About David Skelhon

David is an accomplished writer, photographer, pilot, sailor and boat builder. He enjoys teaching others these skills and encourages thinking outside "the box".

No Time For Fear: Lessons From a Lifetime in Aviation

My passion for aviation began early in my childhood but strangely I can’t ever recall wanting to be an airforce or airline pilot. I enjoyed tinkering with model airplanes and exploring novel designs, but as a child I think I was somewhat dissuaded from a career in aviation as being the oldest son my father did his best to involve me into the family business.

However sensing my interest in flight, together with the fact that he did his national service in the airforce and loved it, my father hoped that I too would join, “to make a man of me,” then return to the fold to help run the business. I had no desire to follow in my father’s footsteps but I was fortunate that he gave me the opportunity to learn to fly.

Earning my Private Pilot’s License as a seventeen year old gave me a huge boost in confidence that stayed with me throughout my early adult life. After this early start, times became tough economically, so flying a powered aircraft on a regular basis was beyond my means. I did, however, take to hang gliding and gliding and that’s where I really learnt to fly.

I was thirty-eight years old when I came to Canada to start a new life and took the gamble to become a commercial pilot. I still didn’t see myself as an airline pilot but was drawn to the idea of bush flying as it dovetailed with my love of the outdoors. Inevitably, things didn’t go to plan, but there was no lack of drama and adventure, which culminated in a few seasons of bush flying in the Yukon.

To get there I spent many hours teaching others to fly, building and testing experimental aircraft, and a short but successful period of aerial photography before the advent of drones. I tinkered and experimented – not always successfully – and most importantly, learnt a lot about what makes a good pilot. Through exposure to tragedy, I also figured out that some personality types just don’t make good pilots.

I also learned the hard way, that off-airport operations are by their very nature high risk, and that bush flying is a life of risk management and tough decisions under extraordinary pressure. I takes a very special person to make this a lifetime career, but there is no doubt in my mind that bush experience is valuable to anyone pursuing a life in aviation.

My latest book is available Kindle.

Embracing Winter

Over the past few winters I have been collecting video clips of my home city and its beautiful surroundings. It has been a challenge, as most of the time I am out in temperatures well below zero, and trudging through deep snow. I generally shoot hand-held as I don’t want to burden myself with a heavy tripod. Working hand-held has the advantage of capturing the odd fleeting moment by just raising the camera to my eyes and pressing the button. Fortunately, technology has reached the point where in-built camera stabilisation and post production digital stabilisation can work their magic to produce a smooth looking clip.

I have also incorporated some of my favourite photographs into this video. Please take a look and if you enjoy it please click, like, subscribe, and share!

Saving Time

As the “High Voltage Physics” series progressed,  Garry Garbutt convinced me I should take a look at the old Vernon post office clock he restored a few years ago. This timepiece is now installed as a working exhibit in the City of Vernon’s museum.

I checked it out and immediately realised the educational value of a fully mechanical clock – one where the gears and wheels can be seen tick-tocking away in all their finely machined glory.

Garry presents the clock, its history and its intricate workings. It was built by J Smith & Sons of Derby, England over one hundred years ago. They are still in business today and were able to supply a new pendulum from stock!

Stepping into Video

We are used to watching multi-million dollar productions, which are slick and for the most part engaging, so can we easily adapt to watching less than perfect productions by untrained but enthusiastic individuals? The answer is clearly yes given the success of YouTube; we can accept imperfect technical quality providing the subject is engaging.

I have learned a lot about video in the past year and discovered you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to get good video. My new Fujifilm X-T2 – an excellent stills camera – does a pretty fine job. But good video doesn’t cut it without great sound and even the best sound and video is useless if content is boring or poorly presented. That requires direction and editing – skills I am learning bit by bit.

When I started, I needed a subject to cut my video production teeth on. I remembered an old friend who is a bit of a technical wizard and a collector of vintage high-voltage equipment, capable of producing bolts of lightening and deafening concussions, drama and excitement. Then there is the man himself, Garry Garbutt, a character somewhat out of his time and one who likes to inspire and educate. Garry belongs to a dying breed of hands-on engineers who can actually take apart a machine, figure out its intricacies, and fix it when it goes wrong; he would also be the first to admit that we are fast approaching the point where we will be unable to fix anything other than the simplest devices. Indeed, we already throw away malfunctioning modules and replace them with new ones or just toss out the whole machine and buy a new, improved version.

Garry is a natural showman and didn’t need a lot of convincing when I asked if we could make a series of short videos demonstrating some of the interesting vintage equipment that fills his workshop. If you would like to see how the Crookes Tube lead to the discovery of the electron, X-rays and ultimately modern electronics, Garry can show you. Perhaps the huge arcs fired from Tesla coils Garry built will inspire you. We had plenty of challenges and lots of fun making these less that perfect videos. Check them out on Vimeo;

 

or all five at: http://davidskelhon.zenfolio.com/garrygarbutt

 

Back to Photography

Although this blog has been more about writing, I’m better known as a photographer. During the ’80s and early ’90s I had a lot work published in outdoor adventure magazines and during the 2000s my focus moved to commercial and fine-art aerial photography with some newspaper work thrown in for good measure!

All of that got me some shows in public and private galleries and published portfolios in national magazines. After a lull that’s lasted a few years I’m back at it. You can check out my work at davidskelhon.zenfolio.com or my Etsy print store.

The Beach (2015)

“The Beach (2015)”   St. Ives, Cornwall is one of my favourite seaside towns. I’ve made a couple of visits in the last few years and for me this image captures the energy and joy of the harbour beach.