Art History Book Mystery Partially Solved

So that’s why they sent me a copy!

Last spring, as I was finishing my packing and preparing to leave my Wickenburg home for good, a box arrived in the mail from Pearson Education. I’d been writing for Pearson’s Peachpit imprint since 1995 and assumed the box contained copies of my latest book about Mac OS X, translated into other languages. Of course, all my other books had already been packed and I was bummed that I couldn’t pack this latecomer with the others.

The Mystery

Art HistoryBut when I opened the box, I was very surprised to see that it wasn’t a translation of one of my books. It was an absolutely beautiful 1240-page hardcover book about art by Marilyn Stokstad and Michael W. Cothern titled simply, Art History (Fifth Edition). A quick look on Amazon.com showed me that the book would cost nearly $200 to buy. That wasn’t difficult to believe. The book was beautiful.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have only a passing interest in art history. But paging through this book while trying to figure out why it had been sent to me, I realized that I was holding the definitive guide to the history of art — a book that covered art history as far back as prehistoric times. It was chock full of gorgeous full-color photos. Everything the average person could want to know about the history of art worldwide was in this amazing textbook.

But why the heck had it been sent to me?

I didn’t know the authors and I didn’t write textbooks. I had never voiced an interest in art history to anyone I knew. There was no note with the book. Nothing at all to explain why I’d gotten it. I wound up assuming that someone at Peachpit had sent it to me as a gift — I’d been getting quite a few little gifts from friends who sympathized with my divorce ordeal.

I packed the book carefully in one of the last boxes I sealed up. It would look nice on the coffee table in my next home. And maybe — just maybe — I’d have time to read some of it when I settled down again.

A Partial Solution

This morning, I got two email messages, each referring to permission to use one of my photos.

One message was from a woman named Evi, who I vaguely remembered from the past. In this new message, she told me she needed to “re-clear the rights to use the below picture” for a new edition of Stokstad’s Art, A Brief History. I scrolled down and saw one of my photos of the Grand Canyon.

Lookout Studio
I shot this image of Lookout Studio after dawn one day in October 2008, most likely while I was on one of Flying M Air’s Southwest Circle Helicopter Adventures (which I stopped offering when I permanently moved out of Arizona).

It was very important, Evi told me, that my rights be extended to Pearson, the US publisher. The other message was from Pearson and included a permission form. (Pearson has forms for everything.)

Art Brief HistoryI looked up the book on Amazon.com and found a 640-page paperback book titled Art: A Brief History (5th Edition). Although I’d never seen the book before, it did get the wheels turning in my head. I did another Amazon search on the author’s name and found the book discussed at the beginning of this blog post — the book I’d received out of the blue at least nine months ago.

And then I remembered a bit more about my email exchange with Evi. It had been about two years ago. Her company had bought — actually paid — for the rights to use the photo. Somewhere along the line, I must have also requested a copy of the book. Months later, I got the check from the UK-based company drawn on a US bank, cashed it, and promptly forgot all about it.

Is it possible that they used my photo in such a big, beautiful book? Or did they use it in the shorter paperback she mentioned in her email message?

But the dates didn’t jive. The paperback book was published in December 2011. Surely it hadn’t been that long since all this transpired.

And if it was in that 640-page paperback book, then why had they sent me the 1240-page hardcover book?

Without asking for details — which I really don’t think is worth the bother; after all, this poor woman has thousands of pictures to get permissions for — the only way to know is to look through the book they sent me to see if my photo is in there. Of course, that box is still packed and still in storage. I likely won’t unpack it until later this summer, at the very earliest.

Permission Granted

I’ll definitely be giving them permission to use my photo again. And I won’t charge them a fee this time. I’m hoping that the photo did appear in the bigger book and that I get a copy of the smaller book once it’s revised.

Needless to say, I’m tickled that my work appeared in such wonderful volumes. Photography is just a hobby for me; to have my work recognized and used — with permission — in such a way really makes me happy.

The Rise (and Fall?) of Drones for Aerial Photography

I’m watching the developments closely for a few reasons.

I care about unmanned aerial vehicle or drone use, no matter what size it is. But I really care about drones flown by amateurs for photography.

The Death of a Revenue Stream

I first felt the sting of drone use for aerial photography when one of my best aerial photography clients began using a six-rotor, radio controlled quadrocopter to create some of their excellent 360° interactive panoramic images. Their setup even made international news when it photographed a protest in Moscow in 2012.

Bryce Canyon Pano
Our trip to Bryce Canyon was especially memorable because it was so freaking cold.

The drone seemed to be the perfect solution for one of our biggest problems: finding a cost-effective way to get an aircraft to some of the most remote locations in the world. In the past, I’d flown this client at Bryce Canyon in Utah, Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River in Arizona, San Juan River Goosenecks in Utah, and the San Juan and Colorado River Confluence in Utah. Drones theoretically also made it possible for them to get images at places helicopters couldn’t legally fly — such as within certain national parks and other restricted airspaces. I worked with one photographer on many of our flights; he was just as disappointed as I was about the drone use because it meant he wouldn’t be sent to these locations, either.

As I saw more and more images and video footage shot from drones, I thought I was seeing the writing on the wall. Why spend $500 or more per hour to fly with a helicopter pilot when you could spend less than $10,000 for a ready to fly quadrocopter designed for photography that you could use over and over anywhere in the world? Or much less for something more basic, like a Parrot AR.Drone or Phantom Quadcopter that you could attach a GoPro camera to? Theoretically, an investment of less than $1,000 would give you everything you needed to get the aerial photos or videos you need.

Of course, you have to be able to fly the damn things. But apparently, that isn’t much of a problem.

So I saw the very real possibility of a revenue stream — aerial photography flights — drying up because of the proliferation of drones carrying cameras.

Bigger Worries

But there was something else that worried me — something that worried me much more. As a helicopter pilot, I often fly at or below 500 feet AGL (above ground level). And contrary to popular belief among airplane pilots, there is no minimum altitude for helicopters. I fly where it’s safe to fly and try hard not to annoy people on the ground. Still, there’s a very real possibility that I could be flying in the same airspace as someone with one of these drones.

And that scares me.

Yeah, you say. Fly higher. But sometimes that’s not possible. Sometimes I need to fly closer to the ground. And besides, the FAA has given me permission — by issuing me a helicopter pilot certificate — to fly in this space. The same can’t be said for most drone operators.

Watch the video from the crashed drone.

These drones are not toys. They have the potential to be very dangerous. This became very apparent in October 2013 when a Quadcopter crashed in Manhattan after bouncing off a few buildings, landing only a few feet from a pedestrian.

Can you imagine what would have happened if this drone had struck someone on the ground? Or went through one of those office building windows? Or collided with a helicopter or small airplane?

Here’s what happened when a radio controlled helicopter struck the man controlling it in a Brooklyn, NY park in September 2013.

And the possibility of drones and aircraft colliding isn’t so remote. It almost happened near Denver in May 2012.

In December 2013, the PBS NewsHour did a story about this: “How will thousands of drones impact already crowded skies?” That story explores other issues, too, including computer-operated drones that can fly themselves and privacy.

The FAA Steps Up to the Plate

After dancing around the issue for a while, the FAA finally made a statement — and it’s one I’m very happy about.

It all started last week when the Spokesman-Review newspaper published a video shot from a “radio-controlled helicopter.” The aircraft that shot the video was clearly operating in close proximity to people on the ground — indeed, even right overhead. A self-proclaimed “troll” tweeted about it and the legality of “drone journalism” turned into a Twitter debate that was picked up by Poynter. The operator of the drone claimed such use was a “gray area” as far as the FAA was concerned. As covered in later articles on both Poynter and the PBS NewsHour, the FAA plainly stated that “drone journalism” is not allowed. According to the Poynter piece:

“There is no gray area,” said FAA spokesperson Les Dorr.

Hobbyists are allowed to use small, radio-controlled crafts under specific guidelines, but “if you’re using it for any sort of commercial purposes, including journalism, that’s not allowed,” he added.

Although I’m very happy about this development, I’m sure this isn’t the last word. I’m equally sure that drone photographers will find loopholes to avoid use being classified as “commercial” and that the practice of strapping cameras onto drones will continue into the future. Hopefully, however, drone operators will limit their use to more remote areas and keep them away from people and property on the ground.

It also proves to me that the FAA is finally paying attention to this issue. With luck, their attention will be enough to limit drone use for these purposes — at least until some sort of controls can be put in place to ensure safety.


January 10, 2014 Update: Watched the latest video of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee this morning. In the first 30 seconds of this video (after the commercial), you can see a UAV with a camera flying over the Delorean. Seconds later, it crashes. I’m thinking they didn’t do this on purpose — although Jerry masterfully works it into his script.

Screen Grab from Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
This screen grab is from 1:11 in the Patton Oswalt episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. (Highly recommended show.)

I Am a View Person

It’s not about how big or fancy or well-furnished my home is — it’s about what’s out the windows.

I’ll admit it: I’m selfish. I’m not interested in living in a showplace bought and decorated to impress my family and friends. I don’t care about how big my home is, how many rooms it has, or what designer furniture and fixtures it contains. I don’t care about Pier 1 nicknacks obtained only to fill empty spaces on tables and walls. I don’t care about aromatherapy candles to make my home smell like cinnamon and spice or vanilla or whatever the current season is.

What I care about is what’s outside the windows. I want a view.

And the better the view, the more windows I want to enjoy it, day or night, from the comfort of my home.

It all started back in my college days with my dorm room on the 14th (top) floor of one of Hofstra’s six “towers.” It faced east, with windows that covered one wall. It was only 8 x 12 in size but with a high ceiling that allowed a friend to build me a loft for sleeping. I spent a lot of time looking out those windows, at the other towers nearby and the flat expanse of Nassau County in Long Island. If I’d been on the opposite side of the building, I would have had an unobstructed view of the Manhattan skyline less than 30 miles away.

Later, I lived on the third floor of a row house in Bayside, NY. The big windows and patio overlooked that overlooked Littleneck Bay. It wasn’t the best view, but it was something. Even the constant swoosh swoosh swoosh of cars on the Cross Island Parkway 100 feet below couldn’t detract from it.

Still later, when I moved from the east coast to Wickenburg, Arizona, I was sold on my home primarily because of the view. It looked out to the northeast where I could see the Weaver Mountains beyond a nearby ridge. It also looked out to the southwest, where I could see the top of Vulture Peak. The views were not perfect but they were nice. I especially liked to watch the Weaver Mountains turn almost copper-colored as the sun set.

Looking for an escape from Wickenburg’s oppressive summer heat, I looked at land at Howard Mesa Ranch, a development of 10- and 40-acre lots between Williams and the Grand Canyon. The lot that hooked me was on the very top of the mesa, with amazing 360° views. Although I could see the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks to the east, it was the expansive view to the west that captured my heart. I wanted so badly to build a small home up there with big windows to take in those views, but it was not to be.

Jack the Dog at Howard Mesa
My dog, Jack, looking out over my favorite view at Howard Mesa. The view to the west was expansive — I could often see mountains on the Arizona Strip more than 80 miles away.

In 2012, at the start of my fifth consecutive summer in the Wenatchee area of Washington, I started thinking of a summer homesite in the area. I often visited Malaga Springs Winery on Cathedral Rock Road; it had excellent views out toward the Columbia River. A friend owned land out there and, on a whim, I called to ask who his Realtor was and whether he knew of any lots that were available nearby. Coincidentally, he and his wife had just decided to sell their lot. They’d decided that they were a bit too old to start building their dream home.

Of course, I was immediately sold on the lot. The views were amazing — far better than Wickenburg or even Howard Mesa. Spread out before me were orchards and sagebrush-covered hills, basalt cliffs, and the Columbia River snaking through the broad Wenatchee Valley. I blogged about buying it here.

My New Home
Here’s a shot of the west end of my 10-acre lot, taken from the hillside on the south border of my land. My mobile mansion looks tiny here, no?

But it wasn’t until I moved here — in my RV until my home can be built in the spring — that I realized just how amazing the views were. Every moment of the day, every change of the light or clouds, every day of the year — the view changes. Don’t believe me? Here are three shots from this week, all shot from the front door of my RV.

Cloud View
The sky isn’t always this dramatic, but it was yesterday afternoon. One of my Facebook friends said it looked like the mothership was about to descend.

View at Night
Believe it or not, it wasn’t until I moved here that I was here at night. The nighttime view absolutely floored me. Best of all, I’m still far enough from Wenatchee to have dark skies overhead.

First Light
I shot this photo this morning, not long after sunrise. Yes, that’s snow on the mountains in the distance. Although some of that snow is relatively fresh, there’s snow up there year-round.

My Bad View
My “bad” view isn’t too shabby, either.

Wondering what the view looks like in other directions? Well, the photo here shows my “bad” view — the basalt cliffs on the south side of my property. My first home will be built on this patch of land, leaving the area where my RV is currently parked available for a larger home if I need (or want) one. (Local zoning allows two residences on lots of this size, as long as one of them is 1200 square feet or smaller.)

And you can bet my home will have lots of big windows looking out over the big views I’m showing off here.

In any case, I love the views and I love to share them with my friends and family. So don’t think I’m bragging when I keep posting photos on Facebook and Twitter and this blog. I’m constantly amazed by what I’m seeing and I want you to be amazed, too.

I’m a view person. Are you?

Aerial Views from Yesterday’s Flight

A few screen grabs from GoPro video.

I did a 3-hour charter flight yesterday, taking a good client to visit cherry orchards between Wenatchee and the Tri-Cities area of Washington. Along the way, we overflew the Columbia River and vast deserts and orchards. I had two GoPro Hero cameras hooked up: one on the helicopter’s nose and one on the right skid.

Here are a few screen grabs from my flights.

Ancient Lakes
These are the Ancient Lakes at Quincy Lakes, shot by my nosecam as I descended into the area from the Quincy Basin. If you’ve ever heard of the Ancient Lakes AVA for wine, these are the lakes that name refers to.

Rock Island Dam
I like this nosecam image of the Rock Island Dam, mostly because of the cloud reflections.

Rock Island Dam
A view of the Rock Island Dam from my skidcam.

Bridges
The bridges across the Columbia River between Wenatchee and East Wenatchee, shot from my nosecam.

East Wenatchee
A bird’s eye view from my skidcam as we flew over the bridge to East Wenatchee.

Columbia River at Richland
Crossing the Columbia River from west to east near Richland, WA. This time last year those islands were almost completely submerged with snowmelt floods. This is a skidcam image.

Richland Airport
A nosecam view of Richland Airport in the Tri-Cities area.

Desert
It might be hard to believe, but this area of Washington is desert. This nosecam image, shot east of Pasco, proves it.

Orchards
In this nosecam image, you can see the Snake River just upstream from the Ice Harbor Dam. My third landing zone was at a shop in the clump of trees on the upper right. You’re looking at thousands of cherry and apple trees here.

Even More Trees

Did I say thousands of fruit trees? There are millions in this skidcam image shot near Saddle Mountain.

Rock Island
This early evening skidcam shot of Rock Island and Malaga offers a good look at the terrain of my future home. I’ll be living at the base of those cliffs across the river by Christmas.

Maria 1.0, In Photos

Going through some old photos brings back memories of a former life.

While I was away this summer, my husband gathered up huge bunches of my things and stored them in boxes or cabinets, likely to keep them out of sight. Among these things were photographic prints and slides. Unfortunately, some of them ended up in cardboard boxes that he put in my hangar; a summer flood destroyed everything left on the hangar floor — photographic keepsakes and so many other papers and books are gone forever. Others were spared destruction by being simply crammed into a cabinet or box and mercifully left in the house.

I’m going thorough these photos now. I’m finding mostly vacation photos from years and years ago — the 1980s and 1990s. I used a film camera back then and usually shot print film instead of slides. (My husband was dedicated to Kodachrome.) There are also some aerial photos from our aborted attempt at providing aerial photography services. Most of those are trash.

But I’m also finding a few random photos taken from way back when — in the days of what I’m now calling Maria 1.0. That’s the version of me from birth right up until the point I started my relationship with the man who would later become my husband.

I thought I’d share a few of the Maria 1.0 photos with readers. Keep in mind that these are scanned from very old prints, so the quality and color is somewhat questionable.

College Days, with my Cat

The date on the back of this picture says June 1981. That would be about a year before I graduated. This is me with my first cat, Fig Newton (or Figgy). It’s probably in my summer dorm room. By 1981, I’d moved out of my parents home and was living year-round at Hofstra University. I worked for Facilities Management and, because I had a job all summer, I could stay in the dorm rooms at a reduced rate. Figgy wasn’t legal to have as a pet, but that didn’t stop me. He was just a kitten here; he eventually did grow into his ears.

Maria and Figgy

I didn’t start wearing contact lenses until the fall semester. And it wasn’t until about two years later that I finally got fed up with long hair and started wearing it short.

As for the cat….well, when my future husband and I began living together in 1984, I had to find homes for him and the second cat I’d gotten not long afterward. My husband has asthma and is allergic to cats. Giving up Figgy and Rover was the first of many sacrifices I made for him.

Rooftop, Seeing Double

I got interested in photography when I was in my sophomore or junior year. I even dated a photography student for about a year. I had an Olympus OM-10 35mm camera. You could probably consider it an entry level SLR. It certainly had limitations.

But even back in those days, knew how to work around limitations. The image here is the best of only a few examples of a double-exposure shot within the camera. In other words, I shot two images on the same film frame. By masking one side of the frame for one shot and the other side of the frame for the other shot, I was able to create a double-exposure that shows me on both sides of the photo. (Of course, nowadays a shot like this is easy enough to make in Photoshop.)

Seeing Double

This was done on the roof of the apartment building I lived in in Hempstead, NY. I lived there for about a year and half, right after college. It was on the border of a nasty neighborhood that occasionally had shootings. But it was all I could afford, so that’s where I lived.

The dress I’m wearing is unusual. It’s actually a long, wrap-around skirt. I discovered that if I fastened the waistband under my armpits and put a belt around my waist, I could wear it as a dress. This is one of the many items of clothing I made for myself back in those days. I was pretty poor and couldn’t afford to buy new clothes, so I made them.

The date stamp on the back of this photo is December 1983, but I suspect it’s either a reprint or I just held off on getting it printed. No way I’d be on the roof in December without a jacket. The year is probably right, though; 1983 is the year I met my future husband and I know my hair was wild from a growing out perm back then.

Asleep in his Arms

I guess it’s appropriate to end the photo show of Maria 1.0 with a shot from the end of that era. When I met the man I’d share 29 years of my life with, I was only 22. Odd as it may seem, back in those days it wasn’t unusual for me to fall asleep in his arms, often on a rock or some other hard surface outdoors. The first time it happened was at Montauk Point, where we’d gone very early one morning to watch the sun rise. Afterward, we lay together on one of the big flat rocks making up the breakwater and fell asleep. There aren’t any photos of that, but this shot from later in 1983 reminds me of that morning, too.

Asleep in his Arms

Back in those days, we did a lot of outdoor activities with friends. I’m pretty sure this photo was taken at Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains, possibly during a Columbus Day weekend trip. I remember taking the gondola ride up Gore Mountain and hiking down to enjoy the fall colors. I vaguely recall being there with our friends Bennett and Marion, who also met that summer and later married. One of them must have taken this photo.

I really miss the guy in the photo.