Dreaming Wide Awake Over Denali
July 27, 2022
Some of my wildest dreams came true by teaming up with the awesome folks at Denali Air to shoot a set of aerial photos for them. We flew approximately 200 miles in a loop around 20,310’ Denali and many other mountains of the Alaska Range, a mountain range containing some of the highest vertical prominence in the world. They gave me the seat at the very back of the small bushplane so I could freely shoot from both sides, and our pilot Chris told me to “do whatever you need to do with the seatbelt." The plane was basically a tiny dot in the sky getting violently swatted around, and I remember bouncing off the ceiling and windows and feeling my body constantly adjusting against the bucking of the plane while trying to stabilize my camera.
One part of the flight that's especially ingrained in my memory came when our pilot banked sharply to fly right up alongside Denali's menacing, avalanche-scarred north face. I got flung partway out of the seat and braced myself on the floor with my left arm, looking down nearly vertically through the window at the mountain, having trouble believing that I was really up here seeing this with my own eyes. As the plane re-leveled, 17,402′ Mount Foraker also came into view. In a brief but distinct moment while witnessing Denali and Foraker heralded by golden evening light above a sea of clouds, something permanently awakened in me.
I was holding my face in my hands and sobbing regularly throughout the flight. These were tears of awe— an involuntary visceral reaction to these powerful-beyond-comprehension mountains and the opportunity to be there. Prior to the flight, I had no idea that any place on Earth was this indescribably beautiful.
Sleep didn't come easily the next few nights because the whole experience kept replaying whenever I closed my eyes. The sweetest dreams.