A thousand foot view of California Rice
First let me say I’m a veteran of aerial photography, I have logged nearly a hundred helicopter flights as well as fixed winged aircraft for photo shoots through the United States and the Caribbean. I was assigned to photograph rice fields and wildlife from the air for the California Rice Commission.
I met the pilot, Max Daddow, who flies commercially for American Airlines as well as being a rice farmer with his family all his life. We drove a short way from their hanger near Nicolaus. If it weren’t for the windsock on the roof, I would have though it was a garage. Out came a 1947 Piper Cub Special, the one where the pilot sits in front and the passenger sits in the rear.
The plane is not fast but highly maneuverable, and has a half door the folds down and window the folds up, creating a large opening for photography. Climbing in was challenging, as the plane's skin is a fabric that I could have easily punctured. He told me that the bush pilots in Alaska like these planes because they can be taped up with duct tape in an emergency.
After hand cranking the prop a few times, the engine started and he climbed in. Now the other thing that hid the fact that this was an aircraft hanger was there was no runway. We took off on a dirt road lining a canal behind the barn. After we took off Max headed just east to a large white island in the middle of a flooded rice field. The island in fact was a large flock of Snow Geese that took to flight when we approached, creating some dramatic photos of white birds against rice fields.
The day continued this way as we traveled to the Sutter Buttes for more photography. Unfortunately there was too much haze to get rice fields with the Buttes behind them. After a couple of hours we headed back, this time landing at a paved agricultural airstrip a mile from their hanger. The dirt field we took off on was a bit muddy near the spot where the plane would touch down, so for safety I was let off on the paved strip. Max took off and returned in his truck to return me to my car.
A great trip and fun airplane.
Brian Baer is a professional photographer who provides brilliant images for the California Rice Commission. For more information about Brian, log on to: www.brianbaerphotos.com.