Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Experimenting | Shuttle strategy looks to be a game-time call

The moon and Venus are featured in this test shot along Wickham Road in Melbourne at 5:40 a.m. Tuesday, 24 hours before Endeavour is scheduled to blast into the wild black yonder.

This is what the eastern sky looks like at 5:40 a.m., the time space shuttle Endeavour is set to lift off from Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday. With sunrise only 45 minutes later, the conditions are quite bright. But in this exposure of three minutes and 22.3 seconds, my camera did a good job of stopping a lot light from hitting the sensor. And this is with bright streetlights and car headlights nearby. Because the raw version of this photo was quite a bit darker, I'm thinking that a long exposure - say, two and a half minutes - of the launch will be possible.

Tomorrow's conditions will be different and more challenging, however. There will be another light source - and a rather bright one at that: The shuttle's main engine and two solid rocket boosters turn the Florida night into day. The shot also will be over water, off which a reflection will create even more brightness for my exposure.

The other option would be to take snapshots with my telephoto lens on my Nikon D90, which would be considerably less risky. My backup camera could simultaneously take the long exposure. But because it doesn't have as much leeway in its settings, the D40 probably would overexpose the shot. The ideal thing would be to set those two cameras up for long exposures and to let them run as I operate my video camera.

Decisions, decisions. This is shaping up to be a game-time one.

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