Mt Fairweather Lenticular Aerial 1

Mt Fairweather Lenticular Aerial 1

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BLECH! That is exactly what I felt like doing during my recent aerial shoot of Mt Fairweather. My pilot gave me ample opportunities to back out of the flight. He told me that even though the weather was clear in Haines that it was going to be a bumpy ride over Glacier Bay National Park to the outer coast. I repeatedly assured him that I was an experienced photographer who was not afraid of anything. I was wrong.

While the initial flight went smoothly, the enormous lenticular cloud over the summit of Mt Fairweather in the distance was indication that it was going to get a lot more interesting. I was disappointed that I was not going to photograph the summit, but my compensation was this dramatic multi-layered cloud. I also anticipated that my earlier photos were going to have the best light since the sunset was going to be prematurely blocked by marine clouds on the horizon. As promised, the flight eventually became much rougher as we flew over the highest mountains en route to the outer coast. As we worked the small plane into position to start taking pictures, I looked down 14,000 feet to Lituya Bay and reminisced about the week that I spent there photographing wildflowers in June 2009. I opened the window every few minutes, but the combination of cold air rushing in and turbulence made me regret not having taken a Dramamine earlier. The prominent ridges and shadows beneath the mountain appealed to my vision of how I wanted to photograph the mountain. I had to concentrate like never before in order to open the window and use my camera through the hard-banking and bumps. Physically, this was one of the most challenging photos that I have created, but I am pleased with the results.

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7 thoughts on “Mt Fairweather Lenticular Aerial 1

  1. Awesome shot! And I did offer you Dramamine multiple times before the flight… 🙂

  2. Another great pic, Jon! Your bumpy flight story reminds me of all the reasons why I’m glad I can stand firmly on our valley floor and still see fantastic lenticular clouds blanketing the summits of our mountain peaks.

  3. Paul-You did offer. Next time I will know better. 😉

    Julie-Yes, but then you are limited to the valley floor. A unique image requires a unique effort.

  4. Nice shot – and a question…any reason not to have used a helicopter? (maybe the altitude?)

    While there’s a lot more vibration to contend with, the ability to open a window a 0 kts airspeed can really make a positive difference.

    Did you get another from 90 degrees to camera right? I bet the sunlight skimming the surface of the mountain would make a killer image.

    This one is really nice too – it looks like the effort and nausea were worth it!

    Charlie MacPherson

  5. Charles-Thanks for your time and generous comment. I keep getting asked the same question about using a helicopter rather than a plane. I find this question rather naive, especially because of the cost, but I want to address it for you.

    1. Cost-A helicopter typically costs 3 to 4 times as much per hour as a fixed wing aircraft. That is a significant investment.

    2. Distance-A plane can cover a longer distance. Most of the time I fly over 100 miles one-way which is 3+ hours round-trip in order to create an aerial image.

    3. Altitude-A plane can attain a higher altitude than a helicopter. This is important when shooting mountains over 10,000′ tall.

    4. Stability-I open the window or remove the door to shoot without any obstructions in front of my lens. I keep my camera inside the aircraft rather than in the airstream. By shooting wide-open at

  6. Informative comments, Jon. Nice! BTW, you’re absolutely correct when you say, “A unique image requires a unique effort.” Next time I shoot lenticular clouds on our 11,000 ft peaks, I’ll forgo standing on the valley floor and get my unique shot from under a boulder. Does that give you a hint as to how much I dislike sitting on a 200 MPH “flying chair” 12,000 ft above a very solid surface? Thank goodness for brave photographers like you!

  7. Yep. All good reasons. Next time you want to split a flight, give me a call!

    I’m actually working to get a trip together to Kaktovik, AK next summer for a photo / rafting tour with a native Eskimo guide.

    Alaska is a phenomenal state with photo opportunities in every direction and you nailed a nice one with Mt. Fairweather. Now to get the same type of image of Mt. McKinley…

    BTW – some great Bald Eagle images in your collection too – I have a location in Florida where I shoot them every February and just never get tired of them.

    Charlie MacPherson

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