National Geographic : 2010 Sep
EDITOR'S NOTE PHOTO TOP : PASCAL MAITRE Shot from Philippe Mathieu's helicopter, rice terraces surround the village of Andina in Madagascar. COMING IN OCTOBER The Gulf Oil Disaster Next month's National Geographic will put the Gulf of Mexico oil spill into context, providing an in-depth analysis of oil exploration and its impact on the ecosystem. A large, pullout map supplement will take a comprehensive look at the Gulf region. Working with dedicated people on the front lines of the catastrophe, we'll tell a story that is both timely and timeless. We'll use our expertise to provide information and analysis you can trust. As photographers in the field, we think we know the landscape. Then we step into a helicopter, and suddenly the terrain unfurls before us. Philippe Mathieu, the helicopter pilot who worked with Pascal Maitre on this month's Madagascar story, was a photographer's dream. "He never said, 'I can't do this.' It was always, 'Let's try, ' " Pascal told me. Philippe knew how photographers think. He understood about waiting hours for a few minutes of perfect light. With Philippe's help, Pascal shot aerials of the Madagascar landscape and showed, in ways that could never be comprehended from the ground, the scarification of the land caused by mining and logging. Philippe was a pro. But even the most careful pilot can be on the wrong side of a set of statistics. On April 11, just weeks after Pascal had left Madagascar, something went wrong---as yet no one knows what---and Philippe's chopper went down. He was 38 years old. His mother and sister were visiting him in Madagascar at the time. Afterward, they waited for days to bring his coffin back to France, because ash from the Iceland volcano canceled all flights. "With Philippe I never worried about anything except the photographs, " Pascal said. "We were a team."