"Our behavior of play is critical for leaning from birth," said MacLean. "It's what distinguishes us from the reptiles. Humans adapt spaces to play." From skiing on top mountains to surfing and parasailing off dunes, human beings cannot the resist the temptation of play, he said.
In fact, his father is Paul MacLean, 93, the neuroscientist who distinguished that play is the fundamental behavior of man.
Of all of MacLean's thousands of flights, about 99 percent are solo trips. Others consist of assignments where a client flies with him or are helicopter trips (which are easier to shoot from).
He's got the solo-flying shooting process down to perfection. He opens the left-hand window of the Cessna, which is the one closest to him, and lifts it onto its hinges. The plane's power is set on a fixed mode where it flies straight and level at a constant RPM at the same altitude, usually between 1,000 and 2,000 feet high above urban areas and not lower than 500 feet above rural areas. He has his feet on the rudders to turn the aircraft if need be.
"The camera is usually resting on my left shoulder to keep it steady. I don't hang the camera outside of the plane because the wind vibration will shake it," said MacLean.
Once, he lost a 70 to 200mm zoom lens out the window. "It was not clipped all the way. Luckily, it went down in a forest. It was right near a subdivision. I could only imagine it plowing through someone's roof and crashing into a living room while a family is watching television," he said, laughing.
He's been at it since the 1970s and has no plans to slow down.
"You can cover so much so fast. There's an incredible variety. You can photograph over an urban area and 15 minutes later you're over farmland. The subject matter is so varied," said MacLean.