At Altitude Gallery gives patrons a place to step off the quaint streets of Cape Charles, Virginia, and see the Eastern Shore as few but Gordon Campbell have: from the air. Campbell opened his gallery in 2015 in order to have a place to showcase his unique aerial photography, and the product is stunning. All of the prints for sale in At Altitude Gallery are created exclusively from Campbell’s work and are printed on-site on Chromalux metal panels, which are long-lasting and vibrant.
To be clear, Campbell isn’t a drone photographer; he does his work from the open cockpit of his light aircraft. Flying above the shoreline, Campbell is able to capture photographs that can only be taken this way. Drones, as popular as they are, cannot hope to rival the capabilities of a human pilot in the air. For one, the field of view that a human pilot has far outstretches that of a drone, enabling a pilot to scout larger swaths of land for that perfect shot. “I have a 360-degree view when I’m up there, so my ability to compose an image is much easier,” says Campbell.
The aircraft that Campbell flies is called a Dragonfly. It is small and has no fuselage, nothing to shield its pilot from the elements; and yet, Campbell can fly twice as high as any drone available to the public. His range is greatly increased as well, allowing him to visit locations that are simply inaccessible to drone photographers.
Beyond the facts of capability, Campbell describes the difference between flying a plane and a drone in terms of the experience. To him, there’s no substitute for going into the air in person. “Being up there, behind the camera, in the plane is an adrenaline rush the whole time,” he says. Looking around At Altitude Gallery, knowing that each photo on display was taken by a real person strapped to a flying seat hundreds of feet above the ground, visitors can share in the pilot’s experience. Considering the majesty of the Eastern Shore landscape, the quality of the prints and the methods of the photographer, the art has a distinct sense of adventure that makes the gallery experience truly unique.
Campbell has flown above and photographed the Eastern Shore of Virginia so thoroughly that he can navigate by sight, remembering and recognizing the countless barrier islands along the Atlantic Coast; however, he hasn’t confined himself to that peninsula. Over the last 15 years, he has photographed much of the Atlantic seaboard, from New England down to the Georgia coast. Visitors to At Altitude Gallery’s website can find images on display from more than 10 states.
Campbell has been taking and developing photographs since he was a teenager and began flying shortly after college. Initially, the two passions weren’t linked. That coupling occurred when he and his family moved to the Eastern Shore of Virginia in 2003. Flying, specifically, inspired the move. Campbell purchased Kellam Airfield in Northampton County, renaming it Campbell Airfield. From there, he began to explore the Eastern Shore from the air, and it wasn’t long before he decided to begin combining his love of flight and photography.
Opening a gallery and pursuing aerial photography as a profession might have made flying and photography feel like work to Campbell, but he says that is not the case. When he’s not tending to his business in the gallery, or searching the skies and shores for his next great photograph, Campbell still loves to fly for fun and often does so with one of his three daughters in the passenger seat. “The passion for flying has always been there and always will be there,” he says, adding that he hopes his daughters eventually share his love for flying.
TO THE POINT:
At Altitude Gallery
Address: 245 Mason Ave., Cape Charles, VA 23310
Contact: Gordon Campbell, owner, artist