Zach Grether spends his nights standing behind a camera in empty fields or beaches, pointing his lens at the sky to create stunning composite nightscape photos of stars, galaxies, and the solar system. On May 6, Grether set up as usual near Hunting Point in South Carolina to get a shot of the Milky Way, but his plans got thrown off a little by a gigantic flaming Falcon 9 rocket blasting into his shot en route to Elon Musk’s Of Course I Still Love You droneship. The landing was successful, and despite the unintentional space guest, Grether’s shots turned out pretty spectacular.
Grether takes a series of 10-second exposures and then edits them together in Photoshop to get the high dynamic range and incredible level of detail to showcase the night sky. He was just finishing up his shot of the Milky Way over a dead tree on the beach when the rocket flared into view.
“As the camera slowly ticked down to its final few frames, I saw out of the corner of my eye what looked like a firework going off in the distance. I could make out a vertical red trail going straight up to the south of me. From the horizon, it was maybe a couple of fists tall before it disappeared and my timelapse completed while I shrugged my shoulders, wondering,” Grether wrote in a Petapixel post.
Here’s the resulting shot, from Grether’s Instagram.
SpaceX also tweeted out a GIF of the rocket flying across the horizon that Grether made while shooting.
Grether said there were a bunch of other photographers on the beach with him photographing the Falcon 9’s first nighttime landing on Of Course I Still Love You, but he didn’t put two and two together until there was a rocket in front of his lens.
SpaceX is getting pretty good at landing the things, so we can expect plenty more surprise Falcon 9 photobombs from photographers and passerby alike.