Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pre-Dawn Flight - NASA 747 and Shuttle Discovery

The twice-delayed take-off of the Space Shuttle Discovery on the back of a NASA 747 occurred in the predawn light this morning at Edwards AFB. I finally got to see it happen, after many years and several futile tries. But it wasn't easy. As can be seen, the sun had yet to break the eastern horizon. In short, it was pretty marginal for photography. The small cadre of media photographers began a running dialog of chatter as we all hurried to set up. "How's 400 look?" "Nope, I'm going to 800." "Sh**! Take it to 1600 and open it up!!" "She's rolling!!!" This shot was taken at ISO 1600 at f/5.6 at 1/100th of a second. Focal length 50mm, AV priority. We were on the edge of the runway and pulling back on the focal length as the 747 flew by at about 185 knots. With the narrow depth of field and moderate shutter speed, sharpness across the whole of the aircraft was not likely.

You can see what I mean in the shot above. The three previous images had severe fuzziness as the 747 roared by. This is in focus in the middle, but fuzzy on the nose and tail. This was at f/4.5 at 1/40th of a second, 30mm focal length, again ISO 1600, AV priority.

This is three frames later. All the specs are the same, except the image is cropped. It's still a bit fuzzy near the wing tips, but everything else is pretty good, all things considered. All in all, I'm fairly happy with the results. I finally got some decent shuttle pictures, despite the conditions.

The 747 turned to the south, then headed east as it began a slow climb to altitude. As it followed the spine of the San Gabriel Mountains on the first leg of its trip to the Kennedy Space Center, the sun finally cleared the horizon and we packed up to leave.

It was a good morning.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice shots.... I loved seeing them. An awesome sight for sure.