The photograph of the space shuttle Endeavour flying past the Hollywood sign during its final flight, which ran in last Saturday's paper, was perfect — so perfect, in fact, that several readers who tried but failed to capture a similar picture raised doubts about its veracity. (For the record, alteration or manipulation of a photo is prohibited by The Times' ethics guidelines.) Reader Andy Serrano of Los Angeles wrote:
"I was at the west end of Mt. Hollywood on a ridge and took photographs at every second of each flyover. In my opinion, there never was any point where any photographer could possibly have photographed the shuttle in front of the Hollywood sign like this. I went there specifically to see if I could capture a scene such as the one shown in The Times, and it was not possible."
Times staff photographer Gary Friedman explains how he got the shot:
As part of a team of more than 20 Times photographers, my position was on the helipad of downtown's 73-story U.S. Bank Tower, the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. I had a 360-degree view of the city.
Around noon, the shuttle was spotted gliding through the sky. It passed by our vantage point moving west on a flight path that took it past the Hollywood sign. With my camera mounted on a monopod, I kept my hand on the shutter. I chose not to shoot with a longer lens, as I was worried that the shuttle might be out of the frame. The juxtaposition between the shuttle and the Hollywood sign seemed fortuitous. Endeavour made three passes by the Hollywood sign, but no others resulted in the same juxtaposition as that first one.