Eye for the Sky
Trevor Mahlmann Finds Unique Niche in the Photography World
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photography / Provided
During his first semester at Purdue University, Trevor Mahlmann borrowed a camera from a friend to take some shots at an informal, behind-the-scenes NASA social event. He’d never pursued photography seriously prior to that loan, but after a few sessions with that borrowed camera, he was inspired to pursue a career that has taken him around the country to take shots of aircraft and rocket launches, as well as campus graduation photos in the spring and late fall.
“I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do while I was in school,” Mahlmann, a Valparaiso native, says. “I started pursuing the launch photography, which took me through Indy a lot of the time, being at Purdue. After that NASA Social – they used to be called NASA Tweetups – I kind of got hooked from there, and I started traveling to photograph launches whenever I could. I reached a crossroads during school and took the photography track.”
During his two years attending Purdue, Mahlmann also found himself all over the Hoosier state photographing campuses, cityscapes, and events like the Indy 500.
In June of 2020 Mahlmann made a full-time move to Cape Canaveral, Florida, and these days his primary photography gig is shooting for arstechnica.com, alongside a reporter, covering rocket launches by companies like SpaceX and Northrop Grumman. He also continues to do graduation photos here in Indiana.
“I’ve kind of married all of these different things I’ve found myself photographing, and made a career out of it,” Mahlmann says. “I come up in May for the spring graduations, and last year for the first time I started doing fall scenes for people who want pictures on campus when it’s a bit prettier before their winter graduation. I try to use the seasons to my advantage, so I do those kinds of shots in all the seasons now.”
Mahlmann adds that one of the biggest challenges that come with working as a photographer of rocket launches and other type of aircraft is rolling with the many schedule changes and delays that often arise in the industry.
“The schedules often move mostly to the right, and sometimes by weeks and often by days, so you have to have a dedication and be flexible if you’re going to stay with it,” he says, adding that he plans to attend and shoot a SpaceX prototype test launch scheduled for later this year in Texas. “Until the rocket lifts off and leaves the ground, it could happen the next day or the following week, or not at all – there’s just so much technicality from weather to technical readiness to all the logistics. Marrying all the logistics together to be able to be present, let alone coming up with a cool idea to capture it, is tough, but I like doing it.”
For more information on Trevor Mahlmann’s photography including a portfolio page and a shop, visit him online at tmahlmann.com.