A group of photographers arrived at the Kennedy Space Center before dawn this morning to set up cameras with the hopes of capturing close-up shots of Endeavour’s Friday afternoon launch.

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The closest viewing location for a Space Shuttle launch is three miles away at the NASA press site. But those iconic photos of rocket launches need a closer vantage point. NASA allows news organizations to set up automated camera rigs as close as 500 yards from the launch pad, with major news wires getting even a little closer.

But with setup at 6 a.m. and launch 33 hours away, ingenuity is the name of the game. And each photographer has their own sure-fire way to get their cameras firing off at the moment of liftoff.

Jeffrey Seibert, who writes for Wired4Space.com, has one of the more elaborate contraptions. His self-constructed wooden box houses four off the shelf cameras that he hopes will capture stills and videos of Endeavour’s liftoff. A sensor on the front listens for the rumble of ignition, at which point servos wake the cameras up and push their “record” and “shutter” buttons. And this being aerospace, Seibert has a redundant backup: a light sensor that is triggered by the bright exhaust plume from the Shuttle’s rocket boosters.

“Way too many wires,” he jokes. This is his second attempt to capture a launch remotely. The first time didn’t turn out all that well but he hopes to find success with this trip.

A few feet away Donald Hladiuk from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation takes a simpler approach. A single Canon SLR camera is mounted inside a modified, $10 Canadian mailbox, covered with mission stickers from prior launches.

“Nothing too fancy,” Hladiuk says. Instead of a sensor he set up an electronic timer that activates the camera during the launch window. The camera will shoot continuously for 10 minutes regardless of whether the shuttle actually lifts off.

“The beauty of the Shuttle is a 10-minute window and you always have a 10-minute bracket. If it doesn’t go, you come back and reset the timer.”

The photographers worked most of the morning, securing their expensive cameras from wind, alligators, and a potential thunderstorm that might be rolling through. NASA officials will let them back out to retrieve their cameras shortly after Endeavour lifts off and the area is deemed safe.

CTTechJunkie has multiple cameras at the launch pad. We’ll be crossing our fingers that one of them will deliver a stunning launch photo for you to enjoy.