On the Road Again

Traveling again.

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from me here in a while, it’s because I’ve been traveling. I’m doing one of my Southwest Circle Helicopter Adventures in northern Arizona, accompanied by a video crew and staff writer for a respected travel magazine.

The goal of this trip is to gather about 90% of the video needed to create three individual broadcast-length videos, each of which will be made available on DVD. It’s a huge project and, so far, we have at least 20 hours of raw video footage to wade through.

I’m flying with a door off and a video guy on board taking glare-free video images of what we fly over. He also has at least two POV.1 cameras mounted inside the helicopter at all times. The other video on the ground is “chasing” us — actually, he’s getting a big head start each day to drive to the airport where we’ll land before we arrive — and taking video of us landing. Then there are cameras whirring all over the place on the ground.

Wild HorsesThe writer is sitting up front beside me, taking notes and using my Nikon D80 to shoot images of what she sees. Although a good portion of the shots have some unfortunate glare — not much you can do about that when shooting through Plexiglas — many of them are really good. Like this shot she took of a herd of wild horses we overflew on the Navajo Reservation two days ago.

It’s been a busy week so far. Although I’m trying to demonstrate to the writer what my Southwest Circle Helicopter Adventure is all about, I’m also working with the video crew to make sure we capture all of the footage we need for our three videos. I’m hoping she understands that my usual clients won’t be rushing around like nuts all day.

Antelpe CanyonI’m treating myself to a few of the activities my excursion guests get to enjoy. For example, on Tuesday, I joined the crew for a boat ride on Lake Powell that visited the “business side” of the Glen Canyon Dam before squeezing about a mile up Antelope Canyon (see photo) and gliding up Navajo Canyon for a look at the “tapestry” of desert varnish on some cliff walls. I skipped the Sedona Jeep tour and Monument Valley tour to work with one of the video guys or just rest up. Normally, while my guest are touring, I’m scrambling to get the luggage into their hotel room and confirming reservations for the next day. You might imagine how tired I am after 6 days of playing pilot and baggage handler.

At this moment, however, I’m sitting at the dining table of a double-wide mobile home near Goulding’s Lodge in Monument Valley. (Long story; believe it or not, the only lodging we cold get here in MV was in a pair of mobile homes that are part of the lodge.) I have the front drapes drawn aside so I can watch the eastern sky brighten for what promises to be a classic silhouetted butte sunrise. I always enjoy my dawns here at MV. Seeing the famous buttes outside my window is always surreal.

Today, we were scheduled to fly down to Winslow for lunch, then tour Meteor Crater and the Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River. Normally, the Southwest Circle Helicopter Adventure takes this route on the way to its last overnight stop at Flagstaff. But today we’ll probably go straight back to Page. I have four aerial photo shoots at Page starting on Friday morning; the money I make doing them will pay for this video excursion. We’ll do more video between those flights. Then we’ll hit the Crater, Falls, and Flagstaff on our way back to the Phoenix area on Sunday.

It’s a big trip and a bunch of huge projects. Just the kind of thing to keep me busy between flights for the winter season. But if all works well and as planned, I might be flying this route weekly in the coming spring and fall — with real paying passengers to take care of along the way.

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