Lately I've been catching up on some personal work leftover from last Summer. Today I'm bringing you pictures from my short trip to Houston to be a part of Imran and Hina's wedding. Since I was there for several days, of course, the wedding was only a portion of everything I did while on my first trip to Texas.
This was only my second time flying out of DCA even though I am there often enough for photoshoots. It was a pretty day, although it had a low, hazy ceiling, so I captured some pretty pictures of the airport while taxiing, but began battling haze with a little altitude. I did still manage to catch some great shots of the new MGM Casino (it was still under construction at this point) , and National Harbor... and the DC Water and Sewer Authority; water treatment plants look pretty cool from the air too.
Arriving in Houston, the terrain is noticeably very flat, with long stretches of interstates and service roads, cookie-cutter neighborhoods, and snaking rivers.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) reminded me a lot of Dulles, however their facilities seem to be more spread out and reliant on shuttle busses.
Reaching downtown Houston was a shocker; not only was downtown very small at only a few blocks of city space, but on a Saturday, at noon, there were *literally* no people to be found. There was no traffic downtown; never once did I have to stop and wait for traffic when crossing streets. There were no people walking around. Half of the businesses weren't even open. I was the only customer in a coffee shop which, inexplicably, had three employees working. There was an international grocery store with an amazing wine selection upstairs that had a few customers inside, but that was about it - Houston, at lunchtime on a Saturday... completely dead and devoid of life.
Arriving at the hotel at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), I found that directly next door was an... establishment... called "The Landing Strip." I just found it ironic that Imran's wedding was being held at an airport Marriott with a titty bar a stones throw away. It actually became a running joke of the trip, culminating in me sitting down in Imran's lap before his wedding, straight out of the shower, wrapping my legs around him and sensually saying, "Hey baby, is this your first time at The Landing Strip?" just to get a reaction out of him; it was pretty funny! You can't make this stuff up! That actually happened the next day, while everyone was getting ready for the wedding, but I shot these pictures as the sun set on my first night in Houston.
Johnson Space Center • Imran and Hina's Wedding
Imran's wedding was at night, so that left all day to go explore. I'd already seen downtown, which was disappointing, to put it politely. I decided to see something guaranteed to make me smile; I head over to Johnson Space Center, just 20min from the hotel.
Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition
Little did I know until walking inside, the Mythbusters (who had just a few months prior aired their last episode) had a full exhibit visiting the Space Center. Not only did I get to meet the real Buster, but I got to see artifacts from all my favorite myths; Jamie's steel sphere from "Painting with Explosives," Adam's Flatus Ignition Seat from "Franklin's Kite," Adam's Tornado Shield from "Storm Chasing Myths," and a destroyed hot water heater from "Exploding Water Heater."
By the way, if you haven't seen it already, go check out White Rabbit Project on Netflix; that's where Kari, Grant, and Tori ended up after being cut from Mythbusters. It's a very Mythbusters influenced show, but with a modernized program format that fixes a lot of the staleness Mytbusters struggled with toward the end, and the extremely high production quality we've become familiar with from Netflix. I cannot recommend the show enough.
Johnson Space Center
The rest of Johnson Space Center (or Space Center Houston, as the museum portion is called) contains all the space geekery you expect; I love it. Most of the exhibits here focus on historic space missions, such as the Gemini and Apollo programs.
Shuttle Carrier Aircraft
Outside the Space Center is of course one of Johnson's most noticeable, newest additions, and the most relevant to me; NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft I photographed and followed for a week in April, 2012, which led to some amazing opportunities for me, and which I consider to be the launchpad for much of my career today.
It was a surreal experience boarding the retired 747 for the second time in my life, knowing that everyone else seeing the aircraft with me that day are enjoying a museum piece, but I was on board while the aircraft was still in service and even met the flight and ground crews, and they autographed copies of my photos on a table that's now blocked off as part of an exhibit. Knowing that I've been on the upper deck and sat in the pilot's seat of this aircraft, whereas now it's not even open to the public to view... it was a surreal feeling, and it's still truly an honor to have been invited to be part of such a journey in 2012.
For fun below, I'm including some side-by-side comparisons of what the SCA looked like in 2012, and what it looks like now after its decommission and subsequent transformation into an exhibit. You'll notice that in addition to some hardware being moved and a lot of plexiglass being added, they've also had to add fireproofing and sprinklers for fire code, and they've added carpeting, HVAC, standard glass entry doors, and of course lighting. Crew-members and mission critical employees have also signed all over the fuselage, as is tradition.
Since it's closed to the public, here is what the upper deck looked like in 2012.
And finally, a few more photos of the SCA in it's final resting place as it is today. This table is where the crew autographed my photos.
Astronaut Training Facility
Later in the day, after some inclement weather had passed through the area, campus tours finally resumed, however unfortunately there was only time for one tour before having to leave, and I didn't get to go on the tour of Mission Control like I'd wanted. Seeing the Astronaut Training Facility was still interesting, and I was able to snag some awesome swag at the gift shop before heading out. I still don't have my SCA 747 & Space Shuttle Discovery scale model though :-(
Imran and Hina's Wedding
Finally was the main event; Imran and Hina's wedding. I was just a guest, which is an odd feeling for me since usually I'm behind the camera. I didn't even bring my camera to the wedding; these are a few photos off my iPhone.
The next morning immediate family (which I'm considered in Imran's family) was invited for brunch. After that, there were still a few hours to kill before catching the flight home. Checking out the Texas' Gulf beach and getting some photos of the EcoBoost Mustang rental seemed like the best thing to do.
Mustang on the Beach
I was extremely disappointed with the beach in Texas; it seemed *very* dirty. The Mustang, however, was very satisfying. The EcoBoost Mustang, even with two fewer cylinders, makes only 20HP less than my G37, though since it uses a turbo to achieve this, the power came on with a delay. Still a very peppy, very capable car. Would I buy one? No; this rental had less than 3,000 miles on the clock and already had multiple rattles, probably since day one from the factory. But it was still a fun, very hoonable ride; I may have gotten a few donuts in this thing... which is convenient, because Houston seemed to be a never-ending sprawl of donut shops, fast-food joints, rug stores, and titty bars; between all that and the beach, it was time to skip town.
Flying home, I got a little work done, but eventually got distracted by the band of thunderstorms we were passing over about halfway home; this was my first time seeing lightning from the sky, and it is a beautiful sight.
With a steady hand, and a bit of luck, I was able to capture this photo of the storm over Charlotte, North Carolina. I even managed to get some video footage too!
Finally, we landed at DCA (also only my second time flying into Reagan), and the lights of Alexandria was a welcome sight just before touchdown.