Mark Clinton


Glider pilots can spend days navigating the currents of air created by heat radiated from ground warmed by the sun. In New Zealand, westerly winds flowing over mountains can lift a glider to 25,000 feet. While this height is not out of the ordinary for motorised vehicles such as planes, navigating changeable atmospheric conditions poses particular challenges for an unpropelled manned aircraft. Even a slight shift in wind direction can greatly affect where a glider can go, and how long it can stay up.

Little compares to the feeling of drifting above ever-changing scenery, especially with the unique combinations and textures offered by the surface of New Zealand. There are no concerns about fuel and money, and when a window is lowered, there are no engines or rotors, only the sounds of the air you’re moving through. The adrenaline from this experience keeps me going back. The conditions are different every day, and with the glider so reliant on them it becomes an addiction — you have to try tomorrow to get that shot you missed today. There’s no guarantee of success.

This series captures these special moments of resounding beauty and diversity. The serenity belies the difficulties as the pilot balances placement requests with the need to keep in the air and, ultimately, find their way home. These photos are the opposite of the chaos on the ground. Rather they are the peaceful contemplation of the ground from the air, un-propelled and open to the vagaries of the elements.