Friday, November 20, 2009

Eight Space Shuttles

I know you guys are getting antsy to see some space shuttle pictures, so here's a little composite I threw together. You can see space shuttle Atlantis on STS-129 this past Monday lifting off from pad 39-A at Cape Kennedy. Pretty cool, eh? I took these shots with my Rebel XSi set on manual at 1/400 of a second, f/8, ISO 200. I used a 400mm lens on a 1.6 crop sensor for a length of almost 650mm, and with a polarizing filter to boot. Oh, and did I mention I was 6 miles away? I thought these were awfully good for being so far away.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


When we arrived at Kennedy Space Center Monday morning, the sky was pretty thickly overcast. I began to worry that the launch would be postponed due to poor weather. However, it slowly broke up after about 10 am, but the sky never fully cleared. I guess a few clouds didn't really hurt anything, and may have even helped a little bit. I got this neat picture as Atlantis flew through a low cloud, lighting it up from the inside in a rather spectacular fashion.

Uh-Oh, Part 2

Well, bad luck just seems to follow me around some days. And it seems to be following even more closely lately. After losing my entire hard drive a week or so ago, yesterday I lost my camera. Well, I didn't lose it, but it no longer works. After shooting the shuttle launch as far as the separation of the SRBs, I turned my camera back towards the pad to get some pictures of the lingering steam and smoke. I didn't notice anything odd until the camera quit auto-focusing. I took my eye away from the viewfinder to see a message on the screen. Error 99, it said. Turn the camera off then back on, it said. But that didn't help, it just came right back. I'd seen an error 99 before when I rented an incompatible lens. Pulling the battery out for a second worked then, but not this time. I tried the battery, the battery holder, the lens itself, the memory card, nothing made a difference. Once I got back to a computer, I loaded up the pictures from the memory card (for a while I was worried that none of my pictures would be there, but they were OK). The last dozen or so pictures on the chip were obscured, as if something was in front of the lens, but I knew there had been nothing there while I was shooting. The three pictures you see here are the last three shots from the launch.

After much messing around with the camera itself and some internet searches, I finally discovered that it's a shutter problem. Digital cameras have shutters just like regular cameras. The shutter exposes the image sensor to light for the prescribed amount of time, just as it would expose film. Well, when I peek behind the mirror in my camera, I see the closed shutter when I should normally be able to see the image sensor. I've got a feeling the price of fixing the camera is going to be all too close to the price of a replacement camera.

I suppose I should be happy that my camera didn't break until after the launch. Five minutes earlier and I wouldn't have gotten any of the awesome pictures I did. But I'm still unhappy that it's broken. Anyhow, stay tuned for some of the more awesome final pictures from my camera.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shuttle Atlantis

I'm dead tired at the moment, but I wanted to get something up quick. I just got home from watching the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. It went off without a hitch on the first try at the designated time. I was 6 miles away on a NASA causeway with 1846 other ticket holders. I got some pretty impressive pictures, of which this is just one. Stay tuned...