Imagine a photograph that would otherwise be beautiful – the entire frame is filled with the crystal clear grey-blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico – but it features three enormous plumes of smoke from oil fires – the result of the BP oil spill. If a picture truly is worth a thousand words, then this photograph tells the story of environmental disaster. Such is what volunteer pilots and photographers do for Lighthawk, a nonprofit organization that works internationally to document the threats and the beauty of natural areas and wildlife. The San Juan Preservation Trust was the recipient of a Lighthawk flight mission in August. While their assignment was nothing as dramatic as photographing the BP oil spill (thank goodness), retired Alaska Airlines pilot Linda Chism and professional photographer Neal Chism (they happen to be spouses) were given a list of target areas in the San Juan Islands to photograph. Some of these areas are places already protected by the Preservation Trust; others are priorities for future protection. Linda and Neal spent several hours targeting the GPS coordinates provided by Preservation Trust staff and shot some very compelling photographs. Thanks very much to Lighthawk, and to Linda and Neal Chism for their tremendous contribution.

Visit to learn more about this great organization. Some examples of their work are featured here. Above left, the west side of San Juan Island from the air; to the right, Pt. Disney on Waldron with Orcas in the background. More photos that resulted from our Lighthawk flight in the San Juans are posted on the SJPT Facebook page.