Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Description

If you are at all interested in technology and space exploration, then you should really visit the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) when you come to Central Florida. Living in the area and having a life long interest in space, I’ve been several times. Most recently last Thursday. This visit was with (among others) a fellow member of the Photography Interest Group: Kevin Krause. In a first for this blog, he’s agreed to help me write this entry describing KSC for photographers.

KSC is located on the east coast of Florida about an hour from Orlando. Here’s a link to a Google Map of the area, and here is KSC’s directions page.

Exhibits: The entrance fee to KSC is currently $38 ($28 for children). There are many museum exhibits at KSC as well as the relatively new Shuttle Launch Experience simulator, Two IMAX theaters, an Astronaut Training Experience, and several bus tours that will take you to places that are otherwise restricted. Several things at KSC, including the bus tours will cost extra. The “NASA up close” tour that we took was an extra $21, and the bus and tour guide showed us the Vehicle Assembly building, the shuttle landing strip and control tower, an observation platform close to the launch complexes, and a theater re-enactment of an Apollo launch. We also toured the Apollo-Saturn V Center where there is a restored Saturn V launch vehicle and other space vehicles.  You can also take a bus from the Saturn V center to the Space Station exhibit.

(NOTE:  clicking on the photos below will take you to their Flickr page, where you can see a larger version – select all sizes at the top)

IMG_0811-4_pano
Panorama image of the Rocket Garden at the main visitor complex, Canon G9, 4 vertical images (full res is 11215×4123), ISO 80, 7.4 mm, f/2.8, 1/50 sec.

IMG_827-9_tonemapped
A space capsule gang way in the KSC Rocket Garden, Canon G9, 2971×3978, 3 shot HDR, ISO 80, 7.4mm, f/6.3, 1/160 sec, 1/320 sec, 1/640 sec.

IMG_0920
The Apollo 14 moon capsule, Canon G9, 4000×3000, ISO 80, 7.4mm, f/2.8, 1/60 sec, built in flash.

Landscapes: KSC is situated on typical Florida coastal landscape. There is some opportunity for landscape photographs, so be prepared. You might luck out with some interesting clouds during one of your tour bus stops as a background to the launch pads.

Launch pads
(Photo by Kevin Krause) Launch complex, clouds, water, Nikon D90, 3666×2445, ISO 200, Nikon 18-200 lens at 24mm, f/10, 1/400 sec.

Wildlife: KSC is right next door to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  As such, wildlife should be abundant at KSC, although it will be tough to photograph in the middle of the day with so many people around. On our tour, we did get a glimpse of a solitary alligator in the canal on the side of the road as well as  egrets, herons, and other birds. There is also a 42 year old eagle nest on the property, but the eagles were not in sight.

Eagles' nest
(Photo by Kevin Krause) This eagles’ nest has been in use for 42 years at KSC, Nikon D90, 2344×1645, ISO 3200, Nikon 18-200 lens at 200mm, f/5.6, 1/1250 sec.

IMG_0839
A stuffed possum in the wildlife exhibit at the KSC main visitor center, Canon G9, ISO 80, 44.4mm, f/4.8, 1/60 sec, built in flash.

Photo hints

Tripod/Monopod: There is no posted policy on tripods. It might be a problem to use them, if only because of the short time available at most tour bus stops.

Lenses: Bring what you have. Longer lenses will come in handy, except when you’re trying to show several launch pads in a single image.  Have a wide lens for that situation, or you can experiment with multiple images stitched into a panorama.

Other: Check out the NASA Images web page where you can search their archives for down-loadable photographs of almost any NASA subject.  Many of these are available in high-resolution. Let’s face facts – you will have a very hard time making better images than these in the static exhibits or on the tour bus at KSC. Browsing through NASA’s image archives may discourage you from trying too hard to make any images yourself, other than the requisite, documentary “We were here” photos.  But hey – we’re photographers and we live for the challenge, right?

Summary

If you’re interested in aeronautical engineering, space exploration, or Apollo program history this is a very good place to visit. Since the shuttle program is winding down, you won’t have many more chances to see a space shuttle on the launch pad.  If you’re interested, check the KSC launch schedule before you go and try to show up when a shuttle is out. Photo opportunities abound, although they’re of the “museum exhibit with people around” variety.

If you want to see more of the photos that Kevin (131 images) and I (30 images) made, the links below will take you to our respective KSC Flickr photo stream sets.

Our Galleries: Ed: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8231395@N04/sets/72157622475589561/

Kevin: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34024553@N08/sets/72157622599372346/

Website: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/home/index.html
Address: John F. Kennedy Space Center
SR 405, Kennedy Space Center, FL, 32899(866) 737-5235
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Space buff bonanza, photographic clichés

©2009, Ed Rosack and Kevin Krause. All rights reserved.

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