Shoot­ing the Shut­tle

John Ni­coloff pho­tographed Space Shut­tle launches for 30 years, cap­tur­ing great mo­ments in ex­plo­ration

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I was al­ways fas­ci­nated with outer space, space travel and rock­ets. In 1982, when my brother-in-law, Bill Cantrell, who’s a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher, told me there was a pos­si­bil­ity I could shoot a space shut­tle launch as his as­sis­tant I jumped at the chance. My NASA me­dia cre­den­tial was through the Co­ral Springs Fo­rum news­pa­per in Florida. Later I ob­tained cre­den­tials from the Ma­comb Daily news­pa­per in Mt Cle­mens, Michi­gan, where I was teach­ing at a lo­cal high school.

My pho­tog­ra­phy ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore the space shut­tle con­sisted of shoot­ing sports for my high school teams. Work­ing as Bill’s as­sis­tant at the Kennedy Space Cen­tre, set­ting up the re­mote cam­eras and pre­par­ing for the launch pho­tog­ra­phy from the press view­ing area, taught me all about the cor­rect cam­era set­tings and the right film to use, proper fram­ing, and aware­ness of frames per sec­ond when us­ing my Nikon MD-12 mo­tor drive on my Nikon FE.

I also learned the im­por­tance of hav­ing fully charged bat­ter­ies, es­pe­cially for the re­mote cam­eras, which were set up and turned on the night be­fore the launch. Bill made sure I had ev­ery­thing ready to go be­fore the launch, be­cause once those solid rocket boost­ers

01 STS-135, At­lant Jul y, 2011 Nikon D2x, Nikon AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED, 1/4 sec, f/5.6, ISO200

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