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Tel Aviv landing

One of the most basic elements of travel is how you do it. There’s planes, trains, automobiles – and that’s just the beginning. Whether you’re documenting an even for others or just wanting to remember for yourself, these all make great photo opportunities. Actually being in transport is one of the best moments to grab video footage of the city, country, or sky rolling by.

pre-flight in Taupo

As a pilot’s daughter, I’d be starting a series on transportation with planes no matter what. Today is especially timely, as I’m en route to a 2 week class in Dubai. I’ll be drafting on my notepad between Phx & Atlanta, and if I’m lucky, uploading through airport internet before the 2nd, longer flight.

So. Planes. How to summarize a lifelong relationship in just a few words? My 2nd earliest memory is an aerial view – caribou on the tundra. My parents met in Seattle and would go up to Alaska regularly for summer to hike. My dad and another pilot ran bush pilot service for scientists, photographers, naturalists, hikers. My mom and I spent one early summer in Kaktovik were 24 hour sunlight meant it quickly became clear that I needed independent verification even for the stories my parents told me. After all, how could it be 2am when it was bright as day outside? Definitely just a nefarious plot to trick me into going to bed early, and cutting tundra play time unnaturally short.

family trip

As I grew up, we split our family trips between road trips to camp in Colorado, commercial flights to see family in California, and borrowing my dad’s friend’s Piper Archer to go see friends in Wisconsin. Large airports are gateways to opportunity; small airports gateways to the sky.

I try to guess the moments of takeoff and landing, pack lots of gum in case my ears lock up, and firmly believe that the trip starts even before you leave your house for the airport – not just when you land and pick up your luggage.

And for me, the journey is part of the story – the online check-in kiosque mix-up (for some reason, I do not exist…) and the time we made it from the breakfast place across town, through rental return and security, to the gate in about 30 minutes. (we even, somehow, beat the plane, if barely). Even Thursday’s overpass terror will turn into an adventure once the heart rate slows and the insurance agent has checked everything out.

nearly Nairobi sunrise

But the big adventures, the most magic – those long haul flights where you quietly board the flight in an empty Detroit winter and descend through clouds and mitzvahs to an airport that welcomes you home from right to left, or disembarking on a shimmering, melting tarmac to the shouts of competing baggage handlers and smells nearly as vivid as the colors.

Sometimes I think I learn the most when everything is unfamiliar, including myself.

takeoff from PHX

This winter break (for the northern hemisphere, at least) my Dad will be flying himself to meetings all over both NZ islands, my brother will be crossing the Pacific for some temporary parental supervision and some good football bonding (the real stuff, none of those pads and helmets), and I’ll be looking down on the Atlantic in a few hours. If I’m lucky and the skies are clear, I’ll take some pictures.

When I get a chance, I’ll add the pictures that go with this entry, and there’ll be a some kind of gallery of plane related pictures – and I want you to tell me where you would go if you had one round trip ticket to anywhere in the world?

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Aaron Brown has two jobs. By day he’s a mild mannered journalism professor at ASU‘s Walter Cronkite School in downtown Phoenix. By night (or at least, by summer) he jets all over the world from Mozambique to Jordan for his PBS series “Wide Angle.”

OK, so maybe a slightly exaggerated version of the truth. Regardless, this evening he combined the two and spoke to a mostly student group about journalism, interviews, and broadcasting from abroad. He emphasized the importance of finding compelling characters to tell the story, and gave tip like to use silence for drawing out “the most honest thing” from your interview. “if you’ve spent time with me, you’ll know I think television enters through your stomach and works its way to your brain,” said Brown, adding that for his stories he needs “a visceral reaction.”

This can be tricky when working overseas, because along with the expenses and tight scheduling, it’s difficult to do all the same pre-reporting that’s possible on your home turf, Brown said. The pressure is higher, too, because “you know you may not get a second chance at something” whether it’s filming or recording. In response to student questions about the changing media world, Brown said “the best way you can make yourself valuable is to learn something.” Reporters should “go find good stories, go find good characters – if you want to worry, worry about that – the rest can take care of itself – but you all need to be better at that, finding good material.”

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not unbiased when it comes to Brown. One of the odd ways in which my parents influenced me is by mentioning, frequently, the people they appreciate. I heard very often how they’d watch Brown in their Seattle days. It’s been some time and changes since then. I never expected that someone I grew up hearing about this way would be someone I’d actually seen in person let alone pass in the hallway on a regular basis, and it leaves me a little more tongue tied than it’s cool to admit. Yet one of the things I’m growing to appreciate about journalism and reporters is that so far, all the ones I’ve met are more than willing to sit down and talk about what they do. Brown is no exception to that precedent, and once again, I felt I learned a lot.

Thanks to The East Valley Tribune for the picture above.

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