Has Anyone Seen The Pair To This Sock?
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
I was very little when my parents showed me a windsock at Calcutta’s Dum Dum Airport (yes, it really was called Dum Dum, after the suburb which gave its name to the infamous bullets, which were manufactured there). I was struck by the simplicity of the windsock and the line-of-sight information it instantly conveyed.
It’s not just pilots who use this simple device. Here in Australia, we still have windsocks along the Western Highway from Melbourne to Adelaide, to give drivers and truckers an immediate reference point on prevailing wind conditions over bridges and across valleys.
But I’d never seen a multi-coloured windsock until I saw this one fluttering strongly on the outskirts of Haines Junction in the Yukon. One of the many great experiences I had during the week-long trip organised by Yukon Tourism was an Icefields Discovery Flightseeing Tour over the Kaskawulsh Glacier and Mount Logan.
Just before our pilot, Andy Williams, led us to the aircraft, I walked over to the windsock but decided not to take a shot of it horizontally as it flew proudly from the mast. Instead, I figured it would be a more unusual view if I shot it vertically, from straight in front, looking through the windsock as its canvas surface whipped in the strong, crisp breeze off the mountains.
It crossed my mind that the red and white stripes of the windsock were patriotic and appropriate for a Canadian airfield. That’s when I noticed the national flag flying proudly a few metres away. Let me tell you, I had to work very hard to get the right angle on this shot below, with the flag seeming to fly over the snowy peak in the distance.
Was I proud of the fact that I "saw" this composition? Yes, absolutely, because it wasn’t immediately apparent - and that’s one of the challenges for any photographer.
I've also included a view of a mountain overlooking Andy’s aircraft. I used a vertical frame to emphasise the tightness of the frame and to utilise the diagonal shadows to best effect. There is nothing extraneous in this shot, because I guess it’s like a good speech - it gets straight to the point, while it includes details that attract attention.
Through the Perspex of the cockpit canopy, you can clearly see the headsets. These are vital for communication between the pilot and the passengers, because the engine noise drowns out normal conversation. I sat in the back seat at Andy’s instruction, so that I would be able to use both cameras to get an interrupted view through the port and starboard windows. As he pointed out, if I’d sat in front, in the right-hand seat, he would have obscured some of the best views on my left.
I was also interested in the confidence in his voice when he said the weather would soon start to deteriorate. There was clear blue sky above us before we took off, but he was spot-on. Less than two hours later, the weather was less photographer-friendly.
Back in 1999, Doug Makkonen, base manager of Trans North Helicopters, took me on a memorable flight above the Lowell Glacier. This time, as Andy flew us in from the other direction over the Kaskawulsh Glacier, I was in my element, shooting with both Pentax digital cameras, one with my Sigma 18-125mm lens and the other with my Sigma 70-300mm lens.
And Andy was right. I shot 520 frames during the hour-long flight, which is roughly one every nine seconds. They were all shot through the port and starboard windows, except the final shot below. Watch this space for glacier and mountain-top photographs taken during the flight, but in the meantime, here is my closing thought.
How richly blessed does one have to be to fly over two glaciers on two separate occasions?
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