Saturday, November 8, 2008

Photo Recon

The day after station opening, I got to take part in one of the more interesting start-of-summer tasks. Thanks to the many pictures I took throughout the winter, I was recruited to go up in a little Twin Otter plane for aerial reconnaissance photos. These shots are taken and archived twice a year, to watch the development of snow drifts, better understand the status of construction, and generally record the condition in and around station.

The recon flights consist of three passes over the station, repeated at 500 and 1000 feet, for each of the two photographers taken up. When it's your turn to shoot, you swap places with the co-pilot, roll down the window, lean out a little (not too much - the wind will catch anything that actually crosses out of the window and yank it violently away), and start snapping.
We took up a couple of winterovers to fill out the empty seats, and everyone had the same reaction: the station is sooo tiny! It was a shock to see our little world in context, a tiny oasis in a frozen ocean extending seemingly forever in every direction.
On each pass, there are specific things they want photographed, and the plane circles and tips to ensure the best possible angles. While this works pretty well, it's a little disorienting when you're shooting - the horizon keeps moving around, and because of all the centrifugal force, it rarely matches with what you think is level - and positively sickening when you're in the back. After the 10th or 11th pass, all the passengers were looking a little green around the gills.

I'd never done anything like that before, and am really glad I got to go up and see our world in context. It was also awfully fun to sit in the cockpit and shoot out an open window with the plane diving this way and that. I guess there are some upsides to station opening & new people.

1 comment:

desert tortise said...

I am fond of the dome image, very scifi.