Chris Crisman Photography

Nature Conservancy: Escalante Aerial Photography

Utah Escalante River Watershed Photography - NCM13021

A portion of our Escalante assignment for The Nature Conservancy took us to a place where we’ve never made pictures before, a place that afforded a truly unique and inspiring point of view, and a place where we really, really needed to make sure Chris didn’t drop the camera.

For the first time, the Crisman team took to the skies to shoot Aerial photography of southern Utah to capture visuals that would help show the changing landscape of the Escalante region as well as illustrate the problematic nature of the invasive species the folks on the ground are working so hard to eradicate. Keep reading for more stories and photos from 10,000 ft….

chris crisman the nature conservancy aerial photography

Our morning started early at the “airport” in the town of Escalante. Yes there was a runway, and this sign, but honestly that was about all we could see besides the wide open landscape around us. At least we’d be able to sport our plane from far away as it landed for us.

chris crisman the nature conservancy aerial photography

Our plane and pilot, Will Worthington, are both associated with Lighthawk, a volunteer pilot organization devoted to helping promote conservation in North America. Once Will arrived and we began discussing our flightpath, Chris and I knew we were in good hands. A lifelong pilot with thousands of hours of experience under his belt, Will was able to reassure us we’d be in for a good flight.

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Once we were loaded in and safety double and triple checked, we were up in the air. I should mention here that our plane was tiny and there was only enough room for Chris, myself and our gear. Very lucky for Shea, our video guy (who happens to be afraid of flying) that he got to stay on the ground.

Utah Escalante River Watershed Photography - NCM13021

Utah Escalante River Watershed Photography - NCM13021

Climbing towards 10,000ft our jaws dropped a little bit. The change in perspective redefines your view of the landscape in a way that’s almost impossible to describe.

chris crisman the nature conservancy aerial photography

Oh – and it was a pretty crazy flight. Little did we know that the best position for aerial photography was while the aircraft was in process of making sharply banked turns. We learned that pretty quickly. We also learned that the horizon became a very relative term – good thing we didn’t have much for breakfast that morning.

Utah Escalante River Watershed Photography - NCM13021

Utah Escalante River Watershed Photography - NCM13021

Despite any nauseousness, the results were absolutely worth it. We were able to make photos that we’ve previously never had the opportunity, while also documenting the progress and growth of the river we came to document. Seeing the entire ecosystem from a birds eye view was necessary to help us wrap our heads around the true size and scale of what we were shooting.

chris crisman the nature conservancy aerial photography

Technically speaking, this was also an interesting and unique shooting experience. We’d gone into the shoot having read up as much as we could about shooting aerials and what technical aspects were necessary to get good photos, but once we got up in the air it was time to focus on composition and making sense of understanding the landscape in a visual way while screaming by it at almost 200 mph. The most important thing I can stress is shooting at a fast shutter speed to overcome motion blur and the vibration of the plane. We were lucky our shoot was in bright sun – otherwise we would have needed a stabilization rig, and that can get complicated quick.

chris crisman the nature conservancy aerial photography

And to answer the question I’m sure you’re all thinking – no, Chris did not drop the camera. He held onto it for dear life!

What do you think about our first experience shooting aerials? Questions? Comments? Let us know below or @crismanphoto and /crismanphoto!

5 comments
  1. […] This post is excerpted from Chris Crisman’s blog, which published a series of posts about this assignment. For more observations about photographing the Escalante River, read the full post.   […]

  2. […] This post is excerpted from Chris Crisman’s blog, which published a series of posts about this assignment. For more observations about photographing the Escalante River, read the full post. […]

  3. […] This post is excerpted from Chris Crisman’s blog, which published a series of posts about this assignment. For more observations about photographing the Escalante River, read the full post. […]

  4. Fervil says: August 25, 201410:17 am

    Hey Chris! This aerial photo of yours’ really stunning! I couldn’t imagine that you flew over 10,000 ft to capture the beauty of Escalante which is so awesome! Truly a great skills! Keep it up! Cheers for the awesome aerial pictures!

  5. Robert Luessen says: August 25, 201410:21 am

    Thank you for the kind words!

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