Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Some of the news I've covered, in photographs

A firefighter scurried to prepare hose lines as a house fire raged in Suntree, an unincorporated area north of Melbourne.

The following are images from some of the stories I've covered recently in my job as a breaking news reporter for Florida Today.

I've been trying to get to a good structure fire, and this was my first in about 15 months on the job.

The homeowners went to New York and left hurricane shutters on their house. That slowed the firefighters trying to access the home.

The fire was contained mostly to the garage, but the rest of the home received smoke and water damage.

A shelf cloud moved over the scene of the Suntree fire.

This crash, near Pineda Causeway and U.S. 1 in the Palm Shores area, happened during one of the first rainstorms of the summer season. People just can't drive in rain here.

There were reports of a gunman at Melbourne City Hall, prompting the police to set up a perimeter of assault rifle- and Glock-toting officers.

Two people had exchanged a pellet gun in the lobby of city hall. Above is one of them. They were not charged with a crime, since the weapon wasn't a firearm. The police, however, think they planned to rob the joint.

An elderly main lost control of his pickup and slammed into an oak tree in Grant-Valkaria. This was one of the many, tragic fatal crashes I've covered.

This was one car crash in which no one died. Nor was the driver even injured. But she did take down some power lines.

I actually had just been assigned a story about the power company. So this incident was pretty convenient.

The cops said this guy was texting and not paying attention when he drove his pickup into the back of a bunch of cars waiting at a stop light in West Melbourne. One woman died. He kept texting on the back of his Ford.

Some residents staged a counterprotest to a rally against Republican Gov. Rick Scott's budget cuts. The sprinklers came on, and counterprotesters figured it was a conspiracy.

This woman in Melbourne Beach lost the roof to her patio during a severe thunderstorm.

The roof ended up in the street.

I cover many shootings. The victim in this one drove himself to the hospital, where I snapped this.

In one Melbourne shooting, the victim was loaded into a car, then a driver tried to take him to the hospital. The driver stopped in the middle of U.S. 1 when the victim lost consciousness. The victim was pulled onto the pavement, where passing nurses stopped and performed CPR in the middle of the roadway. But he died.

This SUV, which was stopped at a red light, was hit from behind by a truck owned by a pest-control company. The driver wasn't paying attention.

Someone torched this West Melbourne home. I got there just after the flames had been extinguished. Unfortunately.

This bad motorcycle wreck occurred late one evening on my route back home. A car cut the motorcycle off, and the Harley ran into the car. The rider apparently survived the initial crash but was in rough shape.

Another motorcycle wreck in Melbourne. In this one, the police said a rider was speeding when he ran into the back of a mowing tractor that had just pulled onto U.S. 1.

Two people died in this plane crash in Palm Bay. A back-seat passenger suffered only minor injuries. It was some sort of mechanical failure.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Delta IV rocket launch raises a question (mark)

A Delta IV rocket lifted off early in the morning of July 16, carrying a GPS satellite into orbit. I viewed the launch from Jetty Park, just south of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. I jumped a fence and set up my camera on the rocks for this 2-minute, 4-second exposure as the rocket arced over the Atlantic Ocean. The image is not cropped; the arc fit perfectly in the frame of my 11mm lens.

The leftover contrail formed a question mark.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Zooming out and enjoying the scenery for Atlas V, Juno launch

An Atlas V rocket carried NASA's Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft into orbit early Friday afternoon. I watched from my favorite place, Playalinda Beach at Canavaral National Seashore. It's Brevard County's northernmost and most remote beach that's often known for nudity at its most remote parts.

This was the best-attended Atlas V launch I've ever witnessed at Playalinda. I waited in a long line in my car at the gate. And all the parking lots were jammed. I'm suspecting that had something to do with the fact that NASA's space shuttle was recently retired, and this is the best we can do here on the Space Coast.

Aside from Jetty Park for Delta II launches (of which there are few these days), Playalinda is the best place to view a rocket launch -- at only a little more than 4 miles from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Once you park your car, you have to walk (or run, like I did) a mile southward on the beach to get to the closest spot. But the trek is enjoyable and worth it.

Surf was pounding me as I stood in waste-high water and took these photos. The waves were slightly elevated because the remnants of Tropical Storm Emily were churning the Atlantic Ocean.

I have a tendency to use my largest lens for rocket launches (a 500mm), but I decided to take it down a notch for this launch and use my 18-200mm. It was totally worth it. I was able to capture the scene around the launching rocket, instead of just the rocket itself. Above is the closest shot I got of the rocket in flight.

This Atlas V rocket was fixed with five solid boosters (the 551 configuration), which gave off the smoke trail. Such a long, arcing contrail makes a launch quite beautiful against a clear blue sky. All the engines also gave off a very pronounced rumble. I heard many people say it was even better than a shuttle launch -- mainly because the general public can get so close to the Atlas V (4 miles, as opposed to 13 miles for a shuttle launch).

The sky was clear, aside from this line of clouds that started forming north of the launch pad. I believe the people on this boardwalk were special guests of NASA, as it leads to the Air Force watchtower overlooking the fenceline on the beach. (The beach in front of the launch pad, of course, is blocked off to all comers.)

After the rocket was well on its way toward orbit, its wind-whipped contrail created some interesting shapes in the sky. This one sort of looks like a fish.

And this one looks like a pretty bow.

Some showers quickly popped up -- fortunately, after the launch. I stopped at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to take a quick pic of the scene along a dirt-surfaced, swamp-lined roadway called Gator Drive or Gator Boulevard or Gator Trail. Something like that.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy July 3, a month late

A month after the fact, I've decided to share my photos of a July 3 fireworks show at Cocoa Beach. This is when the display started, when clouds were still visible in the background.

This is my favorite shot from the night.

The show was at Shepard Park, a popular beach near the "world famous" Ron Jon Surf Shop.

The beach was fairly crowded. Many people had been setting off their own fireworks before the professional display. Which is, of course, illegal in Florida -- unless those fireworks were being used for "agricultural" purposes.

My camera was on a tripod, and most of the exposures I took were about 2 seconds long.

Because of dry conditions, a ban against fireworks had been in place a week before Independence Day. But with these barges far out into the Atlantic Ocean, I doubt wildfires were a concern.

After this photo, I spent the next hour trying to get out of Cocoa Beach. Traffic was horrific.

A hazy final shuttle launch and a hazy future

I wasn't permitted to get close to the launch because it would've meant getting stuck in traffic and being unable to respond to and cover breaking news, which is my job. So I went here, to a high point along South Tropical Trail on Merritt Island. The haze was too much, though.

The final space shuttle launch, of Atlantis, was disappointing photographically because clouds once again obstructed my view. It's also disappointing simply because the shuttle program was one of two things that made Brevard County interesting and exciting, and now they're both gone.