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  • Despite my sunglasses, I still need to squint to see forward through the Plexiglass windscreen of the Cessna 172, as our nose is pointed almost directly into the rising sun. It's shortly after 6:00 AM on the morning of July 15, and the day I have been anticipating for weeks has finally arrived.

    We have just taken off from the Troutdale Airport and headed east up the Columbia River Gorge. My friend Jill is to my right, and my dad, Pat, is in the back seat. We are flying across much of Oregon today as part of a statewide photography project called Dayshoot30.

    I slow the airplane slightly and gingerly rotate the silver window latch on my side. I feel the slipstream catch the underside of the window, which is hinged along its top edge. The air tries to rip the window out of my fingers. The sudden blast of cold morning air hitting my arm and face at over 100 MPH catches my breath for a moment. Hanging on tightly to the latch, I allow the window to open slowly until it's resting under the wing.

    I cautiously stick part of my head out the window and look straight down at the navy blue surface of the Columbia. It's a strange feeling having nothing between me and the earth from this height.

    "Your airplane," I say to Jill. We are both pilots, she much more than I, and she takes control of the yoke on her side. Turning to look over my right shoulder, I see Dad aiming his camera out his window. The morning light is gradually finding its way down the twists and turns of the Gorge, and he is snapping away. I raise my cell phone to take a shot of him, knowing that this is a unique moment in our lives together. "This is really happening," I think to myself.
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