Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery - STS-128

September 01, 2009

Note: This post was migrated from my old blog software. It hasn't been cleaned up yet (and might not ever be). Don't be surprised if the formatting, links, images, etc... are messed up.

Last week, I spent roughly three days doing reseach/planning, eight hours driving (split between two road trips) and stood around for another half dozen hours. This was all done in order take to make a single exposure that lasted for 167 seconds and had no chance for a do-over. The subject of all this effort was space shuttle Discovery as she and her crew launched from Kennedy Space Center for mission STS-128.

Here is the result:

Flight trail of space shuttle Discovery's launch for mission STS-128

As far as I'm concerned, it's completely worth the effort.


Of course, since the above image was made with a camera sitting on a tripod, I was also able to do some shooting with a telephoto lens for a more traditional liftoff image.

Space shuttle Discovery liftoff for mission STS-128


Finally, I had planned to attach my point and shoot camera to the tripod and shoot some video as well, but the crappy flexpod I bought that day fell apart on me. So, I ended up setting the little camera directly on the ground and crossing my fingers. I couldn't get a clear view of the sky, but figured it was worth a shot anyway. The resulting video falls squarely in the "Happy Accident" category.

(Note: At about 1:50 seconds into the video, the rumble that starts is the sound from engines. It took that long for it to get to where I was shooting from. Prior to that, the all the rocket noise is coming from the audio on the radio. The announcer was obviously much closer.)


To give credit where it's due:

  • Thanks to Dr. T.S. Kelso from celestrak.com for helping make sure I was setup to capture the entire flight path.
  • For a great set of notes on shooting launches, visit this page on phototrek.org.
  • K4GCC (146.940) retransmission of the NASA audio which you hear in the video.
  • M.C. for letting me borrow some additional gear.

Sunpak FlexPod Pro Plus is a P.O.S.

August 31, 2009

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While planning a trip to photograph the launch of space shuttle Discovery, I decided to it would be fun to try to shoot a little video as well. To accomplish this, I purchased a Sunpak FlexPod Pro Plus. One of those little gripper tripods that are designed to clamp to things and provide a camera mount. The idea was that once my main tripod was positioned, I'd just clamp this thing on to one of the legs, mount my little point and shoot camera on it, flip it to video mode and let it roll.

Nice idea, but as soon as I tried to warp the thing around the tripod leg, one of its legs busted off.

sp-20090829-misc-110949.jpg I tried using gaffers tape to reattach, but wasn't comfortable it would be stable enough to hold the camera still for the several minutes that would be necessary. I ended up using another shorter one that has a similar type of legs, but is only designed to sit on something instead of attach to it. With no platform available to rest it on, the ground was the best I could do. The video turned out better than I expected in that "happy accident" way, but I would have much rather had it taken from above the weeds instead of in them.

When I returned the broken FlexPod, the guy at the camera store asked me if I wanted to swap it out for another one. I suppose it's possible that I got the one defective one they had, but as far as I'm concerned it's just a crappy product. Needless to say, I got a refund instead.

Time to get a Magic Arm


Shuttle launch lens determination

August 28, 2009

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I have no idea if this will work, but I'm trying to use Google Maps to figure out what lens I should shoot the Shuttle launch with tomorrow night. Taking data from the awesome celestrack.com AGI Viewer Launch Scenario STS 128 launch I plotted where the shuttle should be when the main engines cut off. You can't see that point without scrolling, but it's where the lines the head off to the upper right are pointing.

View Launch Site in a larger map The other locations are the positions I'm looking to shoot from and Launch Pad 39a where the shuttle will blast off from. By sticking a protractor on the screen, I get the angles of view which I cross reference with either this chart or this tool.

Hopefully, we'll see how this all pans out tomorrow night.


Another crowd egress video

August 27, 2009

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This is the second video I've ever uploaded. Much like the first one, it's a crowd leaving an event. This time, it's folks leaving Lollapalooza 2009 after Tool closed out the second night.

This Way To The Egress II from Stimulating Pixels on Vimeo.

Pay attention to the movement in the back by the glowing sphere to help get an idea of how many people are moving. I think the overall ticket sales were ~80,000. I'm sure they weren't all there, but a lot of them were.

Note: if you do not like crowds, these type of music festivals are probably not for you. At least not the headliners for each night. During the early parts of the day, it's not bad at all. For the last shows of each day, everyone gathers around one of two stages and then all leave at the same time when the set is over. I find the resulting mass of people in various stats of inebriation fun to watch.

This was shot on my recently acquired F200 point and shoot. Once again, I'm blown away with the quality little consumer cameras can capture these days.


Kuler - Adobe site for color themes

August 27, 2009

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kuler_logo.gifJust stumbled across Kuler. A little web site/tool from adobe setup for community creation and sharing of color themes. If you are stuck looking for a pallet, give it a shot.


A refined thought on "Great Artists Steal"

August 27, 2009

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A gentleman named Jeff Veen giving a talk at an Ignite show about the idea of "Good artists copy. Great artists steal." He focuses a little on the iPhone with points I think are valid, but that's just an example for the underlying idea and its refinement. I love the way he describes it.

To me, the the way he talks about stealing is more about learning from someone/something and then using what you learn to create something new for the world. What a great take on things.


Space Shuttle Launch Web Resources

August 25, 2009

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shuttle-patch-150x166.png Just a few quick links that I've found useful when trying to figure out details about attending a Space Shuttle launch. (Of course, if you can't attend, there is always NASA TV streaming on the web.

These are the frequencies I've seen listed for tuning into the shuttle communications prior to launch via HAM repeaters. These are all pulled from the links above, but they are spread out. Just listing them here to make them easier to find.

  • 146.880 MHz (FM) - KA9SZX retransmission
  • 146.940 MHz (FM) - K4GCC retransmission
  • 145.170 MHz (FM) - WA4VME retransmission
  • 296.800 MHz (AM) - Air-to-ground & Orbiter to EVA-Suit
  • 279.000 MHz (AM) - EVA-Suit-to-EVA-Suit & Orbiter to EVA-Suit
  • 243.000 MHz (AM) - Standard UHF Mil emergency Freq.
  • 442.6 MHz (UHF) - NASA audio
  • AM 1240 and AM 1350 - Local station WMMB. These weren't broadcasting the launch when I was there, but they are still listed by NASA.

There aren't that many Shuttle missions left after this one. Here's the list as it stands right now.

  • STS-129 - November 12, 2009 - 4:11PM
  • STS-130 - February 4, 2010 - Time TBD
  • STS-131 - March 18, 2010 - Time TBD
  • STS-132 - May 14, 2010
    • Time TBD
  • STS-133 - July 29, 2010
    • Time TBD
  • STS-134 - September 16, 2010 - Time TBD

The last one, STS-134 isn't certain yet. It has to get budget approval. As it stands right now, either that one or 133, is going to be the last launch of the Space Shuttle program.


Fast moving robots are awesome (and a little scary)

August 24, 2009

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This is awesome. The fact that it can catch things blows me away.

This thing would totally be able to pull off the Bishop knife trick from Aliens. Do not taunt Fast Moving Robot Hand

See the original article for more details.


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