MELBOURNE, Fla. (FOX 13) - In the early days of man's attempts to touch the stars, photographer Julian Leek witnessed history. During NASA's golden age, he had access that would be unheard of today.
"I never started out with the ambition of being a photographer, he told FOX 13. “I just happened to be here at the right time, during the Apollo days.”
Almost 50 years later, his photos give us a sense of what it was like to be there at the beginning. Like the early Saturn V launches, that shook and rattled the Cape like nothing before or since.
“When the rocket took off, you could see the shock wave coming across the river,” he recalled. “Walter Cronkite is up there on the press site building having to hold the Plexiglas partition because the shock wave is coming and it hits.”
Or like the time he photographed the Apollo 17 liftoff – the last flight to the moon and the only nighttime Saturn V launch.
"When that rocket took off, you ended up with a whole bunch of fish jumping in the river as it lit up the sky," Leek said.
There were also unique rides that led to jaw-dropping photographs. "I rode out on the top of Apollo 16 to the pad -- which only a handful of people have been able to do -- and photographed it until we got to the pad," he continued.
He also remembers how he felt after seeing the space shuttle for the first time. "Here's this big model as you walk in, and everybody going in and looking and saying 'That thing is not going to fly.'
“And so when it came down to launch time, it was going to be one big experience for everybody."
Looking back, Julian feels proud to have witnessed so many history-making moments.
"It was absolutely fantastic to be there and be part of it," he added.