Monday, March 21, 2011

Tampa

One of my clients was participating in a large conference in Tampa.  I flew down to help them with photography for the event.  And I was also excited to see their exhibit display.  They'd blown up some of the images that I've done for them to enormous sizes and used them as the curved walls of the display area.
I don't think I've seen any of my images enlarged to 10 feet before.  So it was really great to see how well the quality held up. 
I was there for almost three days.  And right before heading to the airport I was happy to have a little time to swing by the University of Tampa.  Plant Hall is the main building for the University, and it's a wonderfully ornate and beautiful place.  It was built in 1891 and it used to be a exotic hotel for rich northern tourists.  There is a long curved hallway on one end of the building that is perfect for portraits. 

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Taking Chances & Changing Flights

I'm not a gambling man, but I certainly tried my luck in this instance. Because of bad weather NASA changed the schedule of when Endeavour rolled out to the launch pad. They delayed it for 24 hours, but then there was no guarantee that it would happen the next day either. I was scheduled to leave way before any of that would happen (IF it happened). I kept one eye on the radar, and the other on the twitter feeds coming out of NASA. Things started looking hopeful on both of those fronts, so I decided to take the chance and change my flights. And BOY am I glad I did, because I got some of the most amazing shuttle photos I've taken so far.

The reason I'm really, really happy that this all worked out is because for the first time I got the opportunity to photograph the Endeavour from the launch structure and the RSS. The image you see at the top of this post is the first thing I saw when I exited the NASA transport van. 

We took the elevator to the upper levels of the launch structure and started there, slowly walking our way down to the bottom. This is a few levels below the top. On the right you can see the walkway that the astronauts take to enter the shuttle. On the left you can just barely see engineers working on the orange external fuel tank.
This image is taken from near the top of the RSS (Rotating Service Structure).
And even I had to play tourist for a moment. I mean, how can I not stop to get a photo of myself standing here?
The photo below might be one of my favorite shots from this day. I was only allowed to bring the lens that I had attached to the cameras at the time. NASA didn't want me changing lenses and accidentally dropping one. I was even told that I had to leave my lens caps behind, in case one of them fell off. I had two cameras with me; one with a 14mm and the other with a 17-40mm zoom. I'm so fortunate that I had the 14mm with me because it was wide enough to capture this amazing shot:
I was about 6 feet away from the wing when I took that. I would have loved to continue photographing all day, but I was only given a limited amount of time, and besides, I had to quickly rush out of there to run to the airport! I just barely made my flight. But as I was on my way I knew that if I missed it... it would have been ~totally~ worth it :)

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Discovery Landing

What a week I had!  I'm just now recovering from the lack of sleep, and the rollercoaster of activity.  This blog entry will deal with the first part of the adventure.  I went from an all-day job in Chicago, straight to the airport to head down to Florida to photograph the final landing of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

With the double sonic booms that always signal the arrival of the shuttle re-entering the atmosphere, I began craning my head around looking for the tiny white dot in the sky.  I saw a few people pointing, and saw it moving fast, way above the clouds.   I had the Canon 100-400mm zoom with me, and a steady hand:
The shuttle comes in like a gliding rock; much faster and steeper than a normal jumbo jet.

I was locked in and ready to photograph the landing.  Unfortunately I didn't realize that there was a group of VIPs that had access to a location right in front of me.  They moved in before the landing, and I didn't have a chance to move to a better location.  Luckily I got a few photos in between the heads.

After a few hours, the ground crews are ready to roll the orbiter back to the processing facility.   She slowly marched past us, attended by a long parade of support trucks and machines. 

It was a bit sad watching the Discovery head home for the very last time. 
And here's me!  We made a quick video after the shuttle rolled off into the distance. And yes, I do always hate the frame that is grabbed and used as the icon on these things.  I'm never making a nice face. 

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