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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Landscape Icons From Above

The vistas we all seek as nature photographers get a different spin put on them when shot from 500 feet up in the air

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Suwannee River, North-Central Florida
As a nature photographer, you’re always trying to find a way to make images that will capture the attention of editors, clients and your audience. We’ve all shot many of the same subjects over and over, so how do we see the world differently? For me, it all started a number of years ago when I was privileged to teach workshops alongside Art Wolfe, John Shaw, Brian Peterson and Rod Planck. More than once I heard each of them teach how you should vary your angle by getting down low to the ground or taking a higher angle to vary your approach to the subject. Rod Planck even carried a large stepladder on his SUV to get that slightly higher point of view! Then, a few years later, I saw the film Fly Away Home and realized that the landscape from well up in the sky was a unique way to capture those same subjects!

My son Wesley and I produced the book America From 500 Feet, and now Mark Kettenhofen and I have just finished the most recent version, America From 500 Feet II. Using an ultralight aircraft to fly low and slow over the landscape is a great way to see things in a new and fresh way. The current book is based loosely on the Disney/Pixar film Cars; I wanted to go out and rediscover America and its most beautiful, historically significant and interesting places.

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Bill Fortney Near Zion National Park, St. George, Utah
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Shore Of Laurel Lake, Kentucky

Four-Mile Branch, French Broad River, North Carolina
Anytime you go out and travel this great country of ours, you open yourself up to many wonderful experiences. One of the truly special moments was the morning I flew over the actual field in Kitty Hawk, N.C., where powered flight began. Flying over that field covered by a light ground fog and knowing all of man’s powered flight started here was an incredible experience. Thank you, Orville and Wilbur!

Another wonderful flight came along the coast of Florida at Crystal River. The airport is only about a mile from the head of Crystal River Springs, and just below me was a tour boat and several manatees swimming in the clear waters!

I’ve photographed the slots, both the upper and lower, near Page, Ariz., with photo groups dozens of times, but flying over Lower Antelope Canyon near Lake Powell was a unique way to see the slots from a new angle.

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