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film photography

Friday Night Flights

I was contacted by a friend from high school last week. We haven't seen each other in about ten years, and haven't really been in touch, which is often the case with life. He asked me if I wanted to accompany him on a flight in his airplane since he had some extra seats available. Immediately, I accepted the offer. I couldn't wait for what was sure to be a great adventure. 

As you can imagine, I was very excited for this opportunity. I made sure to have everything prepared for when we were up in the sky. I wasn't sure about whether or not the in-flight meal would be palatable so i made sure to eat before I left. I was running a bit behind schedule so I was also writing out my gear list at the same time. 

I haven't done much aerial photography at all. There is one other time I remember and that was landing in Puerto Vallarta in 2013. I decided to go with my usual work-horses: Tokina 11-16, Sigma 35 f/1.4, and Canon 24-105, Tashia also had the trusty T3 fitted with the always-versatile kit lens at 18-55. I also decided to fish out my GoPro and bring it along. I packed it all up, grabbed the "thank-you" bottle of rum, and we set off. 

We arrived at the Regina Flying Club just before 7 pm and made our way into the WWII-era hangar. I'm not sure what I was more impressed by, the sleek and sharp curves of fuselage, or the strong proud pillars of wood overarching the entire structure. The final striking feature was the hangar door. From ground to roof, completely wide-open; light poured confidently through the gaping space for the aircraft to make their way onto the runway. 

After the initial shock wore off, we made our introductions and reconnections and started to get prepped for the flight. At this point, there was no official flight plan. So we decided where we wanted to go, how long it would take, and that was that. Flight plan: done. With the plan set, there were only a couple things left to do before we were ready to take off.

With about 10 minutes until takeoff, we were free to explore the hangar and area outside. I found a furry little friend, Maverick, the cat. Although the name is cute, it is apt as you see he is quite the character. He spends his days keeping the area clear of mice. He is very good at his job from the looks of it.

Before long, it was time to go. We made our way out onto the tarmac and right into the plane. Tashia and I were sitting in the back and Jamie, the pilot, and Chris, another passenger, were in the front. Once we were settled in and our carry-ons were securely stowed, Jamie covered over the safety measures; location of fire detectors and indicating the closest exits, which happened to be the doors we just came through. Then the engine fired up and filled the cabin with a generous dose of noise. Each seat was outfitted with hearing protection and microphones so we could still communicate with each other. Once we had all of the radios functioning, we were ready to proceed to the main runway. 

Making our way to board the plane. 

At this point, I am just a kid in a candy store. So excited for everything that is about to happen. I was very impressed with the calm yet charismatic cadence of Jamie communicating with the control tower. Delta-niner, this. Squawk-Sierra, that, without a break, pause, or moment of hesitation. So professional. Once I was almost understanding what Jamie and the flight controller were saying over the line, we were cleared for taxi and we started moving. We rolled our way across the runway, past the YQR airport, and into position for the main runway. We didn't wait long before we were cleared to make our way, and in-turn, our take-off. 

A few moments after lifting from the ground at YQR International Airport in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Everything in the airplane was escalating to a new level. I was abuzz with excitement, the engine was much louder, we were moving faster, and everything all came together until it was just gone. The moment we lifted off of the ground, it was like we were free. All of the waiting was over, we were in the air. It was fantastic. With every meter climbed, familiar structures and landmarks became less and less apparent. Climbing higher and higher, finally your perspective changes right before your eyes. 

The ride was very smooth. Every flight comes with a bit of turbulence but I would say it was very pleasant with minimal disruption. Even if there was considerable turbulence, I'm not sure I would have noticed. I was enthralled with my face glued to the window. It was unfortunate that the aged plexi glass windows were scratched, dirty, or both, but I wasn't too concerned about quality, I was just happy to be there. 

Bringing along the GoPro really paid off. Because the cabin was so tight, the ultra-wide angle helps capture everything. 

We noticed  many things on each side as we made our way to the valley. There were times where we were back to back elbowing furiously battling for that extra bit of room to compose the shot. It was a good idea in the end to bring the GoPro since the cabin was so small, it made a great shot of us in the sky. 

We picked the perfect time to fly. When we made it out around Last Mountain Lake, the sun dipped behind the last bits of clouds in the sky. We were right over the lake when the sunlight started pouring out from behind the clouds and reflecting off of the water below. It was truly a sight on par with a mild miracle. Just stunning. After some lens changes with sweaty hands, we did a loop and made our way back around, to go back to the city. 

Last Mountain Lake, Saskatchewan

By now the sky was transitioning right into the blue hour, but with the clouds still showing on the horizon, it fought off the blue sky with vivid colors before they set behind the earth. There was just a small bit of light left by the time we made it back to the city. We did a pass all the way around and I managed to get a shot directly down the main strips: Albert Street and Victoria Avenue. I always loved seeing the city from above while flying in. It's great but it is always so short-lived. Once Jamie let the control tower know that we were doing a pass, it was great having much more time and a much better view than the commercial liner. 

While there were literal ups and downs, it was such a great adventure. Once we rounded our way from the north side of Regina, we turned into an arc and made our approach to land. It all happened very quickly and what seemed effortless. The next thing we knew, we were on the ground and making our way back to the hangar. 

We were greeted by our friend, Maverick, on a job well-done. It was a great experience seeing the land we all know and love from a completely different perspective, on such a beautiful evening. It was also great reconnecting with someone I haven't seen in so long. Days go by and life gets really busy, you often forget about days gone by. It made me feel really good to see someone that has always been passionate about flying, really making his dream come true. Jamie is planning on getting his commercial licence, and is over halfway there. I really hope to have the chance to go up again, but even if I don't, it was a truly remarkable experience.