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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Dreamed of Flying Like a Bird, by Robert B. Haas. National Geographic, Random House. 2010. $21.50 ages 5 and up

"I take my aerial photos from either a helicopter or a very small airplane. Usually, the pilot removes the door next to me so that I can lean out to get the best possible photos. Flying with the door off requires another critical piece of equipment - the safety harness."

Well, to be perfectly clear...he uses two harnesses, just in case one fails. Does that give you a sense of the length some artists will go in order to bring us their best in nonfiction? We've all seen the close-up photos that Nic Bishop takes for his outstanding books and we even know how patient he is, and how long he will wait to get them. Robert Haas has a completely different perspective and shares that with us in this amazing photographic journal of his work. The pilot is his hero.

His photos have been taken over land and sea...always with the best shot in mind. Once, in Botswana he was witness to a battle between a herd of buffalo and a few lions:

"We watched the lions and the buffalo charge back and forth at each other for more than an hour, and then we noticed that our helicopter was almost out of fuel."

Now, that is concentration. Just as they were preparing to head back to camp to refuel, a lion managed to separate one member of the large herd. Haas was able to capture it with his camera...a very rare occurrence. Ah, success for the lions and for the chronicler of the stunning event. The stories he tells to accompany his photos are clear, detailed and accessible to his young audience. He offers personal experiences that are unique and compelling.

But if you're in it just for the pictures, you will not be disappointed. Unbelievable shots hold your attention...the flock of flamingos that actually take the shape of a flamingo, the tell-tale tracks of a ravenously hungry bear in search of food after a long hibernation. It won't be long until you have chosen a favorite image, I'm sure.

So, begin with Nic Bishop, move on to enjoy the Face to Face books from National Geographic Kids, and then take a look at Robert Haas' wonderful work and share his dream:

"Ever since I was a young boy, I have dreamed of flying like a bird. Aerial photography has allowed my dream to come true. With a helicopter, I can join a winged creature or an entire flock in flight and photograph it from above or by its side." 

This trip from one country to another, from one body of water to the next might be the closest we get to a bird's eye view of these beautiful wild animals. Thank you for sharing, Robert Haas!

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