Here are some pictures and video from my day at the Banana Creek viewing area at the Kennedy Space Center. We were just over a mile from the shuttle launch pad, "as close as you can get without being on it," our space center escort said.
This is the space shuttle vehicle assembly building (as seen from a bus). It's huge, but it doesn't necessarily look it with nothing in the background to give it scale. It's apparently so big that clouds sometimes get stuck inside, and then it rains in the building.
This is the launch platform. The shuttle itself is on the other side of the structure. Those of us without powerful binoculars or telephoto lenses could not see it until it launched (people with those things could see the orange of the external fuel tank).
Here's the space shuttle flying away.
I also took some pictures after the shuttle was out of sight.
I didn't have the camera recording when the shuttle actually took off, but here's some video taken just a few seconds after it cleared the launch pad. I was actually holding the camera fairly steady, but it was zoomed in so far that every little twitch was exaggerated. It's really loud, by the way.