Gulf of Mexico Aerials

As some may know, I’ve been fortunate enough to be here on the Gulf Coast covering the spill internally for BP. It has been the most exciting work opportunity of my career. I came down here the first week of May and will probably be here thru the summer, if not longer. My first week I was assigned to do aerial operations, which was like a child’s dream come true for me. I flew in a private helicopter twice a day, over some of the most pristine wetlands in Louisiana, with a GPS camera, documenting the key operations in the early stages of the spill. What an awesome week!

Exquisite wetlands near Hopedale, Louisiana

I had flown in a helicopter once before that, over one of BP’s refinery’s in Texas. Now, I have flown over 25 times in a half dozen kinds of Heli’s. I’ve actually talked to the pilots about how long it takes to get a license! It’s that cool I think it might be worth getting my own! Ha!

Inland waterways meander aimlessly through the delta’s off Louisiana’s coasts.

Anyways, I’m not flying as often as I was, but am still getting up in the air often and getting a privileged view of the spill. That leads me to today. I took an 8am flight out of Mobile, AL and flew south of Panama City, FL, then dropped to 500 ft at about 120 knots and flew the entire coast west to the Mississippi-Louisiana border, and then back to Mobile. About 6 hours total fly time, with a lunch break at Chick-fil-A, no joke.  The Florida panhandle’s coast is absolutely Mesmerizing. The waters shift from deep emerald green’s to an almost baby blue to a plain brown by the time you reach Mississippi (due to it’s proximity to the river).

A raft floating atop emerald waters in Northwest Florida

A pier off the Panama City coast

GoM meet’s back bay waters near Panama City

Beach goers peppering the coast of Destin, FL

I have really loved photographing from the air. For many reasons. Firstly, being in a chopper is just an experience. Just taking off is a rush of blood to the head. Hovering, intercoms going off, listening to air traffic control, then lifting up to 500 feet at 100 knots in seconds is sick. Can’t help but get pumped. Then, right over God’s creation you go witnessing some of the most beautiful coasts the USA has to offer. Not to mention the dirty side of the job.

Cat Island off the coast of Mississippi

But back to why I like photographing from the air. It’s a rare perspective. So the images are inherently intriguing. Two, the compositions are unique because they tend to be more pattern oriented, as opposed to expressions on faces. Three. No model releases. Four, I love how quick you have to be. You have to be scanning the horizon,scanning below you, anticipating and waiting for the moment, and then capture it. Quickly. At the speeds and altitudes we move at there are only seconds between new perspectives and it’s important to bring it all together. Aesthetics, content, exposure, page layout.

The office.

I also prefer it because it offers a macro look on the spill and just the Earth in general. It puts things into perspective. The Gulf of Mexico (GoM) dwarfs everything it touches. People look like pepper from the air. Massive 1,000,000 barrel tankers appear like paddle boats on a pond. This offers some amazing perspective from 3,500 feet. The relationship and compression differential does not get old.

Shipping vessel on the GoM

** Please note that none of the images in this post have oil in the photographs. All images in this post are  Copyright BP PLC 2010



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