The Shuttle in Spacedock

Workshop review from Jim Caldwell

At the Florida workshop, a nice gentleman named Jim Caldwell came up to interview me on camera during the first lunch break.  He was a heck of a nice guy, and today he sent me this HDR workshop review that he just released.  Thanks Jim!

First Nikon D3S Photo

I’m still writing my Nikon D3S Review, so get ready for that.  I think I’ll give the first look to people that subscribe to the newsletter.  So, far, I’m very impressed.  In prepping for the event, below is an HDR photo I took yesterday with the new camera.

Daily Photo – The Shuttle in Spacedock

I finally got to see the Space Shuttle!  It’s one of those things a young boy always dreams of seeing, don’t you know?  I’m still waiting on that phone call from NASA where they invite me to see one blast off.  I’d love to do a creative shot there…

This was shot in the new Air and Space Museum on DC.  Yes, not that old one that I used to think was cool when I was a kid.  This is a new and improved center that is completely unbelievable. I had a small argument with a security guard that would not let me take my tripod.  He said I needed a “blue card”.  I asked how to get that and he said the only person that could possibly give it to me was probably at home.  There were a number of bureaucracies where I could have filed a series of complaints, but only if such complaints were filled out in a way as pre-approved by other bureaucracies.  I did send out a self-serving Tweet to @Smithsonian asking them for special dispensation — I hoped to sway them since, after all, one of my photos did hang in the Smithsonian.  They did indeed respond, but one day late. So, I’ll still keep @Smithsonian on one of my Five Twitter Lists.

So, I was forced to take my HDR shots with a hand-held pose.  How barbaric and depressing.  I would try to wedge myself up against a beam or a foreigner when possible, but that rarely works out as good as a tripod.  Those things are never placed in the right compositional spots, sadly.

But, I did have the Nikon D3S as a backup, and I fired this one off.  It was a 4-exposure HDR from -2 to +1.  ISO 400, 23mm, f/6.7 and 1/6 second shutter speed. The +2 exposure was too blurry, and I got most of the light I needed out of the +1 anyway.

The Shuttle in Spacedock

  • You are probably getting tired of hearing from me … I got to go to the launch of ST2 and took pictures with my Hasselblads with two lenses and bodies during launch … 150mm and 500mm (the 500 borrowed from Rockwell). The composites are hanging on my office wall. ST2 (yes, that was launch 2) was one of the only two where the external tank was painted white. The launch was delayed once and I made two round trips to the cape from LA in the same week and went to both pre-launch parties. The “photographers” got to set up right at the edge of the viewing area perimeter (3Km .. which has since been closed). On my left was the aid for Sen. Hatch from Utah and on the right was John Denver who was given about 100 pounds of Cannon gear by a rep. even though he was carrying the identical setup to my Hassy with the 500mm. Fun times. I might drop by San Clemente Wed. eve. rain or shine … if I don’t get tied up. Butch

  • Yes indeed, Trey, a shuttle launch photography event is a lot of fun. I was able to go down and shoot the STS-65 launch of Columbia in 94 when i was working for NASA. It is a very cool experience and, alas, only a few opportunities are left.

  • casusan

    Oh wow! How I know even better than photographing this you’d like to take off in it!! Wonderful shot – and the new camera was super too!Thanks for this glimpse of the shuttle!

  • Another winner! Did you try and bump up the ISO on the D3s? I sometimes go up to 1600 for handheld HDR’s on my D90 and the results are surprisingly good. I’d imagine the D3s would look way better.

  • Adam Schmid

    Wow Trey, absolutely stellar image! This is definitely one of my top 5 from you!! Excellent job.

  • I love the shuttle. I wouldn’t mind the D3’s either. Oh well… I will just keep saving.

  • Great shot, Trey. Is your vantage-point publicly accessible or did you need special access?

  • Thanks for the link back, Trey! I have lived in Florida most of my life and though I’ve seen lots of shuttle launches from a distance, I’ve never been fortunate enough to witness a launch from the Cape. Some day….!

    Great shot of the shuttle! Don’t you just love the tripod police?

  • Wow! Astounding! I love the beauty of the framing and lines created by the walls.

  • Trey: I really hope you don’t mind a correction.

    The Udvar-Hazy Center is in Virginia, not DC. 🙂 (also you have a typo)

    This shot is just begging for HDR. I tried shooting it (non-HDR) and it just didn’t work! Also, I didn’t have a D3 either! 🙂

  • Spectacular photo, Trey!!! Too bad about the tripod, sometimes they seem to have the silliest rules. It had to be obvious that you were a professional with all the equipment you had with you. Maybe you should carry around a fake news reporter card. Maybe one of the Austin papers would give you one, lol. Thanks for sharing your experience and neat photo!!!!

  • David: It’s a public area. There’s a walkway so you can get a closer look at the planes that are hanging from the ceiling, etc…

    I have a shot similar to Trey’s, but of course Trey’s shot is 200 times better. 🙂

  • Wow, very cool shot! Like you, I keep waiting for them to call me for my turn in space, and I still get excited each time I watch a launch. Love this photo!! 🙂

  • It’s a wonderful museum, but for a photographer it’s very challenging to isolate your subjects from distracting backgrounds.
    The tripod rule sucks as this place has wide walkways where you won’t interfere with other guests.

  • Wow, I would love to see a space shuttle in real.

    About taking hand held HDR shots, I do this often, mostly because a tripod is not allowed or I could not take it with me. Photoshop is very very good at aligning them. Just make sure that the shutterspeed is high enough (use higher ISO), 1/6s is probably too low (at least for my hands).

  • Emily Marshall

    I’m not a photographer, unless you count the iPhone as a camera :), but Trey Ratcliff and HDR are all I have heard from my husband, a recent HDR addict @marshallphotos, for so long that I had to check out Stuck in Customs. And WOW, what I was missing! Just beautiful, absolutely breathtaking at times, and always a pleasure. Thank you for sharing your camera views of the world, places most of us have never been, though now we wish we could be :0)
    Anyway, enough gushing, a press pass would probably be fairly easy for you to obtain. My brother-in-law, @aspnerd, in Jacksonville did get one through a local paper, I think. He has gone to several NASA launches and has been as close as they will let you stand with a camera. There’s a launch scheduled in about 2 weeks. Hope your childhood dream comes true!

  • Dale Ord

    As usual, great hdr shot!
    Just wondering, does a monopod fall under the evil tripod rules?
    Found your site from an super anti-hdr critic, I’m so glad I did!
    Thanks, love your style!

  • Jack Rice

    Nice little review there.

    Very cool photo and great subject. Interesting temperature though, would normally think of this kind of thing as a much cooler tone. Would be amazing to capture the actual launch though, have to decided whether you’d have to do it single RAW HDR or 3 stops… interesting 😛

  • Scott F.

    Trey, My family and I were there in October. Great shot. I was so upset that DC is a no tripod zone!! We saw this same view on the stairs and walkway. Now if you have a terrific shot of the Blackbird, you’d make our day. Thanks for all the great works.

  • Wow Trey! I must have just missed you. You were in my own back yard….bummer.

    See my shuttle here:

    You’ve taught me a great deal and I ended up with 2 of your books for Christmas….one signed! Thanks.

  • Hey Trey,

    I took a very similar shot at the same museum and used my gorillapod ( to do so with pretty good results. You can see my image here:

    I think because the gorillapod is small none of the guards bothered me a bit.

  • Howard

    tray…. can’t wait to see your finished opinion dealing with the new Nikon D3s! I’ve just recently decided to investigate the purchase of this body, you review and opinions seem to come at the right time.

    I’ve got a question for you, one of these days explains all of us if you would howl and what methods you use to back up your photo archives! Is much as I enjoy digital photography, the possibility of losing everything in just a split second always gives me the creeps. This is where film definitely has a superior advantage over digital. Yours, Howie

  • Trey,

    Next time you are in this situation (needing a tripod but can’t use one) here is a handy little tip from Joe McNally:

  • The last night launch of the shuttle fleet is next week. I don’t have a KSC pass but I know a spot in Titusville right on the river that has a great view. The launch is at 4am though so I am leaving Melbourne around midnight for the 30 minute drive up there… You have to get there real early if you want a good seat. If you’re free and can get into the area for it let me know and I’d be happy to have you along… and this time I actually know where I am going to I won’t get you lost and have you miss the shot again. 🙂

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