MEDFORD, Ore. — In the world of photography, is it better to be good or lucky? Based on recent photos, Jim “Hazy” Haseltine is both.
The civilian professional photographer has all the clearance to fly with the military, and frequently does. But a trip into the sky meant to take some photos of Kingsley Field’s F-15s turned into a rare opportunity.
The mission, which the Oregon National Guard says was an effort to get some beautiful pictures and give crews a morale boost, was almost scrubbed.
July 31 southern Oregon was surrounded by small fire starts from a lightning storm. Smoke filled the skies making it tough and potentially dangerous for flying. Teetering on the edge of being able to take off, the flight plan was modified and 5 jets took off from the Medford Airport.
This new flight path took the crews right over the rapidly growing Oregon Gulch fire on the Oregon-California border. Normally, aircraft not associated with a firefight are kept out of the airspace above a fire. However, this fire grew so quickly, there hadn’t yet been a declaration to keep non-associated aircraft out of the area.
Haseltine saw an opportunity and took it.
At about 8:20 PM, a series of photos were taken above the smoke and the giant pyrocumulus clouds that had formed as a result of the extreme heat from the fire.
The photos were soon leaked, and it was not just social media excited about the images captured.
The Oregon National Guard, which had mistakenly been identified as the source of the images, began receiving nearly non-stop phone calls for permission to use the photos. But the majority of those calls were from aerospace professionals, including NASA and various industry magazines. The Oregon National Guard information officer was told they all wanted these images because it is so rare to get a pyrocumulus this large, from this angle.
On the phone, Haseltine admitted that the photos were spectacular, but was very humble about the experience. He has taken phenomenal photos of a variety of incredible things, and says that it was the perfect combination of luck and experience that helped him get these images.
You can see more of his work at the website for his company, High-G productions.