Garrett Fisher’s day job is executive director of the Institute for Economic Innovation, a think tank he founded, but he spends nearly as many hours on his passion project: flying his blue and yellow Piper PA-11 Cub Special plane over mountains, glaciers, and grasslands, cracking open the pilot-side window, reaching his arm out with Canon EOS Rebel SL1 in hand, and snapping some of the most beautiful aerial landscape shots we’ve seen. The plane is nearly 70 years old, has no heating system, and flies slowly, all of which make for an uncomfortable ride in varied terrain and bad weather. “I usually go alone,” Fisher says. “People always end up puking.”
Fisher, who’s been flying since he was 16, scouts locations by exploring random points of interest on Google Earth or a U.S. Geological Survey map. Then he’ll spend up to 13 hours a day in the air (with fuel stops every three hours), focusing on capturing photos that serve as art and resource. His photos can serve as message (he’s shot receding glaciers at Glacier National Park, among others) or reference (he’ll overlay a composite image of every single 14er in Colorado with a map, for example, which is useful as a “mountaintop-perspective” guide for hikers). “I’m looking for an interesting integration of ground to horizon to sky,” he says. In February, he moved from Alpine, Wyoming, to Germany (“maybe for good”) and will put his energy into capturing Europe from the air. We asked for the stories behind some of his favorite—or most hard-won—images so far.
Photo: Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone
“For hot spring imagery, the angle of photography completely changes. Instead of trying to tie sky, texture, and land into a subject, I am trying to peer into the heart of the hot spring, cutting through steam and reflections on the water, isolating everything else out of the image. It is a dance requiring a zoom lens and about six passes over the area to achieve a suitable focus and angle.”