Over Canada: An Aerial Adventure

by Russ Heinl And Rosemary Neering
192 pages,
ISBN: 0920431879

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Gift Books
by John Oughton

Over Canada: An Aerial Adventure, by Russ Heinl, photographer, and Rosemary Neering and Bruce Obee, editors (Beautiful British Columbia, 192 pages, $49.95 cloth, ISBN: 0920431879) is the kind of gift book that inspires a good news/bad news review. The good news is that this is a large, handsomely-printed book whose best plates do convey a kind of millennial pride in the beauty and variety of Canada’s landscapes as seen from the air. The bad news is inspired by the overblown marketing. This gift book is one part of an official “Millennium 2000-designated” project that included the Royal Bank-funded “Television Special” broadcast in October, the “Home Video”, and even the “Soundtrack CD” (from the video, presumably; the book was silent as far as I could tell). The press kit brims with facts, such as the one that principal photographer Russ Heinl “logged 400 helicopter hours, flew 50,000 km and wore out two Nikon F4 cameras”, not to mention “shooting 90,000 frames on 2,500 rolls of film”, of which 155 are used in the book, supplemented by images by other photographers. It’s no denigration of Heinl’s considerable airborne photographic skills to point out that just about any accomplished camera-clicker having that kind of time and budget, and a shooting ratio of one frame used per 580 shots, could have produced similar results. Nor is the format of the book especially imaginative, taking the reader from eastern Newfoundland to the North and BC. The writing, while often informative about details of geography and how our landscape has changed over the last century, suffers from being a group effort—by the twentieth reference to “photographer Russ Heinl”, one might assume we know who he is. What about the good points? Images of riverbeds, mountain ranges, and geometrically-harvested fields work purely as abstract compositions, and the helicopter allowed Heinl some fetching close-ups of animals (an elegant mountain goat, a quizzical polar bear). Rugged and rocky landscapes from our vast North remind me of just how much of Canada is uninhabitable. To the book’s credit, it does not ignore the human presence, offering some effective city- and farm-scapes. Although there are no shots of forest clearcuts, one photograph of tailings from a dredging operation reminds us of the kind of destruction visited on our land. It is also worth noting that, given the inflated price of most gift books, this one is actually a bargain at half a hundred bucks, given its 14 x 10 inch format and usually high-quality colour printing. Also, all the work (including printing) was done in Canada. As a gift for a hard-to-please relative or foreign visitor, you could do worse.

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