Monday, August 1, 2011

The Final Mission

This past month my friend Ericka contacted me and asked if I wanted to join her on a roadtrip down to watch Atlantis lift-off -- which just so happened to be the final mission for the NASA space shuttle program. It had always been something I wanted to see, what better opportunity would I have? There wouldn't be another opportunity. So I took the gamble and headed down to her place, despite there being only a thirty percent chance of the shuttle taking off as scheduled the following morning due to bad weather.  I got to her place and ended up sitting up with her talking until 1:30 am, knowing that we were planning on getting up at 3:30am to be on the road by 4:00am. Not a smart move;  I was in bad need of some coffee when 3:30 am rolled around. We ignored our desire to go back to bed and loaded up in her car, drove for a few hours, and then battled some crazy bumper-to-bumper traffic once we got close to Kennedy Space Center. Apparently a number of other people were interested in watching the very same thing we were.

We ended up finding a spot right on the water that was just seven miles across Cape Canaveral from the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center -- a spot with a clear line of sight to the actual launch pad. Tons of people were there; it was nuts. I'm a photographer, so I felt that I had to take some kind of shot of the lift off, despite not having a long telephoto lens with me to capture it as you usually might see it in the news. So I made the best of what I had and decided to go with more of a landscape  approach to the shot. I wanted to catch the mood and atmosphere the way I saw it rather than just the shuttle -- and I did. It was a gloomy overcast morning, the clouds caught my attention, so I decided to make them the hero of the shot, and let the actual lift-off just be a point of interest. I'm glad I did, because I ended up with a shot of the lift-off unlike any other I have seen. Check it out:

Click on it to view it larger:

After battling the traffic getting out of there we made a pit stop at the beach for a couple of hours and then started the long drive back to her place. Was it worth the trip down for all of it? Absolutely. Hearing the rumble of that shuttle a few seconds after it disappeared from sight is something I'll never forget -- I feel lucky to have been there for it.

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