The Space Shuttle Endeavor passed over Ireland last night at about 11.21pm, and for those who saw it, it was an impressive sight – all the more so because it was accompanied by the fuel tank which had been jettisoned a little earlier and was flying alongside. To give an idea of how fast this thing was going, it took off in Florida at 11.03pm. 18 minutes later it flew over my head in Dublin. This is how my countdown to the photograph above went.
T -2 hours 33 minutes: The final whistle in the C league Bowl Semi-Final tag rugby match in Templeogue College blows, with the Ruck ‘n’ Rollers celebrating their first victory of the season.
T -1 hour 23 minutes: Somewhat appropriately for the night that is in it, the team (including this photographer) head towards Eddie Rockets for some food.
T -37 minutes: With dinner over, it’s time to head for home to grab the camera and prepare to photograph the shuttle.
T -10 minutes: Arriving home, there’s time to put on warmer clothes.
T +3 minutes: As the Space Shuttle Endeavor hurtles towards the International Space Station up along the north eastern coast of the US and over the Atlantic, I leave home for the car park of Total Fitness in Sandyford with Darragh, my brother-in-law (and frequent blog guest).
T +8 minutes: We arrive at the car park and get out of the car, joking about how it would look if anyone saw us both sitting in the dark in a deserted car park.
T +8 minutes, 10 seconds: An unmarked squad car pulls up behind and asks what we are up to.
T +8 minutes, 30 seconds: The gardai leave us to take photographs of the space shuttle – at least they seemed to know about it!
T +14 minutes: A few test shots later, the fisheye lens composition is tied down, and the exposure is close enough that I should be able to work with the photo in Aperture later if needs be. I’m shooting RAW. The length of the in-camera noise reduction after each shot will limit me to 2 photos at best. This is real seat-of-the-pants stuff.
T +16 minutes: Paranoid, a few more test shots are tried. A shutter speed of 30 seconds at f/8 is settled on.
T +18 minutes: Darragh spots the shuttle and its fuel tank behind some clouds to the west, bang on schedule.
T +18 minutes 3 seconds: I press the shutter and wait 30 seconds.
T +18 minutes, 33 seconds: The noise reduction on the D300 kicks in as I point the camera towards the south east and reframe
T +18 minutes, 50 seconds: As the noise reduction finishes, I readjust the exposure for a 15 second shot, and press the shutter a second time
T +19 minutes 20 seconds: The Space Shuttle Endeavour disappears behind clouds and out of sight.
T +19 minutes 21 seconds: I review my shots on the LCD screen. The first I am very happy with – the second not so much. Earlier today I hoped the flight path would take it over the city, but I realised I would have had to have been on the northside of the city to get that view. Instead I’m glad I could use the fisheye to keep the city lights in the frame and the two streaks of the shuttle and the fuel tank at the left of the frame.
T +35 minutes: After taking a few other shots of the city (some to be posted in the future), I head for home and catch up on the buzz on Twitter, where people are talking about little else. The consensus: it was quite a sight.
Photographing space shuttles – not rocket science but you really only get one shot, so you better be prepared.