Self-portrait over Shibam, Yemen from camera attached to the bottom of my paraglider

About Flying

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Flying for me is a little hectic, as I have to pilot while I take pictures. Because it’s so light, it’s safer in emergency landings than almost any other aircraft. The complete aircraft with fuel weighs less than 100 lbs (45 kg.) and I land on my feet, with my first steps being skid marks. There is no wheel to get stuck in the sand or bounce on irregular terrain. I’ve had my share of mishaps, like landing in the ocean while photographing whales, or getting dragged across a dry lake in a sand storm, but generally speaking, if I had used any other kind of aircraft than this for what I’ve been doing, I probably wouldn’t be alive today. One always has to fly prudently, and this is a stripped-down aircraft with no back-up systems. If the motor quits for any reason, you simply glide to the ground with a 7:1 glide ratio; seven units forward for every unit down. I have a firm rule never to fly over an area where I can’t make an emergency landing. This means no large forests, big cities, volcanic rocks, or large expanses of water without a safety boat. The glider is quite stable in calm conditions, thus I try to limit my flying to early morning and late afternoon, which also provides the best light for photographs. Turbulence and high winds are to be avoided, as the wing could collapse causing catastrophic results. After more than ten years and thousands of hours of prudent flying, this has never happened. I do this kind of flying because it gives me the opportunity to photograph remote areas in a way that they have never been seen before, and in a way impossible with any other kind of aircraft. I’m a photographer who flies, not a pilot who takes pictures, and I always have to balance my desire for getting a unique image against the realities and unknowns of each situation.