Photographer and artist Stan Gaz had a boyhood obsession with meteorite craters. He calls them “footprints of the stars.” His photographs of these impact sites are collected in an enormous and stunning new book, Sites of Impact, which I reviewed in our November-December issue. In the book, Gaz describes a visit to a crater in Arizona:
When I got there, I could not believe that it was real. Formed by an enormous meteorite that was traveling so fast that when it hit the earth it created an explosion equivalent to twenty atom bombs and displaced eleven million tons of dirt, the space was massive. It had an emotional effect on me that was overwhelming. Standing on the edge of this crater was like standing inside a cathedral. I picked up some sand in my hand, and for the first time I could feel the shape of the earth. I knew right away I wanted to photograph it.
When Gaz started talking about photographing impact sites from the air, a friend suggested a remote-controlled camera mounted on a helicopter. But Gaz wanted his camera in his hands.
After taking pictures from the ground, I decided to rent a helicopter and take more pictures from the air. This marked my first time flying at high altitude with the doors off the plane. Hovering above the crater at 3,000 feet, with only a Volkswagen seat belt across my waist, I can honestly say I felt uneasy. As the pilot tipped the machine onto its side, he assured me that gravity and velocity would keep me from falling out ... I felt like a tripod with wings.