Today Show: National Geographic Photographer George Steinmetz
National Geographic photographer George Steinmetz is probably the biggest daredevil working for the magazine and his beautifully photographed dessert scenes are evidence of what he goes through to get a great photo. His astonishing work, which can be seen in his new book Desert Air, depicts deserts from around the world, lost cities on the outskirts of civilization and outstanding scenery most will only dream of seeing. And all of it is shot from hundreds of feet in the air.
For the past 15 years, he has been on a mission to photograph every desert in the world from inside his flying lawn chair.
Today Show: George Steinmetz Flying Lawn Chair
Steinmetz’s flying lawn chair, more of a motorized parachute with a seat, isn’t easy to get off the ground. Steinmetz said you need to get the motor running, make sure the wind is pushing into the parachute, run as fast as you can with the 100 pound motor on your back and within about 50 feet, you should be airborne. After that, he takes his hands off the throttle and grabs his camera.
“People are like ‘Who is that crazy dude,'” said Steinmetz when asked what people say when they see him flying above.
Although it can be tricky to get off the ground, landing the flying lawn chair can be even harder. Steinmetz said he likes to gain as much speed as he can when coming in for a landing, then he eases in on the brake as he nears the ground, hitting the dirt with some amount of force as he tries to continue running to stay on his feet.
Even after having flown the machine for over 15 years, Steinmetz said he has taken a few crashes. The experimental vehicle, which is what the machine is classified under, is not for the faint of heart. Steinmetz said he has run out of gas before (there is no gas gauge), and he has crashed about 50 times, the worst time being the time he ran into a tree in China. He noted most of the crashes would have killed him if he was in an ordinary aircraft, but being able to jump out his flying machine, which he helped design, has saved him from serious injury before.
So how does his wife feel about the flying machine? Steinmetz said he wasn’t flying it when they got married but she has become pretty tolerant of him flying around.
Today Show: George Steinmetz Crashes and Arrests
After dropping out of Stanford and deciding to travel the world instead, Steinmetz realized his passion for photography and decided then, almost 30 years ago, he wanted to work for National Geographic. And his dream has come true but not without some hardships. Steinmetz said he has been jailed in Iran before and his life has been threatened in other countries.
Even after all the crashes, the jail time and beautiful photos, Steinmetz said he does it because he wants to inspire more people to explore the world around them.
You may be seeing Steinmetz in a city near you. He is working on getting permission to shoot Tibet and Manhattan from the air.