From a Homer man’s passion for flying comes a book for those passionate about the Kenai River.
Last weekend, Ian Reid of Eagle Eye Gallery in Homer released “The Kenai River: An Aerial Perspective.” The 110-page book has extensive aerial shots of the Kenai River, starting with its exit from Kenai Lake and ending with the river’s mouth teeming with dipnetters.
While Reid said he understands why people are so passionate about the Kenai River, he does not hide the fact that this book does not come from that same passion.
“I’m inspired that people are challenged to get out there and enjoy the wilderness and nature through fishing, hiking and hunting,” Reid said. “Those are healthy things.
“But for me, it’s a means to generate income from flying. How do we justify our hobbies? We’re always trying to find a way to do that.”
Reid came to the United States from New Zealand in 1977. He married Linda Reid, who is originally from California. While working at a Texas ranch from 1992 through 1994, he did photography and game counting from a helicopter and became hooked on flying.
But how to pay for it? Reid settled on aerial photography.
“I had to start getting interested in it as soon as I realized I wanted to fly,” Reid said of photography. “We had six kids and I couldn’t afford an expensive hobby.”
Reid started learning to fly a helicopter in 1996 while living in New York state and immediately started an aerial photography business.
“The East Coast is just phenomenal during fall season,” he said. “To see it from the air was quite compelling.
“I wanted to develop a business that would allow me to do more of that.”
In 2000, the family headed north to Eagle River with three vehicles and two trailers, one hauling a helicopter.
“We were debating moving back to New Zealand or staying in the U.S., so we compromised and moved to Alaska,” Reid said.
Reid’s father had been a commercial fisherman. So it took just three years for the family to move to Homer.
“After shooting the peninsula initially in 2001 it just became apparent, seeing Homer on a good day, that this would be a nice place to move the family to,” he said.
He has been earning his living flying and taking photographs ever since.
“People are intrigued how that is possible,” said a chuckling Reid, who also has expanded into flight instruction in the past two years.
Reid said customers will commission photographs, or he will shoot something interesting and see if he can find a buyer.
Over 18 years, he has accumulated 100,000 aerial photos of the peninsula. People would always ask him for a collection of photos on, say, the Kenai River, but until technological advancements in the last few years, Reid had no way of delivering that collection.
On-demand printing, technology that made book layout easier, and ebooks changed the equation.
On-demand printing means that a book is not printed until it is purchased. Though the Kenai River book was “released” at the Kenai Fine Arts Guild Arts and Craft Fair, Reid said that as of the middle of last week, there were only three or four books actually in print — one of those, of course, having been purchased by his daughter.
“Until I can justify a print run from what interest there is for the book, I’m reluctant to commit to that financially,” he said. “For now, it’s going to be a collector’s edition, meaning it’s going to be a limited edition unless we go to a print run.”
The down side is on-demand printing is more expensive. The list price for the book is $159.99, while the ebook is $39.99.
Another advantage, though, is on-demand printing allows Reid to get more books out quickly. If the Kenai River book goes well, he said he’d like to release two more books by this summer — one on the areas around Kachemak Bay and one on various communities and features around the Kenai Peninsula.
This is all just a way of making more money from aerial photography.
“There’s a few different pieces to the puzzle,” Reid said. “I’m hoping that this is one of them, where we can offer a collection as opposed to just an image.”
Reid’s passion for flying shows he is obviously transfixed with how the earth’s features look from the air. For that reason, he doesn’t dress up the Kenai River book with a narrative. He lets the photos of the 82 river miles speak for themselves.
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, we probably have a million words in there,” he said.
From the photos, a narrative does emerge, from the turquoise beauty of the upper river shot during fall, to the fishermen at places like Bing’s Landing and the Russian River, to the upper and lower Killey River and Moose River dumping muddy water into the river, to the charred remains of a forest fire stopping just short of homes on the Kenai Keys, to the river flowing through the cities of Sterling, Kenai and Soldotna, to commercial fishing boats staged near the mouth, to dipnetters on the shore and in boats flocking to that same mouth.
“Everybody has a different interest in the river, and they overlap somewhat contentiously at times,” Reid said. “Activity from one end of the river to the other is just so drastically different.”
With the exceptions of the mountains surrounding the upper river, the land around the Kenai River is very flat. Reid said this allows aerial photography to give a perspective otherwise not possible.
“Even for the locals to get their head around where the river is and which way it is going, is challenging,” he said. “I think people find an aerial perspective helpful to explain to others where they are, where they’ve been or where they’re going.”
Although the cover was shot in 2002 by Reid’s son, Lin, all of the other images are from 2016 and later. Reid has no idea how long he spent on the photography.
“If I think about that hard enough, it doesn’t become very financially feasible to continue,” he said.
Reid said that the investment in time and dollars is the reason something that seems to make so much sense — a comprehensive aerial photography book on the Kenai River — has never been done until now.
The book can be accessed by going to blurb.com and searching for “The Kenai River.” There is a preview of the book on blurb.com and at eagleeyegallery.com. Reid said those interested in the book can contact him at 907-299-7765 and order from him. Also, the book will be sold at Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna within the next few weeks.