Sky-high documentary looks down on us

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 5, 2013 - 9:11 AM

An aerial documentary on the Smithsonian Channel captures the beauty of Minnesota from the sky.

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Aerial photo of St. Louis County, Minnesota from "Aerial America" Smithsonian Channel

A “fly-over state” has gotten the ultimate fly-over.

In this case, however, the pilots and camera crew with the Smithsonian Channel’s “Aerial America” worked a lot closer to the ground. Their goal: capturing the prairies and forests, the rural landscapes and urban landmarks, the lakes and streams and waterfalls that make Minnesota what it is.

The 60-minute result premieres on the cable channel at 8 p.m. Sunday, and will be available on iTunes thereafter.

We caught up with “Aerial America: Minnesota” director Toby Beach to get the lowdown from on high.

Q: How did Minnesota fare in aerial photos?

A: The fall colors in Minnesota were one of the highlights. We filmed just as the leaves were turning and they brought the state alive in ways that I hadn’t quite expected. Everywhere we focused the camera there was color. The combination of water, trees and fall light is so much a part of the Minnesota landscape.

Q: Are we really just a fly-over state?

A: Minnesota is actually a very distinctive state from the air. You don’t get a chance to see a landscape like the Boundary Waters anywhere else in the U.S.

Q: Was there a standout moment?

A: Filming barnstormer pilot John Mohr was one of the great experiences of this project. He enabled us to bring alive the history of Minnesota’s barnstormers in an exciting way — with his daring rolls and hammerheads over farms and fields.

Q: Would you ever do a flyover in winter?

A: As one of the coldest states in the U.S., Minnesota would be an ideal candidate for a winter shoot, and there would be lots to capture from the air. During our research I remember seeing a fantastic aerial photograph of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships on Lake Nokomis, an amazing winter spectacle perfectly suited to “Aerial America.” □

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