With many thanks to a handful of spectators.
The end of my first cherry drying contract of the season is coming to a close. The grower has begun picking and should be finished by Monday.
I was called out to dry his 30-acre orchard block twice. The block is located in a resort area and is surrounded on three sides by condos, a golf course, a campground, and a small strip mall. The Columbia River flows past nearby. I described my first drying call in my blog, in a post called “The Orchard I Dried Yesterday.” There’s an aerial photo of the orchard in that post.
During that first call, I noticed a lot of bystanders taking pictures of me. I didn’t have any photos of me drying cherries and I wanted some. I wanted to see what I looked like and how close I really was to the trees. I was especially interested in seeing how far my tail rotor was above the trees; in solo flight, the tail tends to hang down a bit in the back, especially with full (or nearly full) fuel. This particular orchard was hilly and every time I came down toward the river, I knew the trees behind me were higher than the trees beneath me. I didn’t see any sign of green (or red) on my tail rotor, so I assumed I was okay. But I was still curious.
So I made up a flyer and posted it on telephone poles along the road at one end of the orchard, right where some of the spectators had been standing. The flyer requested that anyone who took photos or video of the helicopter over the orchard send them to me or call me. I provided an e-mail address and my Web address.
I dried a second time less than a week later. After landing back at my base, refueling, and locking up the helicopter for the night, I came back to my trailer. And I found this photo in my e-mail in-box. I was both thrilled and disappointed at the same time. Thrilled because I finally had a cherry drying photo. Disappointed because I was very sure that I fly much closer to the treetops than it looks in the photo.
I emailed the photographer and thanked her(?) for the photo. I got an e-mail back that said, “Are you the pilot? Hard to tell when you are above us. We loved watching you.” I replied that I was the pilot and appreciated the photo. I told her it was the first time I’d seen a photo of myself drying cherry trees. She replied that “it was wonderful to see you in the air. We all waved, the kids got better shots and I will send them too you also.”
That perked me up. Maybe there would be a shot that showed me closer to the trees.
Meanwhile, the weather cleared out and dried up. My grower started picking. It didn’t look as if I’d be flying again at Crescent Bar that season. My husband scheduled a trip out to see me. I wondered if I could get him to take some photos or video while he was here. I started wishing for more rain.
Then last night I got another e-mail from Berni. There were five attachments. These were indeed better shots, and they showed me right over the trees. No disappointment at all — in fact, I was surprised to see how low I was flying and how close my tail rotor looked to some of the trees in this first shot. But after looking at it a bit longer, I realize it must have been taken with a zoom lens. In the photo, it looks as if the cliff is right behind the trees; in reality, it’s a bit farther back. That depth illusion is caused by a telephoto lens.
Another shot looked a lot more realistic regarding distances, including my height over the trees. I generally try to maintain 5 to 10 feet over the treetops. This part of the orchard block, which is closer to the road, has younger trees with uniform tree height and flatter terrain. It was much easier to dry, although it was also much windier, especially the first time I dried. I think this shot is pretty representative of how I look when I’m drying.
I’m also including this last shot, mostly because it’s really cool. I know I look pretty dorky in the helmet, but look how clean and shiny the bottom of my helicopter is! I actually remember seeing this shot being taken. I was approaching the end of the row and the road where the spectators had gathered. There were some wires there and I really couldn’t go right up to the edge of the road. I distinctly remember seeing someone pointing a camera straight up at me just before I turned to go up the next row. Judging from the background, he must have zoomed in. The result is a pretty cool shot.
Anyway, I want to thank Berni and her family again for sending the photos. I really do appreciate it.
Now I want to track down the guy with the video camera on the first flight. That should be some interesting footage.