Bobby Haas' View From The Top

Bobby Haas is at the top of his game.

His new book, "An Aerial Look at Latin America," has gone into its second printing. But Haas is by no means ready to rest, or even slow down. He's already working on another book of aerial photography.

For the past six years, Haas has traveled from Africa to South America and now the Arctic.

"I've always been fascinated by how people deal with ultra-cold environments," Haas told CBS News correspondent Daniel Sieberg. "And the idea of challenging myself physically, mentally, emotionally, also dovetailed with the notion of catching the more northern climates before they change so radically. And nobody had done it. I think that was a major appeal."

Haas picked up his first camera 13 years ago. He was going on safari. It was love at first shot, even though he admits that those first photos "were pretty lousy."

Then he stepped onto a helicopter in Africa on vacation and things really took off. Going places few photographers have gone before - sometimes just figuring out where to point the camera - can be dizzying, which Seiberg learned on a flight with Haas high above the Alaskan interior.

Unbelievably, Haas is afraid of heights.

"For whatever reason, I get in an aircraft, I get in a helicopter, take the door off, it doesn't bother me at all," he said.

To keep himself in the plane, Haas has a specially designed harness.

"I've had close calls, yes," he said.

Still, Haas is a photographer who sees himself answering to a higher calling.

"With aerial photography you don't see any national borders," he said. "You don't see different cultures. You don't see different ways to worship God. You don't see lots of other things that you get very preoccupied with when you're down on the Earth."

What you do see is the world from a decidedly different perspective.

Haas has traveled to some of the most isolated and rugged places on Earth, places only easily accessible from the air. But if you live in Dallas, his hometown, you need only take a trip to the mall to see his work. There, 40 of his images are on display. His book features a total of 114 images, but Haas said he has taken more than 70,000.

As eye-catching as his prints can be, they're not for sale. He doesn't want or need the money. He is actually a very successful financial investor who, back in the '80s, earned a fortune in the bare-knuckle world of leveraged buyouts with his former firm Hicks & Haas.

"We bought A&W, Dr. Pepper, 7-Up, Country Time," he said. "It took me to a new stage in my life."

His first book became one of the best-sellers in National Geographic's history, and his photographs are featured in a spread in this month's magazine. But Haas believes becoming a high-flying aerial photographer has actually made him more down-to-earth.

"I see a different person today in myself," he said. "I think it's fair to say I like myself better today. And I think the reason for that is when you're in business, and you're chasing dollars, and dollars are the scorecard, the only beneficiary of your success is you. When you're an artist and you share your work with the world, you go from a very selfish form of success to a more selfless form, a sharing form of success."

Proceeds of his book sales are being given to National Geographic's conservation and exploration efforts. And, thanks to Haas's soaring ambition, we are given the chance to see the world through a lofty lens with a heightened awareness.
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