We recently got "high" over the Grand Canyon, see our trip report here for more photos and video
Not THAT kinda high! But I'm not here to judge, I'm just here to point out that sometimes you need to get up above an amazing natural phenomena to truly appreciate it. For years, I lived in New England, where most of our landscape was influenced by the movement of ancient glaciers. I'd look at kettle holes, sandy moraines and giant glacial erratic boulders left in the middle of the New England landscape and never fully understood how or why they were there. Then in 2005, I had the opportunity to take a helicopter to the Ruth Glacier in Alaska. Watching an actual glacier moving through the landscape in Alaska from a helicopter changed the way I looked at my landscape at home forever. (Ok, the glacier was moving too slowly to actually SEE it moving, but we knew it was!)
Seeing the natural world from the air completely changed my understanding of geology in a way I couldn't understand seeing the same landscape from the ground. After the trip to Alaska, anytime my family traveled to see some natural wonder, we planned to make sure we could fit a sightseeing flight from the air, or hiking to some higher vantage point to fully experience the natural wonder from a higher vantage point.
Tips for "getting high" to see the natural world from above.
1- If you plan to fly over a natural wonder, make sure you stay safe first!
We've since taken flights all over the world to see natural wonders...there are helicopters, planes, balloons and even ultra light aircraft. It's really important to work with trusted operators who follow best practices of operation and use safe and well inspected equipment. We've traveled in Central America, where our travel agent set us up with a well regarded private small airline, which was the only one they would recommend in the country. For us, we found the safest options by working with great travel specialists in the area who know the players in the industry.
2- Decide what mode of transportation will make you comfortable.
We have a friend of a friend who flies ultra lights, when he travels, he is perfectly comfortable going up in aircraft powered by the equivalent of a lawn mower engine, but I'm not! Others find the motion and maneuvers of a helicopter too much. If you are flying over the great migration of animals, a hot air balloon can be an amazingly peaceful way to see that natural wonder, for others, the variable landing conditions just creates too much anxiety!
3-If you can't fly, can you get high another way?
Not everyone likes to fly, but sometimes, a hike or drive can bring you to a higher vantage point. On our recent trip to to the Amalfi Coast, we truly appreciated the beauty of the coastline when we left crowds on the beaches and hiked the Path of the Gods high above the coast.
4-Prepare for ahead to get great photos
Every photographer knows that you need different lenses for different situations. Jeff brought an 18-200 DX and wished he'd brought his 24-120. It's not a bad idea to bring a cloth to wipe the windows of the aircraft a bit, to avoid smudges.
Written by: K Klofft Photos: J Klofft