The first thing I saw was blue sky. A serene, baby blue. A sky only seen in summer with fluffy cumulous clouds lazily drifting by like bundles of floating cotton-candy. My stomach slouched as I felt the wheels rise off the ground. My heart skipped around in my chest as though it were tired of the secondhand images from my eyes. My eyes meanwhile ignored the clamouring of my heart and peered earnestly ahead searching for the horizon.
Then the nose of the small Cessna 180 dipped down and my stale static perspective of my home for 18 steady years and two summers found itself chucked out the door.
After snatches of discussion with Terry Wagner, the pilot and my guide for the morning, all sounds dwindled away except for the buzzing of the turbine beyond the cushion of my headphones. I found myself lost in the geometry of the land. I’m not usually interested in landscapes, but the patchwork of crops, perfect spheres from ever circling pivots and roads that went on forever caught me in their snare. I was enthralled by the mundane and entranced by objects I wouldn’t have given a second thought on the ground.
The skies revealed a new world. And things I’d never seen before.
One immediate thought was that the land I knew as my home was dependant on water from irrigation canals. So where had the lakes come from?
As we rose over the sprawling prairies Terry told me that most people are astonished by the abundance of lakes. So I wasn’t alone in my surprise.
Terry works for a company called Quikway Air Services as a tour guide, pipeline patrol pilot, charter pilot and aerial photography pilot. He was gracious enough to take me on a cruise over the County of Newell.
After a crash course in opening the window latch, thrusting the window out and trusting the air flow to hold it open I started taking pictures of the landscape.
Then Terry flew us to a spray pilot at work so I could see what it looks like. I’d written a story on the pilot—one of the two owners of Quikway—earlier so I was excited to see aerial application at work from such an angle.
When I spotted a farmer working in his fields from the ground as the spray plane flew overhead I was amazed by the coincidence. Two different pieces of the agriculture industry working harmoniously without acknowledgment.
As we flew onward Terry and I received a message from my summer employer the Brooks Bulletin asking for a photograph of the local dam. The river was flooding to a dangerous height at the time. In fact it was so high it had flooded houses, a town called High River and even the heart of downtown Calgary.
Later that night I would be near the dam at ground level photographing and videotaping the crashing water. The story would luckily later be called, “The Bassano Dam Holds“.
Gazing over the land my eyes flitted from landmark to landmark. Had I seen that house from the ground? Did I know that road? That pile of bales? Then, watching the bushes and shrubs and rooftops zip by, I blinked… and saw it.
A solitary tree with paths radiating from its base. It was like it was a place of refuge or a shrine for the creatures of the prairies. In an instant I knew I needed a photograph of this rare sight and managed one shot before the tree was lost among the greenery once more.
Every now and then a cluster of houses huddled together into a village, town or city. The same swirls and geometric lines from the country side could be seen throughout these constructs of humanity. Did that mean we mimic nature or that our influence had forced nature to “mimic” our industrial geometry?
All-in-all the flight was an opportunity to refresh my perspective of the small patch on this planet I call my home. I’m very happy I had the opportunity.