Rocky Mountain Aerials is a photo company that goes where very few photographers can. High above the city in a tiny Cessna 182 plane, RMA founder and photographer Jeff Perry captures unreal images of the very real Mile High City.
RMA was founded in 2013, and has been flying high ever since, photographing more than 1,500 properties from the air. Perry is a seasoned photographer who focuses on architecture, commercial buildings, estates and all forms of large-scale Denver imagery. He started his photography career shooting landscapes, using his keen eye to capture striking photos during a year living and teaching in southeast Asia. This time away inspired Perry to see Denver in a new way, one that incorporated his passion for flying.
Perry invited Westword to fly with him and take in that grand view of the city. Here's our report: We meet at Aspen Flying Club at Centennial Airport, where the lobby features some stunning examples of aerial photography. Immediately, expectations are high.
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We climb into a Cessna 182, about the size of a sedan...but with wings. The 182 has more horsepower than most smaller Cessna planes, giving it plenty of torque when taking off. "It's a hot and bumpy day," shouts pilot Jeremy Allen into the headset while Perry sits shotgun. Allen has been flying for eight years and has logged over 600 hours of flight time. He also happens to be one of the flight instructors at Aspen Flying Club, and has some sound, tiny-airplane advice: "It's like a slow dance. That's my new favorite way of describing airplanes to people. You don't want to jerk them around; you want to follow the leader smoothly. Nice and smooth."
Perry removes a screw from his window in order to take photos without the glass barrier, which would normally only open at a slight, ten-degree angle. This means a lot of wind, but it's a nice contrast to the heat of the summer day. Novice pilot Perry takes the wheel for takeoff as Allen talks him through each step. He'd already asked air-traffic control if we could take a flight around the city, hitting the spots on Perry's photography route. "I love our air-traffic controllers," Allen says. "If you're willing to work with them, give and take, they'll pretty much let you go wherever you want."
We begin circling the Denver Tech Center, then fly over some large commercial buildings near Colorado Boulevard and I-25. Perry's been shooting for the Auraria campus, as well as some office buildings for commercial clients; businesses can use these hyper-clear aerial photos in lieu of poor-quality pictures from Google Maps satellites.
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The highway traffic that normally seems so all-encompassing looks like a parade of ants; the scene is quiet and oddly serene from this height. "That's something I love about flying," says Perry as he looks back, shooting energetically, almost halfway out the window. "No traffic." We coast above the stadiums, circling around the city twice from the south. We pass over Union Station and zero in, as close as we can get. Smaller airplanes tend to feel quite bumpy to most people, especially on their first run. Allen checks on his passengers, making sure everyone is doing all right. The flight is like riding a roller coaster that keeps dropping, but the slight discomfort is far outweighed by the breathtaking view.
Perry is meticulous with his shoots, and he works with the pilot throughout the flight. His care is reflected in the finished product: These are the types of photos you see adorning hotel walls and office spaces; he's even captured photos for therapists that create a sense of calm.
The flight ends too soon, as we loop one last time around Denver's skyline. It looks a lot bigger from the sky than the ground, giving a sense of this city at the foothills of the Rockies, and leaving us all higher than ever on the Mile High City.
View more aerial work by Jeff Perry here, and a few of the images we captured on this flight below. Lindsey Bartlett is a Denver native, writer, photographer, and lover of street art. Creep it real on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.