Shoot ‘Em Up, Part I

Currently, I’m working on a story about model rocketry for an assignment in my Picture Story and Photographic Essay class. Once a month on a Saturday, the Columbia Rocket Club (CRC) arranges a rocket launch on a field near Sturgeon, Mo. Spectators and wannabe rocket scientists watch as the model builders shoot rockets of all shapes and sizes into the sky – up to an altitude of 6,000 ft. From the small rocket kits available in any toy store to full-blown, 6-ft.-and-over rockets – the CRC flies it all. The owners of the big rockets often spend months on building their aircrafts, and the equipment involved in launching and retrieving them reminisces of old science-fiction movies from the Fifties.

Model rocketry as a hobby dates back to the space-race era of the 1960s. It was developed as an alternative to the wide-spread amateur rocket activity that involved dangerous explosives and construction materials and was responsible for countless injuries and even deaths. The new model rockets were constructed from much safer materials such as cardboard, plastic and balsa wood, and they were propelled by professionally manufactured, replaceable single-use rocket motors. Ambitious rocket builders, however, still construct so-called high power rockets with motors exceeding 160 Newton-seconds of total energy contained. As these high power rockets reach extremely high altitudes and are propelled by highly reactive explosives, their use is strictly regulated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

On Thursday, I spent the afternoon at CRC member Derek Kewley’s house to photograph him preparing one of his rockets. It was pretty interesting, although harder to photograph than I expected. He told me some pretty amazing stuff about rockets that he or his friends had launched. Some of them reached altitudes of almost 100,000 feet. Others reached only 4,000 feet – but did so in a single second.

I’m hoping that I will soon get to see an actual launch. Currently, the CRC members are waiting for the farmers to bring in their crop so that they can access the launch field. With all the recent rain however, this is currently a distant hope. The September launch had to be cancelled and if there is not a serious stretch of dry weather soon, the October launch might have to be cancelled as well (which for me would mean that I can’t make the deadline for the assignment). So let’s keep our fingers crossed that today’s weather was only the herald of a long, sunny late fall…


Derek prepares one of his rockets for launch in the garage of his home…


…which is stuffed with rockets of all shapes and sizes.


Folding the parachute that brings the rocket back to the ground safely.


An electronic altimeter measures and records altitude, speed and duration of the flight and sets off the parachute at the peak.


Putting all the elements of the rocket together requires some patience – and a flash light.


Once assembled, the rocket is an impressive 7 feet plus tall – I can’t wait to see that thing flying.


I’m not sure whether I prefer this shot or the previous one. I like the moment more in the one above, but this one shows a little more of the garage and all the rockets that fill it. I’d appreciate some feedback on this one!

October 17, 2009

New Layout

As you may have noticed, I changed the layout of my blog slightly to give some more space to the pictures that the blog has increasingly become about. I updated some of the recent posts so that they would fit into the new layout, but I haven’t done so with all entries. I’m planning to update also the older posts in the next few weeks, but as I have a lot of class work to do, this might take a while. As always, feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment with (constructive) criticism of the new layout!

October 17, 2009

A Life Against Death

Jeff Stack is the coordinator of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation and legislative coordinator of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, both organizations that lobby against the death penalty in Missouri and the United States. Stack is a principled dissenter of capital punishment. “I recognize the preciousness of every human being in our world – of every life, really,” he says. “I feel some fire and righteous indignation that people are being murdered in our name.”

I did this project for my Picture Story and Photographic Essay class as a first step toward my professional project that I plan to do on capital punishment. Jeff is one of the corner stones of the anti-death penalty and the peace movements in Columbia, and he knows everything there is to know about the issue. I figured that he would be a great person to start my research, and he has been incredibly helpful so far.

However, I’m not yet entirely happy with the outcome of the project that I did on Jeff. I wish I would have had more time to spend with him, but because of MPW two weeks ago and having to catch up with class work afterward, it was really difficult to dedicate the time that this character profile would have needed before the deadline for the class yesterday. Jeff’s schedule in the week that we worked together didn’t include much actual anti-death penalty activities, so that the audio and the images in the slideshow don’t complement each other too well. I hope that I can work with Jeff a little more in the coming weeks to add another dimension to that.

1 Comment October 15, 2009

The Broadway Brewery

Here’s a short video that I did on Paul Dickerson, the brewer of the newly opened Broadway Brewery, a brew pub here in Columbia. I’m still experimenting with the proper export settings in the editing software, so forgive me if the quality is not too good or the loading times are too long!

October 13, 2009

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