After seeing NASA commissioned photographer Ben Cooper’s stunning photos of Space Shuttle Endeavour’s flight deck, I decided to explore more of his works. Ben Cooper has been covering various launches by the country’s space agency since July 1999, and has photographed over 100 missions and launches to date. If you have seen images of shuttle launches distributed by NASA you have seen Ben Cooper’s work.
Getting close to the site of the launch pad is essential to get a good shot, but is hazardous to the safety of the photographer and generally prohibited. Cooper and his small, close-knit corps of photographers set up their cameras 12 to 24 hours before the launch, close to the scene of action while battling other hazards like mosquito swarms, spiders, poisonous snakes, and alligators. Then using remote sound triggers, the photographers take pictures from several miles away. Ben’s sound triggers are custom-made affairs, using mostly Radio Shack parts. They produce very loud noises that no human cloud stand at short distances.
"My equipment is subjected to not only the elements while waiting, but the ferociousness of the launch itself," he notes. "The rocket exhaust comes flying out at tremendous speeds and, if you're close enough, with extreme heat from the rocket engines. It is also very corrosive when it lands on your camera or tripod-some of the exhaust contains hydrochloric acid, among other things. I've lost two lenses so far, most notably an expensive Nikkor 16mm fisheye, for which you can't fit a good filter on the front. But, like any true photographer, as long as I get the shot, I'm happy!"
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