Monthly Archives: December 2011

Chasing Tom Sawyer

Downtown Memphis

Late evening sun slants through downtown Memphis and sets on the Mississippi River.

What started as an aerial photo assignment over Memphis with my twin engine Aircam rapidly evolved into a full-blown flying adventure.

If weather permitted, I planned to do some intensive exploring and photography in addition to the assignment. We camped with our RV at the Tom Sawyer RV Park just across the Mississippi River from Memphis. The West Memphis Airport is only three miles from the campground, providing a convenient tie-down for the AirCam. After finishing my aerial photo assignment, we spent the next four days flying up and down the Mississippi exploring and shooting.

Golden reflections in late evening sun with downtown Memphis and the Hernando de Soto bridge.,

Golden reflections glint on the Mississippi River in late evening. The Hernando de Soto bridge links Arkansas and Tennessee.

One evening, while Sue and I were flying above downtown Memphis and watching the setting sun, the richness of the experience was like letting the finest chocolate melt in your mouth. Below us the glow of Beale Street started to intensify and the memory of our romantic carriage ride the night before almost became a distraction. Floating slowly above Memphis with its great pillars of steel and stone, the mighty Mississippi River stretched far to the north disappearing over the horizon. Even though I know that below us the sounds of jazz and Elvis songs are echoing between the buildings, my headset only allows me to hear the purr of my engines—interrupted frequently by the chatter of air traffic control at Memphis International. Seeing the Hernando Desoto Bridge in the background and knowing how it links eastern America with the West is quite a remarkable sight. It’s not many flights where I get to press the shutter and preserve so much history, culture and geography in one frame.

On another flight we flew south along the river photographing boat traffic and fields of cotton. To get a dramatic abstract I decided to play crop duster and fly about ten feet above a cotton field. Under most conditions I would be more nervous flying that low, but hey, it’s cotton! How badly can that hurt?


Arkansas cottonfield ready to be picked.

One morning as I was sitting at a picnic table beside the RV drinking my coffee and watching boats go by on the river, a elderly man walking his poodle stopped to socialize. When he asked how long I planned to stay. I said, “Until I get the job done. This is a working trip.” That seemed to depress him and he said, “Oh, I’m sorry” He then turned and walked away. Sometimes I get the feeling I’m not fitting in too well with the retirement crowd.