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Update: How to take photos of Shuttle Endeavour landing in Los Angeles

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Space fans and photo nerds will have a great chance to create a memorable photograph this Friday as the shuttle Endeavour glides into Los Angeles. The retired orbiter made 25 trips into space, and Friday will mark its final day in the air. It is expected to enter L.A. airspace at about 11:30 a.m. and is expected to land at LAX by 12:45p.m., weather permitting. 

Check our Twitter or the KPCC homepage for updates.

Here at KPCC we’d like to see your photos of the Endeavour when it soars over Los Angeles and lands at LAX. Check out our photo recommendations below and send in your images to pix@kpcc.org or use the hashtag #KPCCShuttle on Twitter or Instagram and we’ll find it.

Gear: The Endeavour flight will be a once-in-a-lifetime photo op, so you’ll want to bring out your pro-camera gear to capture the historic moment. The shuttle will be piggybacked onto NASA’s modified 747 and flying at around 1,500 feet when it reaches Los Angeles.  At that height, your iPhone just won’t cut it; you’ll be able to capture a little space shuttle speck, but that’s about it.

To get the shuttle in its full glory you’ll want at least a 200mm lens on a dSLR camera. If you don’t have one handy, you can rent a lens or camera at Samy’s Camera. With that massive lens you might want to take along a monopod so you don't get too tired holding onto your gear.

To freeze the shuttle in action, set your shutter to 1/250 or above. If it’s a sunny day, use ISO 100 for best photo quality. Set your aperture accordingly for the best exposure. These settings will freeze both the shuttle and the background of your image.

Some experienced aviation photographers set their shutter to 1/30 or 1/125 and pan with the aircraft. If done correctly, this will blur the background of the image while keeping the aircraft in focus. This technique does take some time to master so the first time around it can often lead to blurry images. If you want this effect, we recommend practicing the technique on regular airplanes before the shuttle lands. You wouldn’t want a blurry Endeavour now would you?

Best bet for photos: Near LAX


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Since NASA has not released the shuttle's official flight path, your best bet to catch Endeavour is when it touches down at LAX. It will land on the south runway, so your best vantage point for the landing will be at the greenbelt area at Imperial Avenue and California Street (see map).  El Segundo police will close off the road at that location for your photographic pleasure.

El Segundo police will also close off the 300 to 600 blocks of East Imperial Avenue for public viewing at 9 a.m. You’ll get a good view of the shuttle in the air and taxiing, but you won’t be able to see the shuttle actually touch the ground due to trees that obstruct some of the views. 

El Segundo Lt. Raymond Garcia says that there are only about 50 public parking spots open in nearby lots.  Everyone else will have to park on the residential streets.  There will also be public viewing sites at 700 W. Imperial Ave.

Other potential viewing locations in Los Angeles

NASA isn’t giving away any of the flyover destinations yet, so take all these locations with a grain of salt. There’s a good chance the shuttle will fly over historic parts of L.A. so here are some likely spots that would make for killer photos.

  • Griffith Observatory — for a view of the shuttle passing over downtown from afar.
  • Hollywood Sign — quintessential L.A.
  • Downtown — the Endeavour will say hello to City Hall so if you can find a roof you’ll be able to get a nice urban shuttle sighting.

For a full list, check out this map and story on KPCC.org.

Updated: The California Highway Patrol issued more details about where the Shuttle will fly, plus some cautionary notes:

The Space Shuttle will make its final historic flight over the City of Los Angeles and several local landmarks, prior to landing at Los Angeles International Airport on September 21. Endeavor will be attached to a NASA Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft as it conducts low flying maneuvers around the City of Los Angeles, passing over key points of interest including the Griffith Observatory, Hollywood Hills and the historic Los Angeles City Hall.

This is an impressive sight that has the potential for distracting drivers and pedestrians. This press conference will outline safe locations and procedures for viewing Endeavour’s flight, reminding the public, to remain focused while driving and follow the rules of the road. Law enforcement and transportation officials want to remind motorists and visitors not to stop on the roads or highways in order to view or take photographs of the shuttle fly over. These actions can contribute to traffic congestion and cause accidents. We ask those that are interested in seeking out the best opportunity to watch this event to make arrangements in advance.

Outside of Los Angeles 

Mojave: Before it comes to Los Angeles, the shuttle will touch down in NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., in the late afternoon or early evening.  Sadly, this air force base will not be open to the public, so you won’t be able to get up close and personal shots of the shuttle then. 

If you set up camp on the outskirts of the base, chances are you could get a nice shot of the plane against the Mojave landscape.  The shuttle will be taking off early in the morning and will fly over Palmdale, Lancaster and Rosamond on its way up north.

Northern California: After leaving the Mojave, the shuttle will make its way to Sacramento and San Francisco. If you’re in the Bay Area, you can catch the shuttle passing by NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field near San Jose. 

Be sure to check back with us when the Endeavour takes its two-day trip through the streets of Los Angeles on Oct. 12. We’ll have more iPhone friendly photo opportunities then. Until then, happy shooting!

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