Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Shuttle

Covered the Space Shuttle Endeavour as it made its' final journey to Los Angeles last week. It was one of those assignments that kept me, and I'm sure a few other photojournalists, up at night because you have to find just the right spot and stick with it. There was no time to shoot and move to different locations.
So, the first element was to find a spot that was somewhat iconic. Hollywood sign? Griffith Park Observatory? Disneyland?, Downtown Skyline? All in one would be primo. Now, there are about Million and One places to shoot from. So you get on the phone and talk to all your photog friends and see where they are going. They'll give some tips but will usually not divulge where they are shooting from(no hard feelings). Then you talk to other random people like the guy at the 7-11, gas station, friends, friends of friends, and ask their opinion. Then go online and see where the local paper says(I usually steer clear of those spots because they are too obvious and saturated with camera snappers). Next worry is what route and how high or low the thing is going to go. What if I get to my spot, have a great view and the plane is too high above my said icon? And lastly, what about the smog level? Come on people, this is L.A., it's an issue.
So my story goes like this. Went to my sister's house in the Valley the night before, her good friend Tony, who knows the city like the back of his hand, gave me gobs of info on where to get all kinds of good vantage points. This was all good but which one to decide on? After a few hours of discussing logisitcs, he mentions that his girlfriend has a home in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Park Observatory. He showed me photos on his Ipad and the sights were awesome. Clean, unobstructed views of both, and the sun was in a perfect position that time of day. So, after much thought and lots of self doubt, I decided to go with that. Plus, there would be no fighting crowds and traffic. I could shoot, go inside to his Air Conditioned dining room and transmit afterwards. It seemed too good to be true which always makes me nervous.
So we get there, everything looked great, we went online and saw the plane would fly about 1500-2000 feet which would put the plane at a perfect height with the iconic elements in back. We get to the house and wait, wait, and then wait some more until finally we hear the rumble of our behemoth jet coming over the mountain, directly over the house. Immediately it was was evident that the plane was on a different route and much, much higher than expected. I would say it was more like 4-5000 feet. So it comes over the house, turns right and heads toward the Griffith, which was a bit too high for my liking, but then turned and went behind the structure, and for a brief moment, lined up pretty nice(above photo). It then headed for the Hollywood sign and poof!, disappeared behind the mountain instead of flying in front where the sign was. Ugh!! No Hollywood sign shot.
In retrospect, I feel OK about the decision because I was able to pick a location that had at least 2 good vantage points, it was a completely unique view, and I wasn't looking into Sun and smog. All in all, not too bad of a day.
Hat's off to all my photo-compadres around the country who shot beautiful photos of this thing sailing across country.

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