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The three most common directions in which aerial images are taken from rockets are looking vertically down from a parachute during the descent stage of the flight, looking directly out of the side of the rocket in a more or less horizontal alignment, and looking out of the side of the rocket into an angled mirror to give a downward-looking view incorporating part of the rocket's body and fins.

Cameras suspended from parachutes are generally equipped with wide-angle lenses and are effective when photographing the launch site and surrounding terrain. No particular alignment problems arise, and the implementation is relatively straightforward. Just arrange for the camera to point directly down under the influence of gravity. Descent speeds are relatively low for a parachute so the problems associated with shutter speeds and motion blur are also reduced.

Rocket ascent phase

Photograph by Steve Jurvetson (Flickr) - License CC by 2.0

A camera directed straight out the side of the rocket can give good shots that include the horizon although long-distance images of this type are often hazy and lacking in contrast. The implementation is relatively simple and pictures can be taken during both the ascent and descent phases of the flight. However the camera is likely to spin around as it descends so choice of subject is largely a matter of luck.

Perhaps the best alignment for a camera is looking out from the side of the rocket in to an angled mirror which provides a downward-looking view including ports of the rocket. This is more complicated to implement as the mirror has to be angled correctly and protected by some sort of hatch or flap. However, a significant advantage is that the pictures include a foreground and hence provide some perspective. The viewer can see immediately that the images were taken from a rocket. Those taken during powered ascent are often the most spectacular because the rocket's plume is visible in the images. Care must be taken to ensure that the external mirror structure does not unbalance the rocket as a consequence of asymmetrical drag. If it can be arranged that the body of the rocket descends under parachute in a vertical position, shots of the ground during the descent phase are also worthwhile.

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