Monday, September 29, 2014

Fly Day

Eleven years ago, my mother saw an ad in the paper, on my 12th birthday, of a 'Fly Day' going on at the Ottawa Flying Club, at the international airport. Knowing how insanely excited and hopeful to want to do something like that, my mother took me and my then-friend Jahdel on a couple of bus rides to the flying club on Huntclub Road.

Being three people, it was a wait of at least an hour.
When we did get on a plane, it was a tiny thing - apparently the small ones are called Cessnas. The pilot explained things, and then we taxied to the runway and took off.

It was my first time flying. I'd never seen any of the city from that perspective before - by that time I'd seen and become obsessed with aerial photos of it, but I'd never been up there before. All the aerial photos I'd seen were taken looking straight-down. Looking out the window, you could look out at the distance and landscape as well.
Looking east over South Keys.

It was extremely exhilarating for me. I'd never seen so much at once before. Places and settings I'd always viewed as large or all-around from the ground - such as a road like Merivale or big trees, or malls - appeared either remarkably small or just tiny. Tiny cars sluggishly moved along the roads. I saw a lot of familiar places, although not the neighbourhood in which I lived at the time (the tour went in a circle around the city rather than through it).
Passing Arlington Woods in the west end.

My mother took all the photos with her Kodak film point and shoot. I couldn't wait for the photos to be developed. Most of them were of areas I didn't recognize that well, or of downtown, but they were still pretty neat.

Back then, I only knew that that was the only time that the Flying Club did this sort of thing. I thought it was a once-only event. The best birthday. Until yesterday, when a friend of mine on Facebook posted about it, having just been. What?!

Within half an hour I was above Ottawa again, sitting up front this time, with a mother and her son in the back. I drove to the airport in fifteen minutes, paid $40, registered the ticket, and because I was on my own, instead of waiting an hour, I was on the plane in five minutes with two strangers. This time I had my Canon 7D dSLR camera, with a wide-angle lens on it. This would be much clearer and brilliant compared to the little 4x6 point and shoot photos.

We set off in the opposite direction than in 2003. We went straight northwest instead of northeast. I was ready.
The woods just by Grenfell Glen, during the ascent to 2,000 feet. Sept. 27.

I took up to one-hundred images. We flew towards Bayshore, and then arced so we were flying alongside the Ottawa River.
I've always thought that the round curve of Centrepointe made it look like a burlap sack. The obviousness of the grey Merivale Road commercial strip is evident in the background.
West Huntclub snakes through the land. For some reason this image is squeezed.

Like the last time, we went in a large circle, going the opposite direction this time around. We started over the communities of Pine Glen and Merivale Gardens, etc., passed west across Woodroffe Ave. and Craig Henry, and eventually headed by Bayshore. We arced to fly over Gatineau alongside the Ottawa River.
The amazing thing about flying at this height is the distance you can see. You can virtually see Woodroffe Avenue in its whole entirety in this image - beginning at the Ottawa River Parkway near the bottom and fading away into the distance - whereupon it terminates at Prince of Whales Drive at the Rideau River past Barrhaven. Places like Algonquin College's campus and Baseline Station are tiny, narrow points along the road. Baseline station, when you zoom into the image at the maximum pixel density, is about an inch long. The big pedestrian bridge between Algonquin's B building and the new-ish construction building is hardly visible, as well as the rail bridge further down.

2,000 feet is a very good balance for height because while you can see so far looking ahead, you can also look straight down and see people and smaller objects like poles or stop signs, or even birds and seagulls flying much lower below. You get a vivid amount of detail as well as visibility in all directions, going very far.

This entire flight was an extremely big deal for me. For one thing, I hadn't done this in eleven years. For another, the very feeling of being up in the air, over everything - it's something I long for and feel completely at home in. I feel free in a way - you're going very fast, virtually gliding through the air in any direction you want, nothing in your way. You don't have to follow a road or a path, or walk around buildings or trees or fences. You're above it all. And you can see virtually everything - it's an entirely new perspective. I can look at these photos I took and marvel at how many familiar buildings I shot in this perspective, as well as how far away I can see them from (if you know where to look, in the above image, the roof of the Merivale Centennial Arena (or Tom Brown Arena) is easily visible in the far distance. Why? It's a tiny, insignificant building. Because the grey-white roof reflects sunlight extremely well, so it's easy to pick out even across the Ottawa River).

It's also just the way everything is so much smaller and low. Buildings look like little models. I'm used to virtually everything in the world being bigger or taller than me - now all of that is way below, smaller. These images have some impact, but not nearly as much as being up there does.

I strongly think that in the near future, I'll end up taking flying lessons. Find a way to capture aerial photos at the same time. When I get my real career started, it can be something I do on the weekends. That along with building my own recording studio. As long as I focus entirely on my homework and my studies now.
Bank Street/Alta Vista intersection.

We continued east until we banked towards the eastern side of the city and came back towards facing the runway; we flew over Olgilvie Road and St. Laurent, over Alta Vista, past South Keys, and eventually the runway, descending since just after Alta Vista. The plane ride really was only twenty minutes, but I got that rare, amazing, brilliant glimpse of the whole city as it was on that day. I love aerial photography because it really does capture a record of what the city, or a section of it, looks like on that day and time. Ottawa in September 2014. There's the old military base and its empty, houseless streets, there's the new apartment building under construction off of Merivale Road. One street in Centrepointe appears to have more yellow trees than the rest, having already turned their autumn colour. On Friday, I had lunch with my mother at Red Lobster in the plaza at Meadowlands and Merivale; Saturday, I got a picture of it - as well as the whole road itself, and everything around it.

Yeah, I'm definitely going to start frequenting the flying club and school. I talked to someone afterwards and heard that they're always interested in taking people up. Maybe next time I can get some real, direct pictures of Barrhaven and Parkwood Hills.
Sports field, South Keys.

I'm on my way to new highs. After all, if I was born to do anything, it's to get high.

Red Cloud

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