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The successful powered flight of SpaceShipTwo in the Mojave Desert on April 29, 2013 was a major milestone for Virgin Galactic – and I had the incredible opportunity not only to witness, but document history in the making as a photographer for Virgin Galactic.
Tasked with photographing the reactions of employees and VIPs, it took all my willpower to focus on the onlookers as SpaceShipTwo rocketed away above.
Burt Rutan, designer of SpaceShipOne (which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004), the design upon which SpaceShipTwo is based, takes some pictures during the flight test while X-Prize founder and chairman Peter Diamandis looks on.
Employees and VIPs watch the historic first powered flight of SpaceShipTwo over California’s Mojave Desert.
The family of Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot Dave Mackay watches the historic first powered flight of SpaceShipTwo.
Burt Rutan watching the flight test.
Dave Clark, Director of Astronaut Relations at Virgin Galactic (as well as boyfriend to Princess Beatrice), reacts as SpaceShipTwo ignites its engine.
Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides along with other VIPs and employees watching the first powered flight of SpaceShipTwo over the Mojave Desert.
Richard Branson and Scaled Composites engineer Jason DiVenere celebrate the safe landing of SpaceShipTwo with a chest bump. Scaled Composites is the company which has built and is testing both SpaceShipTwo and its carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo.
Pilot Mike Alsbury relaxing after a successful flight.
Photographer Chris Fischer with Richard Branson at the Mojave Air and Space Port following the successful first powered flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.
Here are a few good articles if you’re interested in learning more about Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo’s first powered flight:
- Behind the Scenes of SpaceShipTwo’s First Powered Flight (Wired)
- Branson’s Thunderbird is go! Virgin spaceship makes its first powered flight (Daily Mail)
- Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Makes History with 1st Rocket-Powered Flight (Space.com)
For up-to-date news about the progress of SpaceShipTwo, keep an eye on the Virgin Galactic website.
The northern lights (aurora borealis) were forecast to make a rare appearance in Pennsylvania this past Saturday night, so I set out with some friends to make some photographs. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t very cooperative, with plenty of clouds obstructing our view. Using our iPhones to keep an eye on cloud movement, we arrived at Lackawanna State Park, north of Scranton, just as the clouds started to break. But the northern lights we were seeking remained out of sight. Deciding to wait around to see if the clouds would break up some more, we got out of the car and started taking some shots to pass the time. To our surprise, our cameras captured what our eyes couldn’t.
A friend questioned if what we captured was indeed the northern lights, and not just some earth lights reflecting on the clouds. I’m not 100% sure, but I am inclined towards believing these are in fact the northern lights for the following reasons:
- These photos were taken facing north, and I can’t think of anything north of Lackawanna State Park (even after consulting Google maps satellite view) that would give off this much light in that direction.
- Outdoor lights are usually sodium vapor, which give off more of a yellow/orange glow that is not evidenced here.
- The northern horizon is where the northern lights were expected to be sighted and the last report we received that evening was that the peak activity was expected around midnight. We were at this location between 11:30-1:30.
- According to Accuweather, the northern lights on Saturday night weren’t as intense as hoped, but reports were received from parts of Canada, Vermont, New York, and Maine. This would be consistent with the lights appearing only on the distant horizon.
- There was concern that the northern lights aren’t bright enough to shine through clouds, but a quick search with Google Images brings up a few images showing auroras shining through clouds.
- The strength of the light also varied during the time I was shooting, which wouldn’t be expected if they were earth lights.
Overall visibility in the mid-Atlantic on Saturday night was poor due to cloud cover. With nothing to see with the naked eye, perhaps we were among the few (or only ones) in PA to take long exposures of the dark sky? Or maybe not. I wish I could know for certain. I’ve seen auroras before — I used to live out on the Canadian prairies (way back) & have some terrific memories. In comparison, this was definitely underwhelming. But still pretty cool for around here.
What do you think?
The unique landscape of Cappadocia is often described as “moon-like” and “other-worldly.” From the moment years ago when I first laid eyes on photographs of this region in central Turkey, it captured my imagination in a way that other places have not. When I visited this region last November, I wasn’t disappointed. Cappadocia is certainly unlike anywhere else I’ve been. I can understand why George Lucas had originally planned to shoot Star Wars Episode 1″ The Phantom Menace here. And where else in the world can you enjoy your pick of cave hotels after a day of exploring underground cities, cave churches, and ancient cave dwellings?
The evil eye is a traditional Turkish symbol that is widely used all across Turkey regardless of ethnicity, religion, and cultural backgrounds — it is used by Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike. Since ancient times, the eye figure has been regarded as a powerful charm for protection from evil, having the ability to deflect negative energy.
The art of handcrafting glass evil eye beads (“nazar boncugu“) has deep roots, extending from the Near Eastern tradition of glass making dating back 3,000 years. Remnants of this ancient but dying art can be found in Nazarkoy, a small village about 45 minutes west of Izmir, Turkey. There used to be 12 workshops in the village until the Chinese started mass-producing evil eyes from plastic and selling them for cheaper prices, rendering it impossible for the locals to compete price-wise at a time when most people don’t know the difference. Today only 5 workshops remain.
I came here to visit the workshop of Mahmut Sur, a Nazar Boncugu master who was designated as a “Living Human Treasure” in September 2012, an award given by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism in conjunction with UNESCO to promote cultural arts in danger of being lost.
Evil eyes looked at me from all directions as I walked through narrow streets sided by colorful tile mosaics. A brick structure covered with dried mud to keep the heat inside, Mahmut’s workshop was small, dark and hot. Somewhat surprisingly there was only a slight smoke smell. Five glass workers (“masters”), soaked in sweat, were seated around the ocak (a specially designed kiln for glass bead making) in the center of the room. Heated by burning pine harvested from nearby forests, the furnace operates at 1,200 degrees Celsius. After placing different colored glass in different sections of the kiln, the fire is started every morning at 6am. The masters start their work a few hours later once the fire is hot enough.
In Mahmut’s workshop, the eyes are created using recycled glass purchased from Istanbul. I watched as a master dipped an iron rod with a pointed end lightly into the molten glass and spun the rod until the desired size ball of glass was accumulated. He lifted it slowly for a moment then brought it out of the oven where another tool was used to round the glass. The bead was placed back into the fire and spun in other colors for decorative effect before being rolled again to ensure a circular shape. Another rod was used to grab another color glass for the eye and placed on larger bead. The process was repeated for the pupil. Another tool was used to flatten the eye before it was pushed off the iron rod into a holding area next to the fire where the heat is approx. 400C. This allows the bead to cool more slowly — if taken out of the furnace directly, the glass will shatter. Depending on the complexity of the eye being produced, each master produces between 100-1000 eyes per day.
Eye making is transmitted in master-apprentice relationships. Apprentices start around the age of 13, working after school to train. It is a skilled craft and not everyone is cut out for the business. As one master told me, “Some people are good at it; others find other work.” After some instruction, I was given the opportunity to try my hand at making an eye. Suffice it to say it didn’t turn out so well. But the experience did deepen my appreciation for how easy the masters made it appear!
In addition to selling the beads to various distributors, Mahmut’s beads are also purchased by local women and made into jewelry and other ornaments which are sold in the “village square,” a project undertaken with the support of local government to promote glass objects made in the village.
In some places, tourism can be seen as a threat to traditional ways. In Nazarkoy, however, tourism is being promoted as a way to preserve the heritage and keep the craft alive. I hope they succeed!
Istanbul was definitely a highlight of my recent trip to Turkey (even though our time in Istanbul was cut short by 3 days due to Hurricane Sandy). Experiencing the rich history and culture of Istanbul was a dream come true. I’m fascinated by religious architecture and am naturally drawn to photographing historic places of worship. As the capital of various civilizations through history, Istanbul didn’t disappoint!
From the majestic Fatih Mosque (commonly known as the Conqueror Mosque, as Mehmet “the Conqueror” is buried here, as are famous emperors like Justinian and Constantine) to the Hagia Sophia (which was, for 1,000 years, the largest church in the world), Istanbul has some of the most beautiful and historically significant places of worship in the world.
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Before I arrived in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I anticipated mountains, forests, waterfalls, wildlife and other natural beauty — of which there were plenty. What I didn’t quite expect was the extent to which history has been preserved in the park. According to the National Park Service, the park holds one of the best collections of log buildings in the eastern United States, with over 90 historic structures having been preserved or rehabilitated in the park.
One of my life goals is to visit every national park in America. With a reputation for some of the most imposing peaks in the eastern U.S., Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been high on my list for many years. So naturally I jumped at the opportunity when a friend asked if I might be interested in joining him on a trip to the park over the Labor Day weekend. Together we made the 11 hour drive down from Northeastern Pennsylvania for a terrific weekend of hiking, camping, and photography.
Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is famed for attracting the most visitors of any national park in the U.S, with over 9 million visits per year. Nevertheless, we managed to mostly avoid the crowds by being out before dawn every morning and by hiking on a few of the less popular trails.
An attractive young woman balances precariously with both of her feet on her partner’s head, while they both juggle flaming torches.
A young man runs and leaps, somersaulting through the air over 13 people lined up in a row below.
The “Fire Guy” jumps on his skateboard through a flaming star, followed minutes later with a spectacular display of fire breathing.
Many people see street performers as simple entertainers, but they’re more than that. Buskers are artists, pursuing their dreams, living to share their artistic skills with others.
[blockquote author=”Edward Readicker-Henderson”]Travel keeps me alive. The world is great and incredibly generous with time. Travel teaches us to dare, again and again, to say yes to the moments of wonder, so many of them, blown across the landscape with the generous weight of seeded flowers — and to share them with the people we hold dear.[/blockquote]
[blockquote author=”Anonymous”]Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.[/blockquote]
My love for travel and photography have grown hand in hand. I purchased my first DSLR in anticipation of a trip to the Amazon rainforest in Peru almost 10 years ago. Since then I’ve visited 20 countries on 6 continents (still waiting on Antarctica!) including India, China (including Tibet), Indonesia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Romania, and Australia.
Going to unfamiliar places can be scary – it’s often quite nerve-racking in advance. Facing that fear and seeing how much of it was unfounded is extremely rewarding.
I love traveling because when I travel I am more open to the world and willing to take risks that I otherwise wouldn’t. I feel alive, invigorated, ready to take on challenges, free of the invisible but very real social constraints of home. I can be anybody I want to be, my true self is free to come out of its shell. My preconceived ideas are challenged and transformed by personal experience. I see through my own eyes and not through those of someone else.