Archive for Palmdale

Endeavor’s Final Flight

Posted in Aviation, Blog, Journalism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on Monday, 24 September 2012, by Stan

Endeavor and 747 SCA final flight. Over Palmdale, California. (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations

September 21, 2012

Palmdale, California – “Houston, it’s been a great ride. California, here we come!” If Endeavor could speak, those would’ve been her last words. The space shuttle program’s youngest ‘child’ took to the skies for the last time today, departing from Edwards Air Force Base and embarking on an aerial tour of California.

As the spacecraft was ferried piggyback (doing so bolted atop a specially-modified Boeing 747 called the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft or SCA) cross-country from Florida to its hometown, she provided farewell flyovers en route. This provided one final opportunity for those who worked on her and her siblings to see their hard work in flight. The flight path of the Los Angeles leg had Endeavor and the shuttle carrier fly over several Southern California landmarks and attractions. So convoluted was the route that it resembled the Green Lantern ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

ImageBefore it reached the greater Los Angeles area, it flew over the Antelope Valley. In Palmdale, thousands of residents lined several streets to watch the shuttle stack: 40th Street East, Avenue N – on both ends of the runway at Plant 42, and Avenue O. Sierra Highway looked like an overflow parking lot at a huge outdoor event. Actually, it was a huge outdoor event; Endeavor was making its final flight and would be saluting the residents of the Antelope Valley along the way. And few fortunate residents had to do nothing more than step outside and look up to witness history fly by them.

After an hour delay to wait for fog to burn off in San Francisco, the 747 SCA, with its precious cargo secured on top, lifted off from Edwards. Someone with a radio excitedly announced, “It just took off!” The news spread quickly through the crowd. Spectators craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the iconic pair. Then keen eyes spied Endeavor and 747 SCA out over the water tanks along Avenue M. Through the haze it was difficult to make out; just a small object off in the hazy distance. But it was moving.

That moving object got closer – and larger. And it had a companion; one of NASA’s F/A-18s was multi-tasking in the roles of chase plane, escort, and photo platform. The team made a 135-degree turn and headed toward Plant 42, putting it on a path to cross over the crowd. The first cheers erupted as the aircraft-spacecraft duo passed overhead and the crowd took in the size and significance of the shuttle stack.

Endeavor continued its majestic parade through these famous skies, turning east now, paralleling Plant 42. ImageLooping back toward Plant 42, the place of its ‘birth’, the most breath-taking part of the flyover was yet to come. Now lined up along the 12,000-foot runway, the pair dipped down almost low enough to scrape the shuttle carrier’s belly. There the half-million-pound combo stayed for several seconds, seemingly motionless. Rising to clear the fence, the 747 nudged Endeavor upward and continued a slow climb. As it crossed over the onlookers at Sierra Highway and Avenue N the second time, another round of wild cheering and applause broke out among those who could. Those who couldn’t just stared, mouth agape, completely awestruck. The planes banked northward, headed over to Lancaster, Rosamond, toward Mojave, and on to Northern California. In this statewide airshow of sorts, the NASA SCA pilots saved the best for first.

ImageEndeavor landed at LAX around 12:50 pm, putting a period on the fact that the United States’ shuttle fleet will never again leave the earth. She is currently being lifted off her perch atop the workhorse 747 SCA and will be lowered onto a specially designed, computer-controlled transporter; in effect, trading a set of wings for a set of wheels. In three weeks, she will be towed through the streets of Los Angeles to the California Science Center, it’s permanent retirement home. Of Endeavor’s remaining family, only Atlantis has yet to move in to its final resting place.

On Assignment – Palmdale Christmas Parade 2010

Posted in Blog, Photography with tags , , , on Saturday, 18 December 2010, by Stan

Palmdale Christmas Parade 2010 Palmdale, California (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations

December 11, 2010

Palmdale, California – I got the call on Friday to photograph the Palmdale Christmas Parade. Unfortunately I had another engagement at the same time. I ended up splitting the difference; leaving the parade early and arriving to my initial appointment late.

Officially, the parade is named the William J. “Pete” Knight Christmas Parade and is sponsored by the Palmdale Chamber of Commerce. This year’s parade had the theme “A Celebration of Family”. Usually the parade heads down Palmdale Blvd. so that’s what I was expecting this year…until I looked up the starting time and found the course had been changed. Now it would travel north on 5th St West, running between Avenue Q and Technology Drive. From a traffic standpoint, this was a much better route. 5th Street West is much less travelled than is Palmdale Blvd. There are fewer businesses along the route, and the majority of the ones that are on the route could still be accessed during the parade.

As a photographer I had to plan where I was going to post myself for the best view under the day’s conditions. The main problem was that instead of running east-west, the parade would be running north-south. That meant the late-autumn sun would be a huge factor when shooting southward. And that is the direction the procession would be coming from. The only way to eliminate the sun from my shots would be to stand on the east sidewalk and face southwest.

Arriving early, I staked out a spot with a good patch of sky in the background. The buildings that would be in the frame looked nice and did not create a distraction. Though the route wasn’t long at all, I still wanted to catch the participants early on along the route so they would still be fresh. (Is that really important? Look at the faces of the marching bands and other walking performers at the end of the Rose Parade). The view of the oncoming procession was unobstructed. Unusually warm weather here in the Antelope Valley for this time of year was icing on the cake.

So far so good. But, being December in the High Desert of California, the morning sun was quite bright and reflected off anything even remotely shiny, including the asphalt. Using the spot meter was a quick thought but that would have resulted in blown-out backgrounds in almost every shot. Matrix metering worked better. I only had to touch up a handful of shots and only had one unusable one. That one was of a huge black and chrome vehicle. The chrome reflected the sun so harshly that the lettering on the side was completely obliterated. Combined with the black color of the rest of the vehicle, my poor Nikon didn’t stand a chance of exposing it properly. The black asphalt looked almost white in the photo. But the D200, amazingly, caught the driver behind the windshield even through the glare!

One really good thing about photographing smaller parades – aside from not having people decide to stand in front of you at an inopportune moment – is being able to walk a couple of feet out into the street to get a better angle on the subject. With people facing forward and backward on various floats, being able to move around like that makes it possible to have more faces in the shot.

Being a photographer at events like this does have it benefits. When people see your camera, they’ll turn and look directly at you and give you a smile and a wave. I was surprised to see so many people I knew in the procession. When I called out to them, not only did they turn around, but everyone riding on the float with them turned around. Big smiles at being recognized, big waves, everyone looking right at you, perfect shot!

As parades have a tendency to do, the procession occasionally stopped while some of the participants up ahead performed for the judges. Taking advantage of this, I was able to get a few really good images. And I was able to take a few moments to enjoy an event that I was photographing. That doesn’t happen very often. In most cases it’s shoot, shoot, shoot now and enjoy the event later when editing the results.

As I mentioned earlier, I had another appointment and was unable to see the entire parade. Click the link and you can see what I did get at this year’s Palmdale Christmas Parade.