How I Became a Freelance Photographer

Posted by Jake Parks
on Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Meet Marcus Cote, a 19-year-old freelance photographer with a knack for capturing captivating launch photos from Florida's Space Coast.

This long-exposure photo captured the launch of the ULA Atlas V rocket that lifted off from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday, January 19 (mission: SBIRS Geo-4). The image is a 237-second exposure of the rocket followed by 20 minutes — roughly 40 photographs — of star movement in the evening sky directly after the launch. All of the images were stacked using Photoshop and then processed them in Lightroom.

The boat in this image is a mystery that has received a lot of attention in the local community. The 45-foot sailboat, named 'Cuki,' washed up on the shore of Melbourne Beach in the weeks following Hurricane Irma. // Marcus Cote (Space Coast Times).

Guest blog by Marcus Cote

One of the hardest aspects of photography is finding inspiration. Technical know-how can be learned and mastered over time, and equipment can be acquired through hard work and short-term savings; however, finding the creative drive and motivation to turn ideas into pictures is not as easy.

I am Marcus Cote, a 19-year-old freelance photographer and college student, and my passion for creating captivating images is fueled by the incredible place that I have been so lucky to grow up in. I was born and raised on the beaches of Brevard County, Florida, otherwise known as Florida's "Space Coast." This area of the Sunshine State is so history-rich, innovative, and routinely filled with beautiful displays of nature that I can’t imagine having grown up anywhere else.

My journey to photography started early in my life. I was always interested in my parent's archaic point-and-shoot camera, and I was enchanted by the men and women snapping shots in the background of television broadcasts. These childhood interests led me to purchase a number of various cameras before I eventually bought my first Nikon DSLR in 2014.

When I first got my hands on this camera, it completely absorbed me, instantly becoming a major part of my life in many ways. Instead of immersing myself in hobbies like surfing or fishing, I began to take pictures of individual moments instead.

This image is a four-photograph composite consisting of three frames of the rocket lifting off and landing, and one brighter photograph to bring more detail to the foreground. The photos were taken from Cocoa Beach, Florida, during the Zuma mission that lifted off on Sunday, January 7th from SLC-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. // Marcus Cote (Space Coast Times)
With this new mindset of capturing life through a camera lens, I suddenly began to realize and appreciate just how beautiful the area that I live in actually is. I found myself waking up at dawn for vibrant sunrises, or feeling a rush of excitement when the sky turned black before an afternoon thunderstorm. These small, everyday occurrences that I used to overlook now captured my full attention.

Beyond nature, water sports, and weather, my photographic interests also revolve around another unique element of the Space Coast: Space. With Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center in my backyard, it is hard not to be fascinated by the mysterious void beyond our little planet.

Because my father worked on the Space Shuttle program until its retirement in 2011, I would always run outside to watch the astronauts ascend into the sky above our town. But it wasn't until I was older that I truly developed an appreciation for the historical significance of what was occurring within my own community.

In 2016, one of my photographer friends encouraged me to come with him and photograph a rocket launch at an up-close public viewing location. When I both heard and felt the powerful rumble of a rocket for the first time, I was instantly hooked.

Fast-forward to today, and I have photographed nearly every rocket launch on the Space Coast since that very first adventure. Although some of the launch photo shoots were not successful, I am continually learning and striving to create a better version of my images and myself. As a result, I have taken advantage of numerous opportunities and captured many photos that I would have never thought possible just a few short years ago.

As an accredited member of the press for a local news agency called Space Coast Times, Marcus Cote was able to cover the historic Falcon Heavy mission. These credentials allowed him to view the launch from just three miles away, as well as set up a 'remote' camera next to the launch pad. // Marcus Cote (Space Coast Times)
One of my most recent endeavors was photographing launches for a local news organization called Space Coast Times. This allowed me to receive press credentials and set up sound-triggered 'remote' cameras just a few hundred feet away from the rockets. The intense and jarring sound waves from the rocket engines cause the camera to take images during the breathtaking moments of liftoff.

Just a few weeks ago, I carried out my second accredited mission, which was both an unforgettable experience and a great success. On behalf of Space Coast Times, I was able cover the historic maiden flight of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. The launch was a critical moment for the next chapter of spaceflight, breathing hope into the future of sending humans to parts of space that have not yet been explored.

If you are interested in seeing more of my work, I am currently uploading an original photo every single day as part of a 365-day photo challenge. I stuck with the challenge for the whole year of 2017, and I am back to continue the streak in 2018! Today is the 416th day in a row, and every image is taken on the day it is uploaded. The subjects include many interesting aspects of the Space Coast of Florida captured from the land, air, and sea. Thank you so much for being a part of my photography journey and stayed tuned for my next blog post!

To view more of Marcus’ work, please visit his Instagram, website (prints available), or Space Coast Times.

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