Quick Shot: Final Flight

On Tuesday, April 17th, 2012, the Space Shuttle Discovery made its final flight to Washington, DC where it will now be on display at the Air and Space Museum near Dulles, Virginia. I knew I had to photograph the end of this important era in American space history.

Getting this shot, however, was a bit of luck...

Any given Tuesday you're likely to find me sitting behind my desk at work - not out with my camera. However, my mom was in town with our wedding planner so I'd taken a few days off work so we could run the gauntlet of errands associated with planning a wedding. Knowing the space shuttle would be flying over DC, we decided to take a mid-day break from our errands to try and see the final flight. 

With my Nikon D800 and Sigma 150-500mm lens in tow, we set off for Gravely Point, an area located just north of the Washington Reagan National Airport. That is a popular spot with plane spotters and is located at the edge of DC, giving me a great chance to shoot the shuttle as it flew along the monuments. 

I never made it. 

Traffic was a disaster and the shuttle arrived a little earlier than we anticipated. Our first view of the shuttle came right as we were passing the airport - just 1,000 feet from Gravely Point. Traffic was completely stopped and the shuttle flew directly overhead - the best view was from my sun roof!  I was driving and missed a great shot, but it's one of those photos that I'll always have in my mind.

We inched forward a few feet and decided we'd join the crowd of hundreds of people who decided to illegally park on the side of I-395 to see the shuttle. The police, who were patrolling, didn't seem to mind given the unique circumstances.... so long as we didn't block the road.  

I popped out with camera in hand and watched for 30 minutes as the shuttle Discovery made her final flight through DC. I went to space camp several times as a child but had never seen a shuttle that had actually been to space with my own eyes before that... it was magical. At the same time, it was equally sad to witness the end of an era. 

I got many great shots that day, but the one I like the best is also the simplest. The photos of the shuttle next to the monuments diluted the power of the flight.... this shot captured the beauty and power of these amazing machines. I converted it into black and white to emphasize the dirt and space grim from a shuttle that had worked very hard in her career.

Shot with Nikon D800 and Sigma 150-500mm lens. Edited in Photoshop CS6 and converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. 

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