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Trey Ratcliff

Unholy Bloom of the Space Shuttle after Launch

Staying awake for two days before getting this shot made my nerves a little frayed. As the countdown got inside the final two hours, I could feel myself in a strange mix of extreme fatigue and excitement. It’s a very strange feeling! And since this is the first launch I had ever seen, all my spidey-senses were tingling. This was also the final launch of the space shuttle Endeavor, so there was an extra layer of meaning on top of everything else.
I arrived right at 3 AM to set up my tripod (which, surprisingly, I did not use for this shot, but I’ll get to that in a minute). I then went into the press room to get everything organized for the upcoming event. I was also still spending time editing together the video for the webinar, since I know a lot of people miss the live version and like to download it after the event. So by the time the actual event rolled around, I was really starting to feel tired.

And here is the 50mm lens I actually used to get the shot. /me lurves it. This photo is from maestropastelero (click photo for link), creative commons, on Flickr
Even though I had my Nikon D3X set up on a tripod with my 28-300 lens, I actually shot this picture with my 50mm prime lens on my Nikon D3S! Everything did go according to plan, and I had run through the routine a few times before the launch. The plan was to fire away on my main body during the first 15 seconds or so. At that point, the D3X starts to have bufferring problems, so I switched to my Chewbacca-bandolier D3S. I pulled it up into a vertical orientation and rapid-fired just as the shuttle tore into the clouds.
As soon as the Endeavour worm-holed into the cloud layer, the strange staccato-bass of torn air came skipping across the water into the press area. The sound was not at all what I expected, but it was awesome dot com.

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