Alaska Skies (An Anniversary)

This photo exists because something was wrong with the plane.

Any photographer will tell you that sometimes the moment exists because you have arduously combed through a thousand virtually duplicate shots and have found it. And sometimes it exists because you’re lucky…and nothing more.

Counterclockwise Tension

Airborne Over Alaska, January 2007

4º F.

Wind gusting 21 mph from the north.

Clear skies.

Are we going back?

Fifteen minutes after takeoff from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport the Boeing 737 banked left and hard. It was not the usual time to make such a turn. That usually happens just a minute or so after takeoff or before landing. And it was a northward turn. We were headed south, to Minneapolis. Three thousand miles away.

When the turn started, some heads came up. Some blinds were opened. I looked out the window and saw what you see above…blue sky, bright caps, a swoosh of thin clouds.

The plane came full circle but didn’t break from the leaning turn. We started around again.

What’s going on?

More heads rose; dozens among the more than 100 onboard. And some murmuring.

I have a second chance.

I stood, opened the compartment above, popped open my case, and took my camera down, then pulled the lens cap, focused out the window and…

Got it!

As we ended the second circle and started a third there was the sound of landing gear grinding and thudding.

Once.

Twice.

We’re too high for that. What’s going on?

All heads are up now. The attendants all have a look of (is that pleasant?) concern.

We straighten up at the end of turn three and head forward again.

What was that about?

Minutes go by. Then finally, the captain: “Sorry about all that, folks. We had a warning light indicating stuck landing gear and had to wait for the next plane behind us to do a visual that the gear was fully up. We’re good to go.”

Opportunity Over Circumstance

In the hours that followed, I thought about my choice in the moment. I thought it was odd I didn’t follow what seemed my natural path toward tension and fear: A sudden, unusual flight path with no warning and no explanation should lead to combination of confusion and imagination…

I don’t know what’s going on…it must be A BAD THING.

Instead, I was only thinking about getting the picture.

I chose to capture beauty over panicking.

I was lucky to be in the position to take the photo. And I was lucky I responded toward opportunity over circumstance.

10 Years, 1 Year, This Month

Across the past 10 years since that flight and photo, I’ve though often of the moment. How it can come to be through hard work or after a lot of waiting or just from showing up or just by luck. Many of the photos here span those different paths to their result.

One year ago today, I launched this site with the goals of sharing information and images, promoting and growing my business, and learning how to manage a website. It’s been challenging and frustrating and full of moments of doubt. But it’s also been fun.

Across month, this site will be going through a redesign (the new look is already in place—but still being tweaked). There will be new content, new features, and better usability. I’ll be sharing more details across the coming weeks. And eventually, sharing the process.

Most importantly, there will be many more moments coming…