If you have been following my blog recently, you have seen a few images of my attempts of aerial photography in the Brooks range mountains of northern Alaska. My two trips prior to this one were confounded by the forest fire smoke that engulfed much of Alaska’s interior. Arranging and coordinating flying in accordance with the proper weather and lighting is tricky. It is further complicated by the distance between my home and this location, and the sheer vastness and weather variation of the region itself. Fortunately on this last trip, I was able to make two flights. The first one was touch and go, moving through rain showers and squalls, which produced some interesting lighting and mood, reflected in this photo of the Hammond river in the Gates of the Arctic National Park. The second trip, which was a bluebird, cloudless day, was by far less interesting. Contrary to what the average person thinks, a clear cloudless day is not the preferred scenario for a landscape photographer. Clouds obscure light, which introduce shadow and variation of tone–not total overcast clouds, but the type that let the light dance around them a bit. I was able to get a few good images on this trip but hope to be back there again in a week or so hoping for the seemingly elusive perfect conditions. Autumn and it’s richly colored landscape is under transformation right now, and one week’s more time should render it brilliant.
I flew with Coyote Air in a Dehavilland beaver with the door removed. Hooked in with a harness anchored to the seat mounts, it is a comfortable feel, even looking straight down at the radical landscapes below. As for my camera, I clip that into a shoulder harness made by Kinesis Gear, which has proved a valuable little piece of equipment not only for aerial photography work, but also to relieve the weight of heavy cameras hanging from my neck!
You might wonder why I shot this at ISO 800. I did so for the main reason of keeping the shutter speed high. Camera blur can creep in quite easily based on how much I have to torque and twist my body position, which sometimes makes me touch the frame of the plane, transferring engine vibration. Additionally, if the lens protrudes just a few inches into the draft of the open door, it will quickly generate wind vibration. Photographing while hanging out of the door of a plane sounds really cool, but because of the wind and vibration, it is not a very “true to the trade” concept. I must confess though, I bet it would be a rush indeed!