I just got back from XPRS 2006, and I have over 400 photos to look through. Yes, there were that many interesting launches this weekend…. Very, very fun… ;-)
This is a one-in-a-thousand shot, maybe more… Catastrophic rocket failure photos are very rare (this is the only one I have witnessed), and the spontaneous explosion happens so fast that to capture one filling the frame floors me. This photo is straight from the can, uncropped, and untouched... 400mm zoom from a safe distance.
You have to see the full size to appreciate the detail in the debris… you can diagnose the failure as a rupture of the forward closure of the motor casing. The huge and heavy blue motor shot down, and can be seen along the launch rail. Individual propellant segments shot upward, and some of them can be seen as cylinders just under the nose cone, and above the fin can.
Black Rock Desert playa clay is airborne near the bottom because motors this big blast a crater in the ground (that is normal).
Mid-frame, in the smoke, are the remains of the fin can assembly. At the top is the upper part of the rocket, probably with the parachutes still in it, with the shock cords dangling below.