The date had long marked my calendar – a Friday night gala in Santa Fe introducing aerial photographer Adriel Heisey’s new book, The Rio Grande: An Eagle’s View. Adriel’s invested the past ten years photographing the 1875-mile river from its Colorado headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, all from ultralight and light sport aircraft.
I was intimately aware of my friend’s tribulations in shooting, refining, and culling some 35,000 photographs for the book, all while piloting fulltime for the Navajo Nation and completing other photography commissions. Every month or so he’d call and say, “Greg, I’m flying the President to Flagstaff for a meeting today. Can we hang out someplace with ‘wi-fi’ and good coffee?”
Over sandwiches and cappuccinos, Adriel would share his latest milestones, flying stories, and photos for this seemingly endless project, all while uploading images to some phantom editor from his laptop. Often, he expressed discouragement over the years-long burden of the massive undertaking, but by next visit he’d be renewed by some new fix of flying and photographing amazing sights along the river. Finally, at the upcoming Santa Fe event, Jean and I would experience the long-awaited book of dazzling photographs, essays, and a forward by Robert Redford. No wonder we were excited!
Shortly before the gala, Jean was invited to attend a professional panel in Huntington Beach, California. “That’s the day before Adriel’s book debut,” I reminded her.
“It’s just a morning commitment, Greg,” she replied. “We can fly to California on Wednesday, get a beach fix, and dine out together. There’ll be plenty of time to return home Thursday after the meeting, and get to Santa Fe on Friday for the gala. Surely you won’t mind flying four days in a row…”
(First appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)
Main photo: Cochiti Reservoir on the Rio Grande, just west of Santa Fe, New Mexico. See more photos here.
©2012 Gregory N.Brown
If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!