distracting in the image at this time and make changes and test again.

You’d want to avoid a full 9-minute exposure because of cloud movement, people with flashlights, low image quality due to long exposure, maybe even fog building up on the lens every 5 minutes.

But people such as Mike Seeley love doing single exposures at 9-minutes and is quite good at it. It’s a personal preference.

If you have 3 separate images to stack, you have more creative freedom in your post processing and final edits.


If you want to take your 3 images to the next level, you’ll have to search how to stack them in photoshop.

launclife example 3.jpg

ISO: 200

f/ 18

Shutter: 3:45

10mm lens.

Three separate images stacked in photoshop.

I wish you all the best of luck. Share your images #launchlife when you get them.

Live your LaunchLife out loud!

-Crew, over and out.

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