Snapshot of a moment

My dad emailed me yesterday to ask if I wanted to go to Dulles this morning to take pictures. I wasn't sure what he was talking about, so I called to ask. He told me that the Space Shuttle was being flown in to Dulles, and we'd be able to take pictures. It sounded pretty cool, but I wasn't at all sure I'd be up to it after the Caps game. Happily, I made it up (actually, I ended up getting up even earlier so I could get a picture of moonrise over the mall (maybe I'll post that one later; it'll need some post-processing first)).

In fact, I'd told my dad that I would call him at 0430 if I was up to it (he'd said he'd leave his house around 0445). It turned out that he wasn't even out of bed by then, and I was more than halfway to Dulles before we talked. But we got things together, met up, and made it over to Udvar-Hazy before they opened the gates.

We waited a while for the gates to open, then waited for the building to open, then waited a really long time to get some food for breakfast. After all of that, we went back outside, and realized that it was only a few minutes before the first pass (I, at least, didn't realize there were going to be several). So we hustled back to the car to get the camera equipment ready, then hurried to find a good spot to watch.

The first pass was kind of neat, but a little disappointing, because it passed almost directly overhead. I only got one or two pictures that I thought were pretty good. It turned out that we had quite a while before the second pass; it was mostly wasted time, although we did move a bit further away from the other people watching. In fact, we ended up almost at a gully that marked how far we could go.

I was much happier with the shots on the second pass, as we had moved far enough to be noticeably off to the side. Nothing great, but several that were pretty good. In the interval between the second and third passes, you can see a shot of one of the chase planes landing for refueling (no idea if it went back up after that).

And for the third (and last; you can see the landing gear down), I ended up very pleased, as I moved even further off to the side. I was also helped in getting the chase plane by sitting down (serendipity; I was doing it to be more stable shooting with the heavy lens). Anyway, I was very happy with a couple of those shots, particularly the long, narrow one.

What was amusing was the large collection of long lenses present. I included shots of a couple of them. I was initially wishing for a longer lens, myself (I was using a 300mm one), but after the fact, I'm glad I didn't have anything longer. This was perfect when we were off to the side (although a 500-600mm would have been nice on the first pass); I was having trouble framing the whole thing as it was.

Anyway, the pictures are here. The last shot was the shuttle sitting on the tarmac at Dulles; we took that one from the top of a parking garage at the airport. I don't like that one nearly as much (the lens lost significant sharpness with the 2x teleconverter), but I'm glad we went.

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