Look up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Adriel Heisey, famed aerial photographer whose spreads have appeared in National Geographic, Arizona Highwaysand the Smithsonian. His unique method: He takes his Kolb Twinstar -- a fold-up airplane that nestles nicely into his trailer, leaving no space for amenities such as a kitchenette or J-John -- wherever he wants, puts it together in a matter of minutes, then needs only 300 feet of ground to catch air and ascend 1,000 feet. He can travel as far as 30 miles to find what he perceives as the perfect picture.
He found a lot of those in the Sonoran Desert, though he didn't think so at first. He was not immediately impressed with southern Arizona because, to him, it was the Sahara of North America -- the same old same old for miles on end. But he decided to take another look from the scope of his camera and discovered an entire book of images worthy of accompanying his words. Hence, Under the Sun: A Sonoran Desert Odyssey.
In this book, Heisey recounts his aeronautical experiences as far back as when he was a corporate pilot for the Navajo Nation. He writes about the battles with nature he endured traveling through the Sonoran Desert, and there is a story to follow, believe it or not. From sunrise to sunset, he does not forget a single detail, right down to the kind of film he uses. The pictures, however, are the real meat of Under the Sun. Page after glossy page is filled with photographs of views inconceivable to the average Phoenician. Mountains, canyons, rivers, trees and the Pima County Adult Detention Center are depicted from a bird's-eye view. You get a sense of how it must have felt for the photographer in the sky as he snapped his lens -- leg strapped tightly to the control stick to steer 10 miles here or 15 miles there. Even if you haven't seen Summit Crater, it's enough to look at the photograph without putting yourself in the face of danger with Heisey.