One of my favorite subjects (besides Iditarod dogs) is airplanes. I am blessed to have a number of friends with airplanes and all are gracious and willing to take the time to “pose” their airplane for photos. Such is the case of the image on the cover of June issue of Alaska Magazine. This is my friend Bill Kramer flying his Cessna 185 up the Ruth Glacier valley some years ago.
Interesting story here…my idea to create a good stock shot was to shoot an air-to-air picture of a plane with Mt. McKinley at first light on a clear day. I needed two planes and pilots. Two friends were willing to do that for me and they were set to go when the weather was right. From Anchorage, it’s about an hour flight to be in a spot with a good view of the mountain. In the summer, first light is very, very early in the morning. I was checking the weather and waiting for weeks before a break came when the weather service was predicting a high-pressure system that would have clear skies.
Another good friend, Sam Maxell, and I left Anchorage in his super cub on floats in the dark at about 3 or 4 am from Lake Hood. As we flew north, we called Bill Kramer, the other pilot who lives in Big Lake and has the faster 185. He took off from his lake. As it got lighter out, we couldn’t see the mountain— though it was forecast to be clear. Come to find out smoke from fires obscured the mountain…so we went to plan B that I made up as we flew, bummed the mountain wasn’t out. So I decided to do some photos of the plane at sunrise with the foggy/smokey skies. Then, we got close to the mountains that were not obscured with smoke by flying up the Ruth glacier.
The first shots went very well and Sam communicated by radio to Bill just where to fly the plane in relation to us and Sam maneuvered our plane to put me in the position needed for some good shots. Then on the climb to altitude up the Ruth, our cub was having a hard time getting any speed and lift at that altitude—- so we spun around in circles trying to gain altitude and then couldn’t really keep up with the 185. Bill did some circles around us to kill time as we got up to the right altitude. We then shot the image that is now the cover of the magazine. This was the second time I had planned to shoot a plane and the mountain on a clear day, and the weather did something else necessitating a plan B… and plan B has been very, very good to me.