Apr 30

Space Shuttle Exhaust

by in Photography, Postcard Valet

Sunlight on the Space Shuttle Discoverys exhaust plume

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In keeping with this week’s theme…

When the Space Shuttle Discovery launched at 6:21am on the morning of April 5th, the sun had not yet risen.  However, as the Shuttle itself disappeared into the distance, the horizon was beginning to brighten.  It was still pre-dawn when helpful voice over the loudspeakers urged everyone to get back in the busses before the cloud of toxic exhaust fumes had a chance to drift over the Causeway.

Our group piled back into our Grey Line and commenced with the waiting; it would be almost an hour before we moved and another hour or two on the road back to Orlando.  Despite everyone being exhausted (we’d been up all night) the excitement level was high.  Everywhere I looked, people were using the backs of their cameras to show off their photos and video.

While I was sitting there, I happened to glance out the window.  The sun was still below the horizon, but it had started to illuminate just a bit of the Shuttle’s wind-swept contrail.  I remembered something I’d read from Stan Jirman’s (excellent, excellent, excellent!) Shuttle Launch Photography web page:

With a day launch, some of the best pictures are taken after the shuttle is gone. The exhaust fumes often create spectacular cloud formations which are more impressive than a shuttle lifting off (admit it, you have seen pics of a shuttle launch before, but not necessarily one of a cloud like below). [photo link]

I knew we weren’t supposed to be outside, but I decided that asking the bus driver was worth a shot (so to speak!)  I removed my camera’s 400mm equivalent, snapped on a shorter lens, then walked up the aisle to ask if he wouldn’t mind opening up the door for me.  “Of course!  No problem!”

I took maybe three steps from the bus, lifted up my camera, and fired off two, three-shot bursts.  Both bracketed by 1 stop, but otherwise just using the automatic settings. I was back in my seat thirty seconds later.  I checked them out on the camera’s LCD screen and decided my favorite was one of the darker (-1 stop) exposures.

Now tell me that doesn’t look just like a Chinese Dragon!

Canon 5D Mark II
Date: 6:55am, 5 April 2010
Focal Length: 24mm
Shutter: 1/20 second
Aperture: F/5.6
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Slight color correction.

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Welcome to Postcard Valet

Postcard Valet is a travel blog and video podcast by Arlo and Oksana Midgett. They just returned to Juneau, Alaska, after almost three full years of travel and living abroad. Many of their stories, photos, and videos have yet to be shared...

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