This happened while I was in NYC. I’m just minding my business at work when a co-worker comes up to me and says he read in the paper how the shuttle Enterprise was coming to the Intrepid Museum on the west side of Manhattan. While it was coming it would do a fly-by over the Hudson River. As he knew I was big into taking pictures he thought it would be a great opportunity. I looked at him and said something like, “Yeah, sure, I’ll check it out”, all nonchalant. Inside I was like “Coooooooooooooooooolllllllll!!!!” Yeah, I was going to be there.
So I checked the papers and yeah, it was coming. The museum was trying to get people to sign a petition to get it. If you don’t know, the Intrepid Museum is a de-commisioned air craft carrier docked on Manhattan’s west side and open to the public. On the top deck they have fighter jets and helicopters on display, as well as a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. You know, one of these:
Not my picture by the way. One of the few that aren’t. It was pretty cool to see.
The pic below is my pic. Looking at it was like looking at speed in a bottle.
Inside the carrier were all the things you’d expect to see inside of a carrier, including the steam launching device for getting the jets off of the deck. It looks like this:
These tanks fill with water and is superheated to create a blast of speed for take-off.
But I digress.
So I start planning. I check the date and the time of it’s arrival. I get the date but not the time. No matter, I get my gear together and on the fateful day I head out to get the picture.
I set up in a park in Weehawken that’s on a cliff that overlooks Manhattan. I get there at 6am, early enough to avoid rush-hour traffic and not miss the fly-by. I figure this is the best spot because I’ll have Manhattan in the background as it goes by, what I called the money shot. I’m the only one in the park. I thought this unusual, being that this once in a lifetime event was happening, but I pay it no mind and set my camera on a tripod. I’ve got extra lenses with me, as well as a few filters and whatever else I would need. I was determined.
As time passed others began showing up. As I was first I got the best spot, and I know I did because people kept trying to take it from me. I just got tough as they kept coming. Others who set up around me were friendly and we start conversating. Everyone’s excited and they have all of their gear and everyone’s got tripods. It turned into a festive crowd abuzz with exhilaration.
Several hours have passed. Then the rumors started flying. “I heard it’s not coming”, I heard they won’t let it take-off”, “I’ve got this friend on the phone that says it’s coming now”, “No it isn’t, They’re waiting for the weather to break in DC.” That’s where it was coming from and it would only be an hour’s flight to get here. Meanwhile the park continued to fill up with photographers. It became 9am, then 10am, then 11am, and still no sign or definite word to its whereabouts.
Then, at 11:30am, we hear that it just took off from DC. Woo hoo, it’s on it’s way. I start getting myself ready. I’ve already checked the image I wanted in the viewfinder, Manhattan in the background, empty sky in the fore. All it had to do was fly in and I would have one of the best photos I ever took. I was feeling a little nervous because this was like shooting a wedding: you only get one chance to get the perfect shot.The mood around me had shifted towards tension as everyone was feeling the same way I did. I simply got behind my camera and waited, patiently. OK not patiently. After all I was there at 6am and now, six hours later, it was coming. I was a little miffed at that, but the moment was coming and I didn’t have time to be upset right then.
Sure enough, one hour later we get the call. “It’s flying by the Statue of Liberty! It’s here!” A cheer rises from the crowd as we all crane our necks to see it flying over the Hudson. And there it was. Except that it wasn’t over the Hudson, more to the side. Our side! It was aimed to fly right over us! I quickly get my camera off of the tripod so that I can shoot straight up as it flew several hundred yards over us. I’ve got the shutter on auto so all I had to do was push it and it clicked away rapid fire. It flew right over our heads as it continued northward, leaving us with a shot of the belly of the transport ship it was mounted to! All I could think was “Motherf#@!$#^$”! All this time getting ready and it flies over us. No Manhattan backdrop, and barely an image of it because of the transport it was on! I was so mad at that moment.
Then someone says “Don’t worry, it’s coming back!” Ok, let’s see what happens. A moment later it does indeed return, but still over our heads. Well dammit, this was a complete waste of time. I must have taken at least 50-60 shots on auto-fire, and no money shot. Everyone else is feeling the same way. This one woman starts yelling she got it. I take a look at her picture and yes, she got it. But to be clear, what she got from her wide-angle lens was Manhattan on the bottom edge of her pic, a whole lot of blank space, and the shuttle on the top edge.
So I get home and start going through the pics. I found one good one. Here it is.
Every other shot had a wing in the way or the body of the transport or was too far to make out details. Over six hours for this one shot, if you include travel time.
And here’s the real kick in the ass! Remember how I said earlier that the museum was handing out a petition to get it? Now that they got it they charge you extra to see it! So I signed a petition to help the museum get something cool, and now I have to pay for it! Dammit!