So I’ve just returned home from my 2 week trip to Florida for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy STP-2 launch and NASA’s Orion Ascent Abort-2 test. It was the first trip in my Tesla Model 3, and it couldn’t have gone better. Both missions launched successfully and provided some really unique lighting scenarios in which to capture them.

Falcon Heavy had its first night launch, and was a lot brighter than most expected it to be.

I thought my usual settings for a long exposure would do just fine, even though 3x the rocket would mean quite a bit brighter – I figured it would be fine. Sort of overexposed the initial portions of the flight but still happy with the framing. Came eerily close to clipping off the top of the launch😈

Another experimental photo I tried was a super close up of was the separation of the side boosters and their boostback burns.

I said to myself, maybe I should go a little wider just to be safe. No, I planned it out and tracked it live to figure out when I needed to lock down the tripod — I just locked the tripod down too early🙃 See at the top where there’s a bit of headroom/empty black space above where the rocket trail starts? If I would have given it that much room but on the bottom instead, it would have been perfect. Oh well, you win some and you lose some a lot to get those winner shots🤷🏻‍♂️

I did, however, nail the exposure settings needed for that shot so the next time a Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy night launch is doing an RTLS – I’ll be plenty prepared.

Would you like to try a shot like this/see the settings to the above long exposure? Click the ‘Settings‘ button below it and log in or become a Patron to view the settings to any of my photos! (You’ll also get access to my Discord server too)

In between the two launches, John Kraus and I road tripped up to the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse to try and catch the sunset behind the lantern room of the lighthouse. Unfortunately, there ended up being a deck of clouds just above the tip of the lighthouse that messed up our plans. Still got some nice shots though.

Orion’s Ascent Abort provided another unique challenge because of the early morning light. Thinking back, I don’t think I’ve yet had the privilege to see a just-after-sunrise launch and so the settings I chose ended up being a bit darker than needed.

But goodness did I get lucky.

If you look closely at the top of the rocket, the launch abort has just fired but only for a split second. It hasn’t yet covered up the Orion capsule and solid rocket booster.

See what I mean about winning some and losing a lot? Here is my one winner in the past few weeks.I wonder when the next one will be.🤔

Now, to the gas savings!

Gas on this road trip would have cost me $323.19 and I spent $86.94 on electricity, saving $236.25!

I knew I’d start saving $$, but am shocked to see it start off the bat so strongly! I’ve saved the equivalent of nearly half my first month’s car payment or double my insurance cost, just by not having to pay for gas.

I’ve calculated if I drive to just 50% of the launches vs flying to all of them as I usually do, my total monthly payment (including insurance / charging / car payment) will be $411. (not including the $3,750 federal tax credit) If I drive to 100% of the launches (which honestly, with how fun Navigate on Autopilot made it to drive, is becoming the more attractive option the more I think about it) My monthly payment will be -$60/month. Negative. I will save (make) $60/mo versus what I used to spend on air/rental car/airport parking.

Now here’s the kicker. My total monthly payment if I include the federal tax credit of $3,750 divided over the entire life of the car loan

  • 50% of the launches: $359/mo
  • 100% of the launches: -$112/mo (negative again, saving $112/mo compared to what I used to spend on air/rental car/airport parking)

It’s already showed its ability to help me as a business tool with just this one road trip. Really excited to put this car to work for me and utilize it to its fullest to make some kick ass photos over the years.

Now, if I can just figure out how to keep it clean for longer than a ~week😅