Lancashire as you've never seen it before

Ian Chick's pictures are the height of good photography - 15,000 feet high to be precise. Paul Mackenzie reports

Photography can be hard enough at the best of times. Even new fangled digital cameras can't ensure a perfect shot every time but it is more difficult than ever for Ian Chick. He took these stunning Lancashire landscapes after jumping from an aeroplane at about 15,000 feet.

Ian, a plumber with a lifetime interest in photography, first sampled the thrill of skydiving in the late 1970s and was instantly hooked. 'It is an amazing feeling,' said Ian, who jumps with the North West Parachute Centre at Flookburgh near Grange-over-Sands.

'We get views of Lancashire that no-one else gets and once the chute is open I can get the camera out and start clicking.'The views are quite spectacular, you can see for miles. On a clear day you can see the southern tip of Scotland and the Isle of Man and it's wonderful to see these sights in a way that most people won't ever.'

The father-of-two, who lived in Darwen before a recent move to Cartmel, added: 'I do some photography on land as well, sunsets and the like. I have always been interested in photography, since I was a lad but this kind of photography brings extra challenges.

'For certain photos we had to work out what view we wanted, where we wanted the plane, where everyone needed to be and where I needed to be. It can be a tricky job getting everything in place.'

It was quite a complex operation to get their plane in place, too. The XL 750 was built in New Zealand and was the first plane of its kind to successfully fly half way round the world - the only one to set off earlier had a problem with the fuel tank and was forced to ditch in the sea.

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But getting the plane here wasn't the end of the trouble. Two years later it was involved in a fatal air collision in the Midlands.

'In December 2007 our pilot Mike Carruthers was flying the plane down to Bedford for routine maintenance,' Ian said. 'It was a lovely clear day. Another light aircraft had taken off from an airfield in the Midlands and was climbing. The pilots didn't see our plane and tragically they were both killed.

'Lucky for Mike, our plane was a little bit stronger than the other and he and the plane survived, although engineers had to come over from New Zealand to re-build parts of it.'

The plane is now in use most weekends and the centre has about 80 members from all over the North West and Ian added: 'We get more people coming along every weekend, especially after skydiving has been featured somewhere. We always get a rush of people when they show re-runs of the action film Point Break.'

New recruits are given full training and can opt to jump solo or in tandem, strapped to a qualified instructor. To find out more go to call 015395 58672.

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