Above, Dale Fisher is perhaps the world’s one-and-only artist-photographer who works almost exclusively from a helicopter.
By Christine MacIntyre
The idiom a ‘bird’s eye view’ struck me immediately upon meeting artist-photographer Dale Fisher. Fisher is a pioneer in the world of aerial photography, specializing in taking high quality, low altitude photographs of buildings, landscapes, freeways, homes, wildlife, sports, and more. Fisher’s perspective is much like that of an eagle – a lofty perspective compared to that of the average photographer.
Dubbed the “flying photographer,” Fisher was born in 1933 and lived in Ann Arbor until 1985 when he relocated to what is now named Eyry of the Eagle farm in Grass Lake. The 200-year-old farm accommodates Fisher’s gallery, and a reception and retreat center, as well as a beautiful wedding venue. Every piece of art photographed by Fisher is printed on state-of-the-art equipment right in his office space at the farm.
Eyry of the Eagle serves as a breathtaking venue for weddings, graduation parties, retreats, or bridal/baby showers. The amount of care and consideration put into setting up this modern venue is obvious in every aspect from the bride’s dressing area to the bathrooms to the reception center.
It all started in his eighth-grade science class when Fisher’s teacher decided to do lessons on photography, utilizing the school’s darkroom. Fisher expressed interest and soon learned that he enjoyed toying with cameras and photography. During his time at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Fisher was the yearbook photographer. Just before his 17th birthday, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he trained as an aerial reconnaissance photographer and served in the Korean War.
Dale Fisher is seen hovering over the landscape in a helicopter, ready to capture more of his signature aerial photographs.
Upon completion of his stint in the military in 1953, Fisher founded Dale Fisher HeliPhoto while working as a newspaper photographer with the Ann Arbor News. Up until a few years ago, he shot photos from aboard his own helicopter. In the 1960s, he traveled the country “in a Ford pick-up truck with a camper top darkroom, towing a rather lengthy trailer with his helicopter aboard,” according to his website, dalefishergalleries.com. Nowadays, others do the flying while he takes his breathtaking photographs of the view below from an open helicopter door.
Fisher has published numerous books of his work including photographs of Detroit, Jackson County, Ann Arbor, the State of Michigan, and New York City – including the former World Trade Center twin towers, and the Statue of Liberty. His stadium photos of the University of Michigan’s Michigan Stadium are a hot commodity among Wolverine fans. His latest book, Washtenaw County: Visions of the Eagle, is a full-color coffee table book showcasing the Washtenaw County area from a perspective only Fisher can capture in such a breathtaking manner. The cover photo, as well as some other photos throughout the book, feature the work of Fisher’s co-photographer and partner Joanne Ackerman.
“Hovering over subjects in a helicopter gives you a perspective that people just don’t pay attention to while they’re passing through, rising up to high altitudes in an airplane,” says Fisher. While airplanes must fly at least a thousand feet in the air, helicopters are able to fly about as low as they can go – often at a mere 50 to 100 feet. Fisher skims over the landscapes at ground speeds of up to 120 miles per hour, capturing the unique perspective on camera – an artistic combination of color, light, shadow, and angles. His work is comprised namely of commercial photography and University of Michigan sports photography; however, Fisher prefers to be remembered for his fine art aerial helicopter photographs, according to his website.
Thanks in part to the digital age of photography and in part to his state-of-the-art photography laboratory and in-house graphic designer Ackerman, Fisher is able to take a photo, edit, print, and complete the piece within the same day. His images are available for purchase as framed photographic art, marketing, and for use on websites.
With over 50 years of experience and as perhaps the world’s one and only artist-photographer who works almost exclusively from a helicopter, Fisher’s accomplishments and experiences could fill multiple books. His humble persona deserves mention, as does his genuinely compassionate attitude toward life.
“My father once told me that it is not about success, it is about being a man of value,” says Fisher, as he reminisces on his life and experiences.
If you ever get a chance to view his gallery or one of his many books, you should! The visions of the eagle, that of the flying photographer himself, will make you feel as though you are hovering in the helicopter right along with him – a mesmerizing view that few others have experienced.
This story comes from a recent edition of The Exponent. If you would like to keep up to date with the happenings of the Irish Hills and the surrounding area subscribe to The Exponent today at www.theexponent.com/subscriptionplans.