“You need more elective credits.”
While few university students rejoice when told that they require additional classes, it takes a measure of adventure with practicality to come up with the solution that David Wyatt did. It was 30 years ago, and he was transferring to Oklahoma State University for his engineering degree.
“OSU offered Private Pilot Ground School, which I enjoyed so immensely, that I spent the next summer working three jobs in Alaska to earn money to do the flight training,” the Kennewick artist remembers. “But it wasn’t until I bought a small airplane in 2005 and started carrying a camera that I discovered my eye and passion for artistic aerial photography.”
That’s right: he flies and takes photos at the same time. And yes, it’s challenging.
“Combine photography with flying an airplane, and the challenges increase exponentially!” Wyatt says. “Weather, of course, can aid or hinder the drama of the aerial photo. And then there’s equipment cleanliness and maintenance — both the photography gear and the aircraft. Regulations, air traffic control, licensing, terrain!
“If it gets too complicated, I hire a pilot to handle the flying so I can focus on the photography.”
Focusing on photography has taken Wyatt to new heights, literally, and his views of Eastern Washington’s landscape from above are resonant of textured paintings, almost abstract in their lines and form, but recognizable as fields, rivers, hills, and plains. He has garnered awards locally and nationally, this year being named the 2016 EPSON Aerial Photographer of the Year by the international Professional Aerial Photographer’s Association.
A number of Wyatt’s works, including Canyon Gold — an overhead view of the Palouse River Canyon at Lion’s Ferry State Park — have received awards at PAPA’s annual competitions, and in May he received People’s Choice at Tri-Art for Giving’s regional and community show, for an aerial view of humpback whales in Hawaii. People are drawn, Wyatt says, to the different view of things.
“A couple from Boston walked into a local winery and saw my award-winning Canyon Gold. Realizing that just one day before they had been kayaking on the stretch of river featured in the photograph, they bought the piece.”
A licensed professional engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Wyatt flies and shoots as schedule and weather permit, and participates in a number of local activities each year, including Art in the Park in Richland, winery events, open studio tours, soirees, and holiday festivals. In addition to fine art prints of his work, he has created stone tile coasters, and this year began printing on, appropriately, metal aircraft aluminum.
Clients and customers live as far away as Spain, France, Australia, the Ukraine, Uganda, and Honduras. Wyatt mentally gathers ideas for future subject matter based on a location, season, or event, constantly thinking ahead about a particular place in the sky from which to photograph for a uniquely different perspective. Viewing things from above, he muses, brings one’s thoughts to a higher plain.
“It doesn’t jump out at you when you see my aerial artistic images, but if you get to know me and listen to the stories of how I ‘got the shot,’ there is a core belief — that is, that God is the Creator,” Wyatt says. “I give Him the honor and glory for allowing me to be at a point in the sky where I can capture in a photograph the amazing moment and grandeur of the earth He made.”
One morning, he continues, he awoke while it was still dark and drove to the airport, where he performed the preflight inspection of the aircraft while sunrise’s first light appeared on the horizon.
“Before I started the engine to take flight, I prayed, ‘Lord, I have no idea where you are taking me this morning. I ask that you lead me to something beautiful and amazing.'”
Strong winds carried him east, where he spent three hours over the Snake River and the Palouse taking photos of a spectacular landscape.
“It was an answer to my prayer.”
So, perhaps, was OSU’s demand for more elective credits — what initially seems vexatious turned into a boon.
Or as contemporary Turkish playwrite Mehmet Murat Ildan puts it,
“Flying is not only the art of the birds, but it is also the art of the artists.”
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.
Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists. Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit the gallery today!