Flying photos

By By Parker Williams

By Parker Williams

Photographer Adriel Heisey’s techniques differ from those of traditional photographers — he takes his pictures while strapped to the outside of an airplane.

To get the kind of photographs he wanted, Heisey knew he needed something innovative. In 1990, he built his own plane — without a cockpit. Strapped into a seat on the outside of the plane, Heisey is able to lean out over the plane in mid-flight and gain a unique perspective of the landscape.

Adding to the excitement of flying on the outside of a plane, Heisey steers the aircraft with his leg strapped to the stick. By doing this, Heisey has total artistic control of his photographs. “We’re eliminating that middle man of a second pilot,” he said.

In a special exhibit, the Utah Museum of Natural History is featuring a collection of Heisey’s photographs depicting the American Southwest.

“This exhibit is a real treat for photography lovers,” said Becky Menlove, exhibits director at the museum. “Adriel (Heisey’s) panoramic aerial photos give us a rare look of ancient cultures?in a way that is not always possible from the ground.”

Although he said taking photos while flying was unnerving at first, Heisey became familiar with flying with his leg in just a couple of hours. Now, after 16 years of piloting his plane, he couldn’t be more comfortable when he’s in the air. “It’s like putting on your favorite pair of blue jeans,” he said.

As part of the museum’s activities for Earth Day, Heisey led a tour of his exhibit on Saturday. Before touring the exhibit, Heisey showed many of his other photographs during a presentation.

Dave Forand, a graduate student in geology at Utah State, was among those touring the exhibit on Saturday. Forand said the exhibit was “impressive” and that he couldn’t imagine controlling a plane with his leg.

Heisey’s interest in aviation started when he was in high school. In 10th grade he began flying airplanes and by age 21 had enrolled in professional pilot training.

“I’ve always been drawn to the sky as a way to see the earth,” Heisey said.

Heisey flew as a corporate pilot for a number of years and eventually took a job with the Navajo Indians. Constantly flying over the desert landscape of the four corners area, Heisey began to fall in love with the scenery, he said.

Heisey grew up in Pennsylvania and until this time was unfamiliar with the desert landscape of the American Southwest.

“I began to realize that this was something truly special,” Heisey said. “Not only was the landscape special, but my way of seeing it (was) — being above it every day.”

“From above: Images of a storied land” will be on display at the museum through May 20 and is free to U students and faculty with a valid UCard.