Sometimes you have those days when it all works out perfectly.
After a January that was filled with ice fog and lots of cloudy skies and fresh snow, the weather finally broke and brought clear skies to the Anchorage area. In other words, good flying weather.
I invited my friend Laura to go up with me, partially because I needed help shoveling out my little Cessna from the two-feet of snow that had filled my parking space, and partially because she’s a very enthusiastic photographer who loves flying. For the record, she’s a very good shoveler.
Plus, it thought it would be fun to shoot aerials with another photographer. With the exception of two photo flights with my friend and fellow pro Carl Battreal, I’ve flown most of my aerial missions alone. I was excited about sharing this amazing scenery with a friend.
After a solid hour of shoveling and preheating the plane, we finally took off about an hour before sunset and climbed towards the Chugach. I followed a path I often like to take up Eagle River Valley, which puts me right in front of some of the most impressive peaks in the Chugach Front Range, including Polar Bear Peak above.
I did a pretty close approach so that Laura could get some photos, then I banked around, opened my window, and shot a few of my own. After a couple of circles, we closed our windows and headed out past Mt. Beelzebub and Peril Peak. It was cool to watch Laura’s excitement as the mountains got bigger and the light got better.
Then we flew over Whiteout Glacier and headed out towards one of my favorite spots to shoot aerials, the high plateau right between Lake George Glacier and Surprise Glacier. There’s an amazing concentration of snowy peaks and massive ice fields here, and many of my favorite mountain photos have been made in this general area.
We could see the light becoming even more dramatic as we crossed the Lake George Glacier and our hearts raced as it turned from gold to rich pink.
Again, I gave Laura first dibs at the scene ahead of us, a stunning view of Peak 7460 and the long ridge that leads up to its south flank. By now, she was definitley getting the hang of it. After she got a few frames, I banked and grabbed a few of my own, then pointed my X-T2 and XF56mm f/1.2 lens straight down at a crevasse field below me that was practically glowing.
I got some incredible shots, including this vertical image below, which is by far one of my favorite aerials I’ve ever shot. It’s the new lock screen on my phone.
Keep in mind, these are all straight JPEGS with no processing, just the Velvia film simulation on the X-T2. That’s how I shoot all of my aerials.
We kept circling and shooting frame after frame until the pink light faded, in total awe of the amazing display we’d just witnessed. It’s not like this every single time I go up, and in fact, I did another flight later in the week and although the light was good, it wasn’t quite as brilliant was it was on this day.
Before heading back to Anchorage, we turned and flew alongside the Turnagain Arm, which was completely clouded over with low fog. I shot this last photo in “Miniature Mode,” to give it a more dreamlike quality.
The western sky was still orange when we landed back at Merrill Field. Two weeks later, we’re still talking about our amazing flight. Sometimes everything works out perfectly. Sometime it’s magic. That’s the adventure of outdoor photography.
Oh, and by the way, Laura’s photos are awesome. She’s pretty psyched.
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