Author flies plane with one hand and shoots photos — Steamboat Today #ColoradoRiver


I’ve worked my way about half-way through the photos in Mr. Fisher’s book Where the Colorado River is Born.

I find it fascinating to try to pick out landmarks that I’ve seen from the ground in the photos.

Here’s a review from Tom Ross writing for Steamboat Today. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

With his left hand firmly on the control stick of his vintage Piper PA-11 Cub Special aircraft, and a camera in his right hand, Fisher compiled an impressive portfolio of photographs of the Colorado River Basin from on high and bound them up into a new book, “Where the Colorado River is Born.”

“I either shoot out the left window or the right door,” Fisher said Wednesday from his current home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. “I steer with my left hand and shoot with my right hand.”

Improbably, he uses the stick and rudder to manipulate the aircraft to frame his shot while he’s looking through the viewfinder of the camera.

Fisher picked an opportune time to self-publish a book of aerial photos of the Colorado River and its tributaries. Its release comes as even the average water user on Colorado’s Western Slope is fretting over the implications of a draft of the state’s new water plan due to be finalized in December. The plan is intended to answer the question, “Where will Colorado get the water it needs to support its cities and towns, industry and agriculture in 2050 while conserving the natural environment?”

As Fisher wrote in the foreword, he does not bring a particular environmental or political stance to the book. Rather, he wants people to be able to see the scale of the mountainous landscape that gives rise to the waters that sustain millions of people in seven states.

“My purpose is to educate those who cannot see these places directly so that they may determine for themselves the condition of their water supply and what is to be done about it,” he wrote.

Here’s another review from Jessica Cabe writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

Garrett Fisher can remember one defining moment in January 2014 when the idea came for his latest photo book, “Where the Colorado River is Born.”

“We got 28 inches of snow in Breckenridge,” Fisher said. “I had become aware of the water rights, and that particular property I was renting did not have the water rights.”

A Great Lakes native from Buffalo, New York, the concept of water scarcity did not cross Fisher’s mind until moving to Colorado, where until 2009 it was illegal for almost anyone to collect rain water or snow for personal recycling purposes. Two bills were introduced in 2009 that allow for some exceptions, but to this day many Colorado residents would be breaking the law to catch rain water or keep the snow they shovel from their driveways…

“I try to avoid telling people what to do because I think that doesn’t work,” he said. “My goal was to show people exactly where the water came from. I want to show people where the snow falls and where it goes.”

He said once people see something like that, it becomes real and relatable.

Fisher’s book contains 95 photos of the Upper Colorado, Roaring Fork, Blue, Gunnison, Eagle, Yampa and Uncompaghre river basins as well as the mountain ranges that feed them. He took these photos from his Piper PA-11 Cup Special, what he describes as the Model T of airplanes for their nostalgia factor.

“They were the first personal airplanes, or the first planes someone would buy to fly around and have fun,” he said. “It’s good for what I do. It flies slow, and it climbs aggressively. Also, the visibility is good as far as the plane parts being out of the way.”

For all these advantages, he trades comfort. Fisher took the photos that appear in “Where the Colorado River is Born” from March to June of 2014. Flying above mountains, hanging out the door of the plane with his camera, he wouldn’t have minded a heater.

Fisher said his favorite memory of photographing the river was his time flying above the Roaring Fork Valley.

“All of a sudden I got to 8,500 feet over Basalt,” he said. “I had the door open, and I was like, ‘It’s like summertime. I’m not freezing.’ And I didn’t have to worry about crashing into anything. I had forgotten how intense the flying was that I had gotten myself into. It required constant mental agility. But I cruised all over the valley, back and forth a few times, and then landed in Glenwood.”

Fisher said his book has a message, but he also wanted it to simply have aesthetic value as a coffee table book.

“If the photo’s not pretty, it doesn’t make it in,” he said.

But he hopes seeing this whole fascinating process — from snow falling on a mountain to the spring melt that takes the snow to the river — will open eyes about water in the West.

More Colorado River coverage here.

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