Friday, March 20, 2009

Gift of Photography and Flight

One of my favorite magazines is Smithsonian. Kind of geeky of me, I know. But it is a really cool magazine and usually has articles about stuff I never would have known about otherwise.

For instance, in the January 2009 issue, there is an article about the photography of George Steinmetz. Mr. Steinmetz takes pictures while "flying" his motorized paraglider. With the paraglider, he is able to get much closer to his subject than people taking aerial photos out of a plane or a balloon.

First of all, the idea of flying around in a paraglider sounds incredible. Kind of like soaring in a glider - but better since you actually feel the wind in your face...

Second, he has travelled all over Africa taking photos of the landscape, people, animals - everything. I have always wanted to go to Africa. During my interview with Congressman Hopkins (and a board of other big wigs) for a nomination to USAFA, one of the last questions was what I would want to do if I found out I had only three months left to live. I said I would want to fly in a bi-plane, go to Africa and save the elephants (or at least one). Pretty cheesy, I know, which is probably why I remember it so clearly. Imagine how mortified I was when I left the Congressman's office. I was sure I had blown it!

I still have dreams about travelling around Africa in a Stearman, stopping wherever I want along the way. Oh, and saving the elephants.

Several years ago, I read a book called West With the Night by Beryl Markham. While reading it I had such daydreams of flying around Africa and spending my days spotting animals for safaris. How much cooler that would be than simply sitting in a jeep and driving around to see the animals. Though, of course, I would jump at the chance to sit in a jeep in Africa and see those animals up close. Animals you only see in pictures or in a zoo, behind bars.

Which brings me back to the photos of George Steinmetz. They are simply amazing. Photography is such an art. Seeing something no one else can see and capturing it in such a way that people feel as if they were there. Or simply, just to make them feel. That would be an amazing gift.

George Steinmetz has a new book out, African Air, which I want to check out. Based on the few pictures in the Smithsonian magazine, I can only imagine the book is filled with amazing photos. I would bet that it won't just be the photos I enjoy looking at, but also the idea of flying above the earth and seeing it as the birds do...

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