An Aerial View of Geology

Photographer Michael Collier and his Cessna 180 bring North America’s coastal landscapes into focus.

(Michael Collier)

Cobb Bay

(Michael Collier)

Collier studied what he calls “gee whiz geology” as an undergraduate at Northern Arizona University. “All we wanted to do was go running around the canyons,” he says. “It was a wonderful, tangible sense of the earth. And what drove us, back in those good old days, was a sense of wanting to understand what we were already seeing. I suppose some more practical people applied it and got jobs in oil fields, but I didn’t.”

A commercial photographer since 1970, Collier was asked by an editor in 1975 to photograph an article about the Colorado Plateau. He and a pilot friend spent three days photographing the plateau from the air. An avid kayaker, Collier had an epiphany: “I realized that flying is simply another version of three-dimensional movement in a fluid medium—air instead of kayaking in water—and I took to it. I’ve been flying since then.”

Of this image, Collier writes: “Tidewater channels run like capillaries across the saltwater marshes of Cobb Bay near Oyster, Virginia.”

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