Over the Mountains
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Over the Mountains

by Michael Collier

Introducing An Aerial View of Geology series.

Geology is thrilling. It's the Earth in all its splendor. Unfortunately, geology texts rarely communicate that sense of excitement.

Enter Michael Collier, geologist, writer and one of America's premier aerial photographers. For over 20 years, he has piloted his Cessna 180 to inaccessible


Introducing An Aerial View of Geology series.

Geology is thrilling. It's the Earth in all its splendor. Unfortunately, geology texts rarely communicate that sense of excitement.

Enter Michael Collier, geologist, writer and one of America's premier aerial photographers. For over 20 years, he has piloted his Cessna 180 to inaccessible locations and returned with stunning photographs that lay bare the Earth's workings.

Over the Mountains, the first book in Michael Collier's new series, focuses on geology's most spectacular subject in a most spectacular way. It includes:

  • Detailed and breathtaking large-format color photographs covering the geology of every major mountain range in the United States
  • Clear, easy-to-understand text, diagrams and captions that explain and illuminate the geologic processes shown in the photographs.

After exploring the pages of Over the Mountains, readers will never think of mountains — or geology — in the same way again.

Editorial Reviews

Science Books and Films - Gary W. Finiol
Fantastic ...a fascinating introduction to geology.... This scientifically and artistically beautiful book is of tremendous value.... I recommend Over the Mountains as a classroom resource ... as well as to diverse audiences of all ages who are geologically curious and have an eye for stunning views. The book is a must-have for all those fans of geology, science, or nature who wish to know a bit more about how the earth is put together.
American Profile - Neil Pond
This collection of stunning, bird's-eye-view images is both a testament to our country's awe-inspiring geographic majesty and an eye-opening explanation of some fascinating geologic lessons we can learn from the many peaks, summits, ridges, valleys and other rugged, rocky imprints that give the surface of our continent such a varied, grandiose texture.
Geotimes (Washington DC)
Geologist and pilo Michael Collier weds his two passions to bring you stunning aerial shots of some of America's most breathtaking mountains. The book is great for geology professionals and novices alike.
Times-Colonist - Barbara Julian
Page after page gives us mountainous visual thrills. The intellectual thrill is in contemplating how these shots reveal Earth as one constantly transforming living body.
American Scientist
Even from the ground, Over the Mountains makes it easy to understand [Collier's] enthusiasm.
National Science Teachers Association and the Chil
Selected as an "Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 for 2008"
Science Books & Films
Best Books 2007, Junior High & Young Adult, Earth Sciences
The Ottawa Citizen
Collier's photos....give us the outlook of gods on Olympus... The intellectual thrill is in contemplaying how these shots reveal Earth as one constantly transforming living body.
Science & Children - Juliana Texley
Selectors' Choice. This book shows fabulous photographs [that] are expalined via colorful diagrams and/or well-written descriptions. The photography leaves the reader with a desire to inquire more about the magnificent vistas illustrated. What a marvelous way to study geology!
VOYA - Barbara Johnston
Writer/photographer Collier expresses his passion for geology through awe-inspiring aerial photographs that reveal how mountains were formed and modified across the eons of time. What is even more astounding is that he took the pictures while piloting his Cessna 180 plane through rugged regions such as the Fairweather Range in Glacier Bay National Park. His technical and clear prose conjures vivid scenes that send the imagination soaring-"clouds like prayer flags streamed over Mt. Foraker in the awestruck white world of the Alaskan ranges." Collier's love for the land is contagious, and his flying field trips over the mountains are thrilling. Seen from above, erosion becomes a sculptor shaping land mass in the manner of Michelangelo carving his David. Who knew geology could be so enthralling? The four sections of this book explore what mountains are, why some are peaked and others rounded, and why they are often strung together in ranges. According to the plate tectonic theory, the earth's surface is divided into seven huge plates that move like "irresponsible bumper cars" and their interactions create mountains. Their composition (sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rock) is described in flavors of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, and these visual images are easy to remember. Dramatic pictures by far outweigh the prose and speak so forcefully, almost making the explanations superfluous. Buy for classroom use, reference in school and public libraries, or for anyone who has a love of "mountain majesties" or photographic art.
School Library Journal

Adult/High School
The full-color photos in this volume are uniformly stunning and are expertly used by Collier to illustrate how mountains form, evolve, deteriorate, and die. Without reverting to textbook prose, the author covers the fundamentals of mountain geology: rock types, plate tectonics, and erosion, employing his photographs and illustrations to further explicate these principles. It is one thing to write about glaciers, fault zones, plateaus, erosion, alluvial fans, subduction, and volcanoes. It is altogether a higher level of accomplishment to render all of these aspects of geology in photographs as beautiful as they are informative. Collier has put his 50-year-old Cessna 180 and arsenal of photographic equipment to good use, spending thousands of hours in the cockpit, traveling to remote regions of the Earth, up mountain faces, down into canyons, constantly in search of the best shot. He has found many best shots, and readers will enjoy them all. This is an excellent choice for all teen collections.
—Robert SaundersonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Mikaya Press
Publication date:
Aerial View of Geology Series
Product dimensions:
9.50(w) x 12.25(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt

The View Looking Down

The San Francisco Peaks loom a mile above my home in northern Arizona. The peaks have silently witnessed a long parade of nearby human history — a Pueblo man praying to the spirit of mountain-dwelling Kachinas for rain a thousand years ago, an Irish immigrant building a railroad across the territory one hundred years ago, a Navajo woman in her blue velvet skirt herding sheep at the foot of these mountains she still calls Dook'o'oslííd. If only the San Francisco Peaks could share all the images that they have seen.

Mountains do have stories to tell. They could be about our human presence measured in centuries or a few millennia. Or they could describe the rich life of forests that have carpeted their slopes for millions of years. But the stories could also be about the earth itself, extending so far back into the past that their origins commingle with the very beginnings of time. The language of mountains is spoken with the throaty rumble of an erupting volcano; the words are whispered on winds that slowly abrade ridges of ancient granite. To hear these stories, we have to learn a new language called geology, one spoken by rocks and interpreted by science. We have to look at a landscape and learn to read its actions and antecedents.

The stories all start with a few basic questions: Why are there mountains? When were they made? Are some being created right now? What are they made of? Why are some mountains steep and peaked, while others are broad and rounded? Why are mountains bunched into batches or clustered into chains, present in some places and not in others? The answers to these questions reveal many of the earth's innermost mysteries.

Mountain ranges offer clear and compelling glimpses into the origin of North America. The spiky Bugaboo Range of British Columbia and the hoary old Sierra Madre of
Mexico both reflect the crumpling of this continent. The soft rounded slopes of Nevada's volcanic cinder cones and the angular ridges of its Basin and Range Province tell of times when the continent was being stretched apart. There are so many different types of mountains — the chaotic Pacific Coast Range and the stately Rocky Mountains. The venerable Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and the worn-down Ouachitas in Arkansas. All of these mountains tell tales that rise through time from deep within the earth.

Geology concerns itself with features that range from microscopic crystals to satellite views of the entire planet. It's not inconceivable that geologists would discuss subatomic particle physics one day and cosmology of the solar system the next. But usually these scientists just talk about rocks: their mineral constituents, the layers in which rocks occur, and the deformation of these layers. And then they try to put this knowledge into a larger context: what do these rocks tell us about the history of our planet?

The earth is so large and we're so small. How can you keep both minerals and mountains in perspective? One could spend a lifetime hiking and exploring, and only just begin to understand how mountains fit into the rest of the world. On the ground, like mites on an elephant, you don't know if you're sitting on the elephant's tooth or its toenail. But a view from the sky adds another dimension. Rise above and you can see the earth from trunk to tail.

From the air, the fabric of a landscape becomes visible — mountains arching here, valleys plummeting there; volcanoes erupting, lakes drowning, landslides collapsing. With an aerial panorama, we see how large features are quilted together: granite peaks giving way to graceful sedimentary slopes, canyons seamlessly stitched into wider valleys. A sense of time is the geologist's best hand-lens, the open window of a small plane his best perch.

I learned to fly in 1975 while studying geology, five years after beginning a career in photography. The three disciplines nested well, each exciting and challenging, each complimenting the other. My instructor, Chris Condit, was also a geologist. We spent weeks on end wandering the West, marveling at how clearly we could discern classic features we'd seen in textbooks — Mount St. Helens, the San Andreas Fault, the sublime Sierra Nevada. Along the way, while earning degrees in structural geology, I stumbled into being a pilot.

Thirty years later, after five thousand hours aloft, I've never regretted the paths I followed. With this book, I'd like to share that aerial perspective on mountains. I'd like to show geologic feature of America's high country that illuminate the theories by which scientists have come to understand our continent. Mostly I'd like to impart a sense of wonder, a tangible sense of the earth,
that springs from an intimate knowledge of the land.

I once flew north toward Denali (our Mount McKinley as it's still officially known). Departing Anchorage under a low ceiling, I was forced to skim the treetops. Approaching Cantwell an hour later, the clouds parted and the Alaska Range reared up, hooves raking the sky. My plane, fifty years old, knows how to do one thing very well — fly, and then fly some more. Forest and foothills fell behind as we climbed... six thousand feet, nine, twelve, fifteen thousand. At fifteen and a half, the altimeter barely advanced. Clouds like prayer flags streamed over Mt. Foraker. Denali — The Great One, the roof of North America — was still a mile above. I was awestruck by this other universe — this soaring white world where the ridges reveal little rock and a lot of snow. I could fly forever in this sky full of mountains.

Meet the Author

In 2005, Michael Collier received the American Geological Institute's Outstanding Contribution to Public Understanding of Geosciences Award for his decades of work. His photographs appear regularly in major magazines and newspapers. His geology books have won the National Outdoor Book Award, the National Park Service Director's Award and the U.S. Geological Survey's Communications Award.

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