Amazing AirCam (back to Bio)
An experience like taking Beethoven's Ninth Intravenously
The cloud photos and aerial landscapes that I have accumulated over the years were shot mostly from experimental-class airplanes I have built. When I fly in these planes, I am positioned far forward of the wing in an open cockpit. This vantage point offers me such an unobstructed view that it's like sitting in front of my own personal IMAX theater. Imagine flying in the evening and floating above the clouds at 10,000 feet at only 40 mph. As the sun sets rapidly, the clouds start to glow in one hue then another. This experience is like taking Beethoven's Ninth intravenously! With near zero turbulence and the plane trimmed out for level flight, I can turn loose of the stick and use my feet on the rudder to make minor position adjustments. Now I go to work—adjusting f/stops, getting into the right position and altitude and hoping my friends on approach control will keep Delta out of my shot. Whoever said sunsets were relaxing!
The first plane that I built in 1989 was a MaxAir Drifter rigged for amphibian use. It was a great tool that helped me produce a lot of photos for ten years. Its most limiting factor was its range of sixty miles and a cruise speed of 55 mph. Because of the small cockpit and no windshield, I would have to land at an airport or in the river to change film.
This plane, which I named Cloud Chaser, took three years to complete and was built by my older son, Alan, and me in a hanger near the aircraft company that designed the plane in Sebring, FL. Built from a kit, the plane is officially called an AirCam. It was originally designed for National Geographic for a photography project over the African Congo.
Besides being extremely safe because of its single engine performance, it’s also lightweight, fuel efficient, quiet, environmentally friendly and carries a lot of cargo. I call it my "flying green canoe" because of its width and side rails. This aerial platform allows me great visibility so I can work with wide angle or telephoto lenses. Most aerial photos that I shoot are done solo at 40 mph with a hand held camera.
Since its completion in 2000, I have logged over 1,500 hours traveling through 35 states. It has proven itself to be a great flying machine. We recently completed a 14,000 mile trip retracing the journey of the Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery and have published the photographs in a book and DVD, Chasing Lewis & Clark Across America: A 21st Century Aviation Adventure.
The next book will be about the Tennessee River and all its lakes and tributaries. That book is about 90% done and my wife, Sue, and I hope to publish it by next year. After that we plan to produce a book about rivers of America.
We have also begun the process of acquiring sponsors for a cross-country project that would feature rivers across America. If you are interested in being a part of this project, call 423.240.3898 or email us.