When we were drones

Raso da Catarina Ecological Station, Bahia, 2006. Photo: Adriano Gambarini

Adriano Gambarini
The other day I flew over the Amazon in a single engine airplane. A few months ago, over the Pantanal. I’m always asked if I’m not afraid of it. I confess that I don’t think much about it, and if I do, I try not to do it during the flight! I have flown in the most different types of “things” that float in the sky, from gigantic planes that cross oceans to suspicious ultralights like the one that, according to the residents of Bahia’s Juazeiro in the early 1990s, had been built by the junk yard’s owner! I’ve also been a regular on helicopters. From those Brazilian army’s turbocharged to the diminutive ones in the best ‘Kinder Egg’ style. And those of you who have flown in a balloon know the sound of silence…
I confess that I feel more comfortable in small planes than in large ones. I have the feeling that a single engine, one of those very small ones, can land in any field or road in case of a breakdown. I know, it might be a sweet illusion, but it doesn’t matter. When it comes to flying to photograph, there I am in small airports, entering legitimate “teco-tecos” (as the single-motored are called in Brazil, due to their helix noise), asking the pilot to remove the passenger door. I’ve already reached the heights (I must admit today) of, apart from the door, asking to remove the passenger seat so that I could lie on the plane’s floor. In other words, no door, no seat and, consequently, no safety belt!
But with the advent of drones, this activity is dying out. Which is sad, mainly because in my professional life my greatest pleasure has always been to accumulate experiences. Not to mention that, being up there, I was always able to have another visual perspective, framing, angles and a level of detail in photography that remote equipment cannot provide. Just as I’ve never used a camera trap to photograph an animal in the wild, an aerial photo feeling the ethereal air is like having a tiny part of what it’s like to be a bird. Absolute freedom.
The feeling of seeing that sea of ​​Amazonian trees, the pulsation of the Pantanal lagoons, the very high cliffs of the unknown Raso da Catarina. In other corners, the transparency of oceans, the vastness of deserts, even the urban chaos and the straightness of buildings acquire another beauty when seen from above. Because everything takes another perspective when we actually have in front of us the dimension and timelessness of this world without distances. Only with that light, subtle and graceful curve of the horizon’s edge fading our so brief, but often grandiose, existence.


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