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Capturing the ‘beauty of the earth’ from on high

SANTA FE, N.M. — Taos resident Chris Dahl-Bredine sees the world with an eagle’s eye and from a similar vantage point, flying oh, so high like a bird in the sky.

Cruising along above some of finest scenery in New Mexico, southern Colorado, northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah, Dahl-Bredine is able to convert that perspective into stunning and gripping aerial photographs from a perspective seldom seen.

Dahl-Bredine’s work will be on display at the Farmhouse Café in El Prado, just north of Taos, with an opening event on Saturday. He will be on hand to discuss his work beginning about 4:30 p.m. The photos should remain up at least a month, he said.

“I always dreamed of flying,” he says. “Really, I had dreams about it at night. Soaring above the earth. Just this image and visions, the freedom of being able to take off in any direction and see the world. I thought about it for many years.”

But it wasn’t until about 17 years ago that he turned that dream into a reality.

“The time came, after I had a life-changing, a near-death experience skiing,” he recalled. “You never know how long you have here, so decided to do what I was dreaming of. I decided to sign up for flight school.”

This photo shows Chris Dahl-Bredine in the trike aircraft he uses to get spectacular photos of the landscape of the West.

Now Dahl-Bredine putters above the earth in what is called a weight-shift trike or hang-glider trike. It’s so called because its movements are controlled by the pilot shifting his weight to tilt the wings, causing the vehicle to turn.

The two-seat, micro flying contraption has foldable wings and is powered by a gasoline-fed, four-stroke engine, giving the trike speeds from 45-75 mph.

“The motor is behind the two seats, which makes it pretty quiet because the engine is behind you,” Dahl-Bredine said. “It’s very smooth compared to riding in a car, so that makes it really good for photography and video.”

Indeed, almost immediately, he realized he was able to spy on the world in a way only few people experience. And the best way to share that experience with others was to show off photographs.

“San Juan Uplift”

“When I started flying, I already planned to take my camera up there, but I wasn’t really a photographer,” Dahl-Bredine said. “But I did like to take pictures here and there, and once I started flying, it was obvious I needed to take photos to show my friends, being up there and seeing the beauty.”

Of course, there was a bit of a learning curve both with flying and using the camera.

“Shiprock wall”

“As soon as I got home with the trike, I was already planning to fly with a camera,” he said. “It was beautiful flying in Arizona. It’s gorgeous country, flying into the sunsets. The first few times, though, there was too much going on to think about the camera, but once you relax a little, trust the wing, trust the trike, it was easy to take pictures. It’s a lot more relaxing then driving in a car. There’s not a lot of traffic up there, so it’s very relaxing.”

For years, he used a medium-sized-format film camera, but changing the film every 60-some shots became tiresome and Dahl-Bredine made the switch to digital.

“When I finally went to digital in 2011, that was a big leap,” he said. “It has a full-frame sensor. It’s very conducive to large prints. I’ve done 14 feet by nine feet tall and they hold up really well.”

Dahl-Bredine said he sees his work as more than just a bunch of pretty photos.

“Ron’s Rio Grande Tracks”

“One of the big things what I’m doing is I’m trying to capture these landscapes that are so moving,” he said. “There’s a beauty to the world and seeing the world as a much more interconnected whole. It’s a huge ecosystem connected to each other. You start to see the world as a big, living being totally interconnected and providing us with life.”

Hopefully, Dahl-Bredine said, the images will help inspire people.

“I’d like to see if people can be moved to correct the problems of the world we’re living in and that it’s worth taking care of it for our kids and for their kids. It’s time to work together to make changes to stop pollution, and begin conserving and preserving the beauty of the earth.”

While Dahl-Bredine’s photos capture the beauty of the world, he said he also sees the world as it is.

“From up there, I can see the things that are polluting the earth,” he said. “The power plants and lines. I can see everything – oil wells, gas wells – that you don’t see while driving.

“Out by Farmington, there are thousands of gas lines. We need this energy, but it’s time we have conversations to work together to find ways to take care of this planet a lot better than we’re doing. When you watch the nightly news, everything feel negative, but when you see these beautiful images, you can think, ‘Wow this world is amazing.’ ”