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From Author

Richard Monastersky

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From Photographer

Jonathan Blair

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Cheri Wiggs (top) and Jonathan Blair

image: pencil
With Pterosaurs

Field Notes From Photographer
Jonathan Blair
I had the idea of photographing a model of a pterosaur in its environment. After spending weeks tracking down a model from Dinamation International, getting it out of storage, and having it repainted, I hired an 18-wheeler for the hauling job and a 90-foot (30-meter) crane to lift the 300-pound (140-kilogram) specimen. Then we drove 60 miles (100 kilometers) out to the prairie near Hayes, Kansas, where the first pterosaur fossils in North America were found in the 1870s in the Smoky Hills chalk beds. I was trying to beat an approaching storm, so the restoration crew got busy putting the pterosaur together for the photo shoot.
With everything set to go, the crane operator lifted the creature 60 feet (20 meters) into the air to suspend it over the rocks where the bones were first found. Suddenly the pterosaur turned into the wind and, just as a flock of birds flew by, it lifted a bit and began to soar. It was too realistic for words. The gusty winds that preceded the storm did me a favor. They took me back in time for a moment and helped me get the article’s opening shot.
Besides the usual slowdowns, this was a pretty painless story. I didn’t lose anything. I didn’t break any bones. The worst part was trying to find things to photograph because pterosaurs are so long gone. I had used a slide of a pterosaur painting and projected it to life size on white walls of gypsum near Juàzeiro do Norte, Brazil. I still had the slide with me when I reached my hotel room in Rio de Janeiro, so I decided to have a little fun. My room was on the 16th floor, so I projected the pterosaur out of my window onto the side of the building across the street, like Batman’s signal. Suddenly people began to gather and point up in the air, trying to figure out where the image was coming from. I left it up for about an hour and even went outside and joined the small group of curious people.

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