The 747 with Shuttle piggybacked on top of it could be seen on the horizon at about 10:35, pretty much right on time from where we were all standing. The plane’s headlights were turned on, and the bulky Shuttle on its back made it easy to pick out. It came up over some buildings just downriver, which makes sense; behind that is where the Statue of Liberty is. You can’t see the Statue from Weehawken, unless you’re in the middle of the river. And as tempting as it was to ride the ferry back and forth across the Hudson in the hopes of a one in a million shot, I wasn’t running that risk.
It was flying low and slow. It was a dream in motion. I was able to lock focus and take a few shots as it approached. I had time to look at my LCD display and read enough of the histogram to make a couple of minor adjustments.
And here’s where things get harder:
* The closer it gets, the faster it gets. It’s some sort of optical illusion, I guess, like a Doppler Effect for the Eye. Your calm, cool snapping of pics gets frantic as the plane starts to fill the frame, as you start zooming back out, and as you realize you’re about to lose the shot.
* The plane was low, but think about the angles for a second. You can’t see the nose of the shuttle except for when the plane is further away from you. The closer it gets, the more of the underside of the 747 you see and the less of the Shuttle. Your best shots are as the plane is further away, which requires a bigger zoom than I had.
I was shooting primarily my 70-300mm lens on a Canon 50D, which means an effective focal length of 480mm. I’d have killed for a 600mm lens. I wouldn’t have had long to take those shots, but it would almost look like I was high in the air with the plane that way.
I mounted my wide angle 17-35mm on my old Canon XTi, which I took out of retirement for this occasion. It didn’t produce anything all that usable here, but it was funny trying to remember all the settings and buttons to use after a year and a half with the 60D. I’m spoiled by the newer camera. It’s soooooo pretty.
(And if these rumors of a Canon entry-level full frame camera at Christmastime turn out to be true, I’ll be bending over backwards trying to find a way to afford it. But that’s another story for another time…)
Pictures of the Shuttle with the city in the background were, indeed, impossible from where I stood. The plane shot directly over our heads on the New Jersey side of the Hudson. There were likely some good vantage points within a mile further inland that would have allowed for such a shot, but it wasn’t from where I was. It was fine, though. I was happy with what I had to work with.
So, yeah, here are the pictures. I think that about says it all for my little morning adventure.