Welcome to February! January has been a wild ride and this seventh year as a professional photographer is off to an epic start.
Seven years!? You got that right. In 2023, I begin another year with the incredible privilege of calling myself a full-time, professional photographer. It feels crazy to say that! It has been a thrilling career thus far and I am so excited for what the years and months ahead will bring about photographically. My best work is yet to come, for sure!
I’m excited here to be starting a monthly newsletter where I go over my favorite photos from the month prior! Whether it is launch, landscape, or lighthouse photos…I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, but felt like I never quite could come up with a good name to call it or I was always too busy to sit down and sum up everything up in a monthly post. (I’d rather be out there, creating!) But excuses are easy, I’m going to just do it.
Enough words already, where are the pixels! First, make sure you subscribe here below to make sure you get a summary of the month prior every 1st of the month! (your email won’t be shared / sold / yotta yotta all that good stuff — if I don’t have enough time to make a monthly newsletter I’d hardly have enough time to sell it🤣)
January started off with a bang on the 3rd with the first launch of the banner year that is to-be!
Transporter-6 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket:
Just a few days later on January 9th, we got the first RTLS (return to launch/landing site) mission of the year: OneWeb Launch #16 (#2 aboard Falcon 9)
This is an image of the Falcon 9 in a few stages of flight: MECO (main engine cutoff) of the first stage, stage separation, boost back burn (first stage firing against the direction it is traveling to swoop up and begin the journey to head home), second stage powering off toward orbit, and first stage entry burn. Look closely and you can see the bright green flash of TEA-TEB (a chemical used to ignite the engines on Falcon 9). Definitely a favorite from the month!
Here’s a wider view of that takeoff below. Whereas the above picture was at ~100mm focal length, you can see the below photo is at like 20mm.
Then, came Falcon Heavy with the USSF-67 mission. The second Falcon Heavy in only ~2 months!
January 15th, 2023:
This image is a 300mm remote, sound-activated camera view from about a quarter mile away from the launch pad (shot near the SpaceX hangar, looking directly north)
Fun fact #1: this one is that it is not cropped almost at all. 300mm on a full-frame Canon EOS R5 in this case is the perfect focal length for this kind of shot.
Fun fact #2: the center core you can see is throttled down already, and it is only just clearing the tower. The two side boosters are at max thrust, while the center core decides to take a bit of a coffee break to save some of its fuel once the side boosters separate. Wicked.
Fun fact #3: the plumes of exhaust seem to almost avoid each other as they travel out of the nozzle and down away from the rocket. Idk what phenomena causes that, has to be something pressure / heat related but it is super cool visually, at least.
Here’s another fun set of liftoff images from another sound-activated camera situated a little under half a mile from Falcon Heavy.
For this launch, I had the great privilege to be invited by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Association to view the launch. This was not only stunning because it was a little over 1 mile from the landing of the two side boosters at LZ-1 and LZ-2, but also because it is the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse! If you know me, I’m a big fan of both of these things. It was a joy to marry these pleasures, hobbies, jobs, and fascinations into one full 10 minute long exposure image.
In addition to a shot of the entire mission, like above, I also was able to adjust my location on the ground of the lighthouse a bit and line up a long exposure with the two Falcon Heavy side-boosters coming in right alongside the lighthouse. At sunset, no less.
Last but not least, to close off the evening and with the sunset lighting up the sky, it was nighttime for us on the ground but when you’re Falcon Heavy flying high in the sky you sometimes create noctilucent clouds. (ice crystal clouds in the atmosphere produced from the moisture released from the rocket exhaust) These clouds since they’re way up in the atmosphere, they’re still in the sunlight and they made a beautiful show above the lighthouse, from a third perspective.
What a night! Full Falcon Heavy gallery here: https://www.tmahlmann.com/photos/Rockets/SpaceX/USSF-67/
You’d think it would be difficult if not impossible to top that, but somehow the rest of the month was even better.
Rocket Lab launched their Electron rocket from the first time from U.S. soil at the Wallops Flight Facility on January 24th, 2023.
Above is a 4-minute long exposure of Electron taking to the skies and heading to orbit from LC-2 in Virginia: Rocket Lab’s third orbital launch pad, making it (I think) the only orbital rocket (other than missile systems) to be launched to space from two hemispheres!
The launch featured 3 HawkEye 360 satellites and is the first of three manifested Electron launches for the company.
This was my most ambitious camera setup plan, to-date, and rightfully so for a historic mission! I setup 12 cameras dotted around the launch pad at various heights, distances, focal lengths and saved one of my very first cameras I ever owned to have with me in person to get a long-exposure streak photo. (above) Here are some of my absolute favorites.
In working with MARS safety (aptly named: Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport) they allowed us an opportunity to set up on top of Pad 0-B (where they launch the solid-fueled Minotaur rocket)
This vantage point provided an incredible 115ft/35m elevation gain and a beautiful perspective with the flame trench exiting stage right.
Another fun challenge of this mission was to show off that it was launching from the United States. Not much thought results with: a great way to do that would be to include sizably the 307 foot tall water tower at Wallops.
More fun with the water tower, from a straight-on angle:
Below: Shot from ~100 feet away and at 500mm focal length, a big last but not least, second favorite shot of the mission:
Closing out my favorite of January 2023, with this image:
Again captured from the Minotaur Pad 0-B with the incredible help and privilege from MARS safety. (so fun to say)
Technicalities: this is a 15 minute exposure to try and vacuum up as much of the blue hour daylight as I could, while also covering my rear if the launch happened a few minutes into the window. I started the timer at 5:58pm (just incase the timer drifted) and ran continual exposures through the end of the launch window (8pm, so ~8:15pm)
Without their help, lots of these images from Electron’s maiden liftoff wouldn’t be possible. Super excited to have their help and can’t wait for the next Electron to take to the skies over Virginia!
Thanks for tuning in to the first edition of the Dub Newsletter!
Subscribe here to get February 2023’s month-in-review delivered right to your inbox!