NASA photographer Joel Kowsky found quite an unusual place to set up one of his remote controlled cameras for this morning’s Soyuz TMA-19M rocket launch: the concrete flame trench, which is intended to vent the exhaust away.

Before this, I’d never seen the very first moment of a Soyuz rocket ignition from this point of view–and the result is stunning. Thanks to this shot, you can observe the huge raging fire column under the launch pad platform, and the poisonous smoke cloud heading toward the camera, expanding towards the lightning-conductors and reflectors at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan

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The Russian rocket had the Expedition 46 crew aboard: Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA, and Flight Engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency). Together, the team will spend the next six months on the ISS.

Here are two more gorgeous shots of today’s launch:

Photos: NASA/Joel Kowsky