When traveling in the ‘lower 48’ states one thing that has always surprised me is how the roads just seem to stop at nothing. Driving through the national parks especially I can hardly believe the places you can go without stepping out of the car – thinking especially of Glacier National Park and Yosemite. Those roads etched into the cliffs winding up and down the mountains. Arguably there are some impressive feats of road building in Alaska too. But for me, I’ll always try and find a way to glide past the peaks in the air before I beat my subaru up on some potholed gravel road through the mountains.
Ahh, the Alaskan bushplane. The answer to accessing the road-less expanse of the Alaskan wilderness.
The New York Times travel section recently hired me to illustrate a story about flightseeing and traveling to remote locations in Alaska by air. Flightseeing is a popular tourist attraction in the summer, but for the other 9 months of the year these planes are mostly taxis hauling villagers and supplies to and from their villages. On occasion they are also known to haul some desperate alaskan surfers to remote surf breaks. It was a nice surprise to have an aerial assignment in the winter, and the photos show this winter wonderland in a season that few experience.
The deadline gave me ten days to spend the budgeted two hours in the air. I was working with the local air service that was mentioned in the story – HomerAir.com. Looking at the weather forecast we decided to move quickly and make the best of the great weather we were having the same day the budget was approved. That evening we left the Homer airport with two Cessna 206 planes flying in formation. The plan was to fly the course of a typical flightsee Homer Air offers. We headed out over the spit (see above photo) across Kachemak Bay into the Kenai Mountains just as the sun was setting. Sometimes it all comes together. I was photographing out of the front airplane through the open space created by removing the two rear doors. With two experienced pilots in control and my ability to give instructions through a headset it was hard to let go of the shutter button. The planes locked in formation the background a quickly changing scene of grandeur.
The next day brought more fair weather so we made hay and flew over the Kenai Mountains into the Kenai Fjords to capture some more scenic images and do an off airport landing to show the sort of access the bushplane and its pilot can provide. We landed on a relatively smooth beach in Harris Bay right next to the particularly awe inspring Northwestern Fjord. While the lighting wasn’t as rich the second day, the scenery certainly didn’t let us down.
See more photos from the aerial assignment in my online archive.