Aerial Portraits of the American West: Photographs by John Shelton

Article excerpt

A GEOLOGIST FILLED with a love for music and machines, John Shelton is best known for his pioneering aerial photography. Unlike most aerial photographers, however Shelton mostly flew alone and never had the luxury of using a viewfinder. He maneuvered his low-winged plane to align his large-format camera through a small, open window to optimize the angle, lighting, and composition of each geologic feature. Originally, his exposures were made with a handheld light meter, but eventually he determined his camera settings from experience.

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Shelton's love and knowledge of flying enabled him to reveal geologic features and processes through his aerial photographs of wondrous landscapes. 'The oblique aerial view of most of Shelton's photos offers a useful perspective that neither a ground view nor a high-altitude view can provide. A geologist, teacher, and pilot, Shelton wanted to make pictures that would be as informative as they were inspirational. The beauty of his photos reveals the eye of an artist, yet there is a geological lesson to be learned from every one," notes a 1994 article in Earth magazine.

A graduate of Pomona College, Claremont, Calif., with a bachelor's degree in math and music, and formerly an associate professor of geology at Pomona, Shelton always has been intensely interested in the process of learning. …