This can be a strange and unusual job.  One day it’s a wildfire, maybe a county Supervisor’s meeting.  The next could be a football game or a black tie event.  It really never gets boring.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to photograph the final flight of the Shuttle Endeavour.  Although I knew it meant breaking the old sleep through the night routine, I’ve always wanted to photograph a launch of the space shuttle.  Since that never happened,  the final flight of the craft aboard a modified Boeing 747 would be my last chance to see a shuttle in the air (qualifies as a bucket list item?).

Anyhow, it was just a matter of falling out of bed at three in the AM.  That was pretty simple, in the darkness I stepped on the dog in the process of stumbling to the bathroom to brush my teeth.  After waking everyone in the house, I was out the door and at the bridge in an hour.  I probably got there way too early but wasn’t sure about where I was going to photograph the shuttle.  So I drove around.  In the 45 minutes or so looking for the right spot I almost made road kill out of waddling raccoon, a wild pig and two small foxes.  After finding a decent spot, I parked and watched the sun come up.  What a beautiful sunrise.  By then, photographers both professional and amateur, were arriving by the minute to stake out a prime spot in which to view the shuttle.

News photographers constantly worry about the angle, lens selection, backlighting, shutter speed, what to eat for dinner, children’s homework, falling off a cliff; you know, normal stuff.  I fretted for nearly three hours that I’d chosen the right place.  Some photographers climbed up a hill that looked easier to get up than down, some just walked up the road a little way.

I carried nearly 40 pounds of gear which included a 400mm telephoto, 80-200 and 16-35 zooms, a doubler, strobe, monopod, water, breakfast bar and a banana. I’m happy to say that I used every lens and ate all the food.   I received good natured abuse with the 400, but was glad I had it when the shuttle approached the bridge a second time. In reality you can plan all you want, but the odds are (and were) things would (and did) change.  After the hubub was over, I sent a few photos in for the web.  In the vehicle next to me while transmitting from my car with the windows open, a man lit up a joint and started to smoke it, skunk weed riding the breeze in to my vehicle. I hollered.

“Dude! If you’re going to spark up a doobie, you need to roll up your windows!”   In his best surfer voice  (I swear) The guy sighed, “Ooookaay.”

What a strange job.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour strapped to a modified 747 flies over the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Friday Sept. 21, 2012 on it's way to Los Angeles. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

The Space Shuttle Endeavour strapped to a modified 747 begins to fly by the north tower and a throng of photographers at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Friday Sept. 21, 2012 on it's way to Los Angeles. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

The Space Shuttle Endeavour strapped to a modified 747 flies past the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Friday Sept. 21, 2012 on it's way to Los Angeles. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

The Space Shuttle Endeavour strapped to a modified 747 glides over the Marin Headlands near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Friday Sept. 21, 2012 on it's way to Los Angeles. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

The Space Shuttle Endeavour strapped to a modified 747 glides over the Marin Headlands near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Friday Sept. 21, 2012 on it's way to Los Angeles. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

The Space Shuttle Endeavour strapped to a modified 747 flies over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Friday Sept. 21, 2012 on it's way to Los Angeles. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

The Endeavour photo gallery is here.

-Kent Porter