Pic of the Week 1/18/18
Location: Red River on the TX/OK border
Date taken: 1/26/14
I love photography and I really love meeting other passionate photographers. We photographers can get together and "talk shop" for hours on end. One of the better things about meeting and connecting with other photographers is the chance for networking. Through my job I have met some really great people and photographers and I have made some incredible friendships along the way. One of those connections brought a unique opportunity to me, my friend and fellow photographer Elizabeth invited me to shoot some aerial photos. For those of you who don't know I have a fear of heights, so you would understand my hesitation and confusion by the offer. But, I thought about what kind of interesting photos I could capture from a higher perspective and the fear was replaced with curiosity and wonderment. We set a date and I decided on a subject to photograph--the Red River. The Red River is 1,360 miles long and starts in the Texas panhandle and flows southeast to Louisiana and eventually meets with the Atchafalaya River, and then flows into the Gulf of Mexico. The Red River also serves as the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma. I thought a shot of the sun rising over the red would make for a nice scene and that's what I decided on.
I awoke to the sound of my alarm going off. I got up and checked the weather data hoping for clear skies and no wind. After browsing through the data and grabbing a quick breakfast I was off to the airport to meet with Elizabeth and my pilot Gary. I arrived to the airport and found Gary and Elizabeth going over the pre-flight checklist. It was a brisk morning and brought enough layers to handle the cold and the wind. While they were doing the inspection, I was going through my bag deciding how I wanted to shoot the images. I settled on using my 24-85mm lens on my Nikon D700. This would give me a wide enough range to photograph wide field and maybe some up close aerial photos. The time came where we were ready for take off and I hopped into the co-pilots seat. Elizabeth gave me some instruction on how to use the headset to communicate with Gary and we were going through the takeoff checklist. After the checklist Gary started the engine up. We heard it sputter and then nothing. Gary tried again, but to no avail. It was decided (by the pilots, not by myself) that the battery needed to be charged more. And I sat and watched as they loaded the chopper on the trailer and drove it to the hangar.
Behind me the sun was just starting to greet the chilly Sunday morning and the sky began to take on the familiar red/pink hues of an early morning winter. Thin cirrus clouds whispped through the morning sky soaking up the brilliant colors. I was a little disheartened that I wasn't over the river shooting the sunrise, but I did snap a few images from the ground level view. After about a half hour they were ready to try starting the engine again. This time the engine came on and after the checklist we were ready to get airborne. As we lifted off I watched as the airport got smaller and farther away and with the gain of altitude I could really see just how flat our area is. Way off in the distance I could see the peaks of the Wichita Mountains some 60miles away. The sun was just now rising above the cirrus clouds and I was ready to start shooting. It was a short 10 minute flight to the river, but along the way we landed so Gary could remove my door. Now I had the freedom to shoot anything out my window.
We spent the next few hours flying around the Red River and photographing various scenes of the landscape down below. This was back in 2014 and still in the height of the drought so the river was low and sandbars down below made for interesting compositions. There was one area that I seemed to think would work well for a shot. I got on the headset and let Gary know where I wanted to be asked him to fly a little bit lower. As we moved over the scene the roar of our engine startled the wildlife down below causing a flock of ducks to scatter and fly over the river. This encouraged a Great Blue heron to relocate, as well. When the birds started flying I began pressing the shutter tracking them through my camera and silently praying these shots would be in focus. The final image that I chose featured the birds mid flight over the river and the white feather of their wings contrasted nicely against the darker river. The heron's bright blue plumage stood out well against the red and rust color of the sand. I came back with some cool shots that day, but this was one of my favorites. The birds add a little extra depth, energy, and scale to the photo making easy to determine how high up we really were. I haven't done any more aerial photography since then, maybe I will need to do some this year.
Red River Aerial © Ben Jacobi