Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What I Learned From Flying

Snake River at Oxbow Bend
Grand Teton National Park, WY
Canon EOS 7D, ISO 200, f/16 @ 20 sec.

My photography and faith buddy, Bill Fortney (, blogs incessantly about the connection between his faith and photographic pursuits.  One of those pursuits was his outstanding book America From 500 Feet which is a collection of images Bill took while flying an ultralight aircraft.  

Not sure I have what it takes to fly an ultralight but I have taken the stick of a Cessna 172 and a Dehavilland Beaver and an now beyond a Delta "Million Miler" frequent flyer.  But I've learned many life lessons from flying. 

I don't have time for the crap that holds me down.   My first flight in a Cessna 172 was from the Rice Lake Municipal Airport.  My instructor, Jim Maslowski, briefed me on all the things I needed to do but as soon as the propeller began spinning my head began spinning.  As the plane proceeded down the runway I was filled with dozens of crippling anxieties -- one of those "whole life flashing in front of you moments" -- of all the possible things that could go wrong superimposed on my own perceived inadequacies.  

The the truth hit me: this turkey has to get up in the sky or else we're going down in the lake.  Simple as that.  There isn't time to worry about all that crap.  Suddenly that which anchored me down instantly disappeared and the Cessna began its journey to Eau Claire.  

Cheapest and most effective therapy in the world.  Unless you want to wind up in the bottom of the lake, there isn't time to worry about all the crap that will keep you from soaring.

Delta isn't going to hold the plane for me if I get to the airport late.  It's been said that half of the key to success in life is just showing up.  I think you also have to be there on time or you just might miss out.

There are times in life when caution is appropriate if not indeed life-saving.  There are charlatans in our midst who would seek to pressure us to make hasty decisions that benefit them, not us.  And there is no guarantee against making a bad decision.  Obviously, to paraphrase the old Merrill Lynch saying, it's a good idea to investigate before you invest.

But indecision can also become a decision.  If you wait until the last minute to get to the airport and arrive late you're probably going to miss the plane.  The airline isn't going to hold it for you and doesn't care why you weren't there to board on time. You blew it and there's probably nobody else to blame.  Life doesn't always operate on my schedule.

Now we can get angry at the airline, the traffic, the airport and life in general but no matter what Delta isn't holding the plane.  We have no right to expect that they will.  Remember the parable of the three servants?  Did it ever seem odd that the one who was outcast was the one who didn't use the resources the master gave him?

Honesty is still the best policy.  There are many times when things don't work as I had planned. Maybe traffic was bad and I didn't get to the airport on time.  Sometimes there have been emergencies at home and I need to get back.  Sometimes I got busy and lost track of time.  

The best answer to "what to do" in those situations is simply to tell the truth.  No, Delta isn't going to hold the flight for me but there are times when it came to my rescue after I told the truth, even whey they weren't obligated to do so.  In fact, I never asked for emergency waivers if there wasn't one and I never had a "doable' request turned down.

Bad things still happen to good people.  As much as Delta has helped me in times of crisis they've also dumped on me, too.  Funny that as a customer Delta tells me all the wonderful things they're doing to "enhance" my experience bur as a stockholder the same executives talk with glee about how they're able to screw customers to maximize profits.  And the number of times I and other customers have been "enhanced" continues to grow.

There is no guarantee life will be fair, even if you are.  See the preceding paragraph.

When something doesn't go your way it may not be the worst thing.  I had an out-of-town meeting to make and was less than pleased that my flight to Chicago was cancelled due to fog and poor weather conditions.  I wound up driving to Madison. The airplane that was supposed to have been the connecting flight collided with another aircraft and ten people on the plane I would have been on were killed.  Sometimes be thankful for blessings in disguise.  See below as well.

When one door closes, another may open.  So many times I have been angry and hurt that something didn't happen as I wanted -- whether it be a job, a relationship, an investment or even a photo opportunity.  The first problem is that it was what I wanted.  Maybe God had a different idea and often the replacement plan was a better deal (although it rarely seems like it at the time).

I had a crappy fall shoot at Yellowstone and the Tetons.  The elk rut was disappointing (although the trumpeter swans were out), I got fewer shots in the Tetons than I had hoped for, the moose and pronghorn antelope were hiding from me and I was heading back with little to show for my time there.  Needless to say I was pretty disappointed (to say the least).

But as the sun had set and I was heading north out of the Tetons I turned to the left and saw the silhouette of a man fishing against the colorful sky.  I slammed on the brakes, jumped out, grabbed a camera and tripod and yelled at the man asking if he would please stay still for a few seconds.  He complied with my request and the result you can see below.

Snake River at Sunset
Grand Teton National Park, WY
Canon EOS 7D, ISO 250, f/8 @ 2 sec.

1 comment:

  1. The photo is worth everything you endured without results up to the moment you took this shot. Life has a way of surprising us, here in a good way for you. Well done!