If you’re looking for a new perspective on life, some folks might suggest getting high. But when it comes to photography, this takes on a whole new meaning for Bozeman photographers Jim Harris and Chris Boyer. Using towers, helicopters, and airplanes, these artists take powerful aerial images of what might be considered familiar scenes, but the results are distinctive pieces of art that tell a story on a scale that only Montana can deliver.
Perhaps best known for his iconic aerial shots of Cat-Griz football games, Jim Harris of Montana Aerial Photography (jrharrisphoto.com) has had images featured in this fine rag as well as Montana Magazine, Montana Outdoors, and a host of others. Since starting to shoot photos in the ‘90s, Harris has used specially built masts and towers in the past, but now primarily shoots from helicopters. The mobility and flexibility provided by a helicopter gives him the creative freedom he needs to produce stunning images of ranch properties, resort real estate, and sporting events.
When pressed for his most memorable shoot, Harris recounts a particular assignment over the Jefferson River south of Three Forks. As a storm was clearing, the light began blasting through the clouds and the entire scene was presented in a fleeting “land before time” quality that is now permanently captured for his client.
Pilot Chris Boyer of Kestrel Aerial Photography first started using aerial photography for mapping projects related to his work in landscape restoration. After developing a vibration-dampened camera mount for his airplane, the visual results took Boyer by surprise and he quit his day job to start shooting aerials full-time.
Returning from the Charles M Russell National Wildlife Refuge in late April, Boyer was stunned by the amount of winter-kill antelope carcasses seen from the air along the Hi-Line between Malta and Savoy, MT. His passion for aerial documentation of our landscape gives us an unprecedented view of our “giant footprints.” Capturing provocative landscape images has garnered him top honors in juried shows across the country, with two images even showing at The Smithsonian’s Nature’s Best Photography Awards.
While shooting photos from airplanes and helicopters might not be within reach of most photographers, the drama and powerful statements of the resulting images are undeniable. Unique perspectives and unusual angles are the hallmark of good photography. So, if you ever have the opportunity to get in the air, be sure to pack your camera.