We have liftoff! by shesnapped

We have liftoff!

My long-time girlfriend/soul sister came into town for a visit over Veteran's Day weekend, and turns out NASA Wallop's Island scheduled a launch mission for the same time. Unbeknownst to me, witnessing a real live launch was a bucket list item for her!!! I mean, I had a feeling she would enjoy it, which is why I sent her the link after we had already planned her visit, but I had no idea how much it meant to her!!!

Anyway, the launch was scheduled for Saturday morning 7:37 am which meant we had to set our alarms for 4am in order to make the one-hour drive to Chincoteague (ya just gotta love a place that has SO MUCH going for it!!!) and arrive for the recommended time before launch. So we got up, loaded the van with our cameras, coffee, breakfast, coats, hats, gloves and plenty of blankets to withstand the 27 degree temps that included a 13mph wind. UGH!!! Fortunately, we were able to find a spot on the boat ramp road right off the causeway that gave us this view AND the opportunity to await launch time in the comfort of the car while I kept it running with the heat on! Long wait, but tolerable that way. Gave us the opportunity to jump out and catch sunrise shots, oyster catchers feeding right in front of us, test our focus and exposure on the rocket, and still jump back in the car and warm up. The excitement built as we neared take-off, everyone listening on their smartphones to the live stream TV broadcast. T minus 3 minutes. T minus 2 minutes. T minus 1 min 30 seconds. Then suddenly, "AIRCRAFT IN THE AREA! ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!" What a let down!!! Out of nowhere, a small engine plane showed up 6 miles out flying 500 ft above water. AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!! And so what do you do but pack it up and head home?

And Saturday night, we set our alarms for 4am again and made the trek back to Chincoteague Sunday morning, got another spot on the boat ramp, and waited with baited breath for the 7:14 am launch time. 9 degrees warmer this morning, which was NICE, and a few interesting characters to socialize with and snap a couple photos of. No oyster catchers this time for some reason. And then, 30 minutes before T-time, we hear that 2 fast moving boats are headed in the direction and the Coast Guard is being sent to try to intercept them. There is no law that says that boats or planes or anyone else has to keep the way clear for a launch. It's all voluntary. They did change the launch time to the end of the 5 minute launch window, but we had no idea if the boats would actually retreat. Lots of talk on the live stream about contingency plans and so forth, but about 10 minutes before the new launch time things were sounding like this was going to actually happen, and sure enough, it did!!!! WOO HOO!!!! Absolutely worth every single chilly minute spent waiting! Even worth the 4am wake-up calls. And my girlfriend getting to do a bucket list item - priceless!!!

Our spot on the boat ramp was about 4 miles away from the launch pad as the crow flies, which is pretty much the same distance away as the viewing area at NASA's Visitor's Center, though their angle of view would be just a bit different. The boat ramp we parked on is maybe a mile-ish from the Visitor's Center. Looking at this photo, the Center would be off to the right. This shot is using the big lens from 4 miles away and, obviously, cropped in.

I've only ever been to one other launch, maybe 4 or 5 years ago, and we sat on the bay side of the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge (which is where most of my Chincoteague shots come from), and the view from that spot is not good, plus it's several miles further down the island. You can't see the launch pad due to trees and town blocking your view, so you don't know where to point your camera until the rocket is up in the air. And it may be that the launch I witnessed that time was a much smaller rocket. So I've gone all these years a little unimpressed with the whole thing. But THIS launch has completely changed my impression! Now I know where to go to see everything there is to see!!

I debated back and forth whether to photograph from the tripod or handheld. Silly me, thinking the rocket would shoot up into the sky faster than the birds I try to photograph, I made the highly educated decision to handhold so that I could pan up into the sky as the rocket blasted away to the space station! HAHAHA!!! Apparently, they don't take off quite that quickly, so next time I'll use the tripod! To be fair, not sure how much difference it will make considering the fact that it's 4 miles away, so how much detail are you really going to get? Nonetheless, I'll certainly try it and see.

And my girlfriend? Elated, ecstatic, exhilarated are all putting it mildly...

Well,you must have been excited too - as well as your friend! What an experience and writing it down for us is so good as well as seeing this amazing picture! fav
November 13th, 2017  
Cool Since I mentioned to you a visit your way would be fun I have been giving a lot of thought. Of course it would depend on my health and that I was still working so I would have the money for it. We could email. I have a hotmail email that is the same as my @ here. You can email me if you want.
November 13th, 2017  
How cool, I've seen so many on TV but to witness one must have been just amazing. Fav. Such a cool image.
November 14th, 2017  
Just awesome. Can I come next time?
November 14th, 2017  
Awesome picture.
November 14th, 2017  
Wow! FAVtastic :)
November 14th, 2017  
wonderful experience and capture
December 6th, 2017  
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