Tag Archives: shuttle

Computational Photography at KSC

You may know that I’m very interested in computational photography (image capture and processing techniques that use computer processing instead of / or in addition to optical processes). My last post on this was about a year ago (https://edrosack.com/2017/11/26/more-computational-photography/), and things are still changing very fast!

Lynn and I went over to Kennedy Space Center a few weeks ago with MaryKate and our nephew Ted.  I thought I’d try out the new iPhone XS and use some of the resulting photos as examples to discuss updated capabilities.  So this post isn’t really about KSC – if you’re not interested in computational photography, feel free to just look at the photos or go on to something else.  Or if you’d like to see some other posts about KSC, please look at the links   on this search page:  https://edrosack.com/?s=Kennedy+space+center.

Mercury-Atlas rocketMercury-Atlas rocket: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962 when he launched in his Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft on an Atlas rocket.  Smart HDR  mode, ISO 25, f/1.8, 1/22000 sec

In this first photo, I deliberately shot into the sun.   I wanted to see how it handles very high contrast situations.  I have the camera’s “Smart HDR” mode enabled in settings and I used the Lightroom CC iPhone app to shoot in RAW mode.  The file it generates is a .dng file that includes the Smart HDR processing.  I waited for the photos to sync to my desktop computer and processed them there.  I think the colors and exposure in both the sky and shadows look excellent.  I’m amazed that even the writing on the capsule in the shadows looks good.

Here’s another example that shows the amount of flexibility and recoverable detail that’s present in these RAW files.  This next image is the default capture with no editing.  You can see that with even with Smart HDR on, the extreme contrast causes loss of detail in the highlights and shadows.

This next one is the same image after editing the RAW file – there’s much more of the scene visible in this version.  In situations such as this, the secret is to shoot and process RAW files!

Here’s what Apple says about Smart HDR:

Leveraging multiple technologies — like faster sensors, an enhanced ISP, and advanced algorithms — Smart HDR brings more highlight and shadow detail to your photos.” Apple

I’d say it does that!

I’d also like to comment on the enhanced bokeh effects (blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image) and adjustable depth of field.  DPReview has a good article comparing iPhone bokeh to a high end portrait lens.  You can read the article yourself, but the bottom line is it compares very favorably.  And these capabilities aren’t just for people portraits.  Some examples:

Atlantis shuttle rear viewAtlantis shuttle rear view.  iPhone XS rear camera, Portrait mode, ISO 640, f/2.4, 1/30 sec

Shuttle robot arm close upShuttle robot arm close up.  iPhone XS rear camera, Portrait mode, ISO 640, f/2.4, 1/30 sec

In these images, I adjusted the simulated aperture after the images were taken to focus viewers’ eyes on the subjects.  It’s very easy to vary the amount of blur in the background to get the effect I wanted.  I’ve also used the “portrait mode” for actual portraits, and while it’s improved from earlier versions, you can still see issues if you look for them.  For example, the depth map and processing has occasional (but fewer?) problems with stray hair around faces (blurs them when they should be sharp).

I use an iPhone, but Android users also benefit from developments in computational photography.   For instance the Pixel 3 phone has a “Night Sight” feature that is reportedly amazing.  See this article for details:  https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/14/google-pixel-night-sight-launch-sample-photos-comparison/

I hope Apple can add a similar algorithm!

Should you give away your non-phone cameras?  No, not yet.  Phones are still at a disadvantage in some ways:  Lens selection and sensor size are two important ones.  And the interfaces on dedicated cameras are better and allow quicker control.  But in some (many?) cases, your phone is an excellent photo (and video!) tool.  And they’re going to get better.  Just make sure you’re up to date on how to use the latest functions.

You can read more about this at the Apple iPhone XS Camera specifications web page.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit – Kennedy Space Center

At the end of the space shuttle program, four different locations received an orbiter from NASA:  Kennedy Space Center, the California Science Center, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in DC, and the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York. KSC got the Atlantis, which was the last shuttle ever launched.  The Atlantis Shuttle Experience grand opening ceremony was on Saturday, June 29, 2013.  It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Visitor’s Center, so I decided to go over and see what it’s like.

Space Shuttle Atlantis panorama
Space Shuttle Atlantis side view panorama – It’s displayed as if in orbit, with the cargo doors open, a satellite in the bay and the robot arm deployed.

In short, this new exhibit is outstanding.  At the entrance to the building, there’s a full size model of the solid rocket boosters and fuel tank assembly.  You enter and walk up a ramp to a room with a movie about the history of the shuttle program.  Then you move into a second room with another movie about the launches before you finally enter the exhibit hall itself.  The Atlantis is suspended as though it’s in orbit and you’re free to walk all around it and explore on several levels.  In places you’re almost within arms reach – close enough to see a lot of detail including re-entry marks on the tiles.  The hall also has many other exhibits including satellites, a transport van, space suit, a space station mock-up your kids can run through, and a group of simulators you can try including several where you attempt to land (OK if you must know, I crashed my simulated shuttle – but not too hard).

Space Shuttle Atlantis - front view
Space Shuttle Atlantis – front view

To put this into perspective, I went back through my photo archives to see if I had any previous photos of Atlantis and found several.  Here are two – you can see they’re not as close up as the new ones are:

Space Shuttle Atlantis on the pad in October 2009 prior to the STS 129 mission
Atlantis on the pad in October 2009 before the STS 129 mission – This is as close as I got to a shuttle while they were operational.

Space Shuttle Atlantis launch on STS 117 in June of 2007
Atlantis launch on STS 117 in June of 2007, just after SRB separation (made from Orlando, ~50 miles away)

And finally, here’s one last photo from my trip this week.  It shows the Astronaut’s Memorial.  In the background on the left you can see the Solid Rocket Booster assembly that stands in front of the building housing the Atlantis.

Astronaut Memorial

Astronaut’s Memorial – also known as the Space Mirror Memorial.  The Atlantis Experience entrance is behind and on the left.

Photo hints:  The light inside the exhibit hall is mixed so be careful with your white balance or shoot in RAW so you can adjust it in post processing.  The lighting is also a bit dim.  I shot at ISOs between  800 and 1600 with an aperture of f/4 and a shutter speed between 1/15 and 1/60 sec.  I didn’t use a tripod, but I did have vibration reduction / optical stabilization.  Atlantis is large – a wide-angle lens will help you fit all of it in the frame.  I used a 24 – 120mm zoom lens and it worked well for most photos.  I did have to make a multi shot panorama for the horizontal view above.

Here’s a link to my previous post on Kennedy Space Center.  Here’s a link to the entry for the Atlantis on Wikipedia.  Boing Boing has a really good review of the exhibit at this link.  And here are some other links to news about the Atlantis Exhibit opening:

Florida Today

USA Today

Space.com

I’ve posted other Kennedy Space Center photos in this set on Flickr.  Also, I’ve licensed the first photo above as Creative Commons.  It’s free for non-commercial, no derivative use as long as you provide attribution.  If you’d like to see / download a high-resolution version (~80MP), click it to go to Flickr.  Then click on the “…” symbol at the bottom right of the photo and select “View all sizes”.

Living in Central Florida for so long, I feel a personal connection to the space program and I was extremely impressed with the Atlantis Exhibit.  This vehicle flew 33 separate missions between October 1985 and July 2011 covering hundreds of orbits and over 126 million miles.  It’s awesome to see something like this up close and I’m very grateful it’s nearby.  But at the same time, it makes me a little sad.  The shuttle program was wonderful, but it’s over now.   With all the other competing priorities, will we ever have an ambitious space program again?  I hope so.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Shuttle launches from Orlando

Tendai asked me about camera settings for shooting space shuttle launches. Rather than write them down, I looked through my photos and posted the ones I’ve taken, along with the EXIF data (where available) giving the settings I used.

Space shuttle launch as seen from Orlando – 1/160 sec @ f/8, ISO 100, 300 mm, Cropped 1936 x 1296, Nikon D80

I took a new set of pictures yesterday. I’m really pleased to be able to see the Solid Rocket Booster sequence from my front yard. (We’re 35 – 40 miles from the launch site). I used my new Nikon 70 – 300, F4.5 – 5.6, IS lens and mounted the camera on a tripod on my driveway. I really like the lens.

My gallery of shuttle pictures is here.

©2007, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.