A circle tour of Red Wing from the air...


Aerial photography is an especially interesting challenge.  It isn't cheap, it is weather dependent and a missed opportunity is difficult to recover from.

The Red Wing Airport is operated by the City of Red Wing and it is unique in that the airport is located in an adjacent state across the Mississippi River in Wisconsin. 

The Mississippi River is also unique in this region because it flows from west to east as it moves past Red Wing (by virtue of two bends in the river), which means Red Wing is located directly south of the river.

On this approach towards the city, Barn Bluff is immediately to the left of the City and it can be seen that Red Wing sits in a 'bowl' next to the river. 

This was an early morning flight (~9 am).  This is an important point, because long shadows create photo depth and adds scale.  Aerial photography at noon will appear flat and can create a confusing sense of subject scale.


Weather is a primary consideration of when to go aloft and take photos.  In Minnesota there is a very predictable pattern of brilliant sunshine the day after a snow storm.  This allows enough time for the roads to be plowed, but before snow becomes littered with tracks and dirt.

The downside is that the temperature will also drop dramatically after a snowstorm and an open window in an airplane can be a chilly experience.


The lower and slower a plane can fly, the better the image results.  A high wing plane such as a Cessna 177 is perfect for unobstructed shots.  Don't lean on the plane window opening when shooting or the vibration will ruin the shot.

The first time I went up as a photographer/passenger, I opened the window without informing the pilot.  The plane was flying too fast and the window nearly ripped off. The pilot over-reacted and the plane nearly stalled.  Lesson learned: tell the pilot of every step you intend to take and don't make a move without their permission.


Wide lenses are better than long lenses for aerial photography.  Wide angle shots allow the entire experience to be captured.

This shot provides a nice perspective of Barn Bluff and Downtown Red Wing.  Across the river is extreme western Wisconsin.


Immediately to the east of Red Wing is the Minnesota Correctional Facility.  This is a maximum security facility for juvenile felons.  This building is the historic adminstration building and not located within the secured area.

Bob Dylan wrote and recorded a song in 1963 about this institution called "The Walls of Red Wing" for The Free Wheelin' Bob Dylan album, but it did not make the final release.  The recorded version was eventually released on the Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3.

The lyrics indicate that Dylan never was a guest at the facility and he took a fairly liberal literary license of the conditions at the facility.