Take Two

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by Alex Cohen & A Martínez

Picture This: Scott Rinckenberger captures a fleeting meteor

by Take Two

The regularly scheduled evening camping shot that I had planned for our time in Joshua Tree was made infinitely more exciting when a meteor exploded in the sky just after I had triggered a 30 second exposure on my camera. The resulting image is a stroke of good luck that, as a photographer, you dream of, but never expect to actually have happen. This was truly a once in a lifetime shot. Joshua Tree National Park, California. Scott Rinckenberger

Seeing a meteor streak through the night sky takes a certain amount of luck. Turn away for a second and you could miss it. Capturing one on film is even harder.

So when photographer Scott Rinckenberger set out to shoot fall landscapes in the West, he wasn't expecting to capture the fleeting image of a shooting star. But when it happened, he knew he'd captured something rare. As part of our occasional series, Picture This, Rinckenberger joined Take Two to talk about capturing the luckiest shot of his career.  

Interview Highlights:

On the genesis of his photography trip:
"I generally spend my falls spending a lot of time in the outdoors, backpacking and climbing and that sort of thing, but late this summer I  suffered a shoulder injury on my mountain bike and was sort of unable to go through my normal procedures, which are pretty active. As a way to keep myself busy and to keep myself creatively inspired, I decided I would hit the road and just go out and try to track down the best landscape and the best weather I could starting in Seattle with a final destination of Joshua Tree National Park down in Southern California."

On what happened his last night in Joshua Tree:
"I guess I was just looking to get a shot that sort of encapsulated the feeling of camping out in the desert. I think Joshua Tree is such a spectacular landscape. It's just such a wonderful way to spend the night, watching the stars and hanging out by a campfire that I was just looking for a shot that did a good job of sort of capturing that essence. So it was set up to capture the night sky with the brilliant starscape that was going on, as well as the beautiful camp we had set up among the rocks. It was going to be a good shot, but it turned out to be so much more."

On when he realized he captured something amazing:
"I had the camera set up on a tripod up on top of the roof of my truck and I would go up there and start an exposure and then jump off of the truck and run down to the campfire and actually sit in the picture. It was during one of those moments of sitting while my camera was doing a long exposure that all of sudden the sky was though lighting had gone off, like incredibly bright flashes in the sky.

"Myself and Hayden, who was my friend who was with me, we both looked over our shoulders to see what the heck was going because it was just a spectacular flash and then instantly I realized that A.) something spectacular had happened in the night sky, and B.) that we had to get back to our initial pose we were holding so we didn't make ourself blurry in the picture."

On his road trip routine:
"Mine was pretty regimented in terms of trying to make the most of the time out there, so it was a lot of getting up really early, getting up in the cold and dark, and finding really good locations to shoot photos from and shooting throughout the good light in the morning . Then sometimes in the midday, when they light gets less ideal for photography, it makes a good time to travel or a good time to explore or set up shops for the evening or for the next day."

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