“The earth is art, the photographer is only a witness.”
― Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Aerial photography has become increasingly popular in recent years. Innovations in photographic technologies have allowed more and more practitioners to experiment with new perspectives, thus engendering a wealth of breathtaking imagery. We’ve surveyed the winners, finalists, and entrants to our previous awards and selected 10 stunning aerial images that offer a unique look at our world.
1. “Only One”, Russia – Mikhail Potapov
A truly astonishing image, a lone rider, impeccably framed against the rugged landscapes of the Western Caucasus. Permeated with atmosphere, mystery, and intrigue, accentuated by the black and white tones which render the natural landscape into something surreal and tactile.
It is a thoroughly extraordinary image, captured at a relatively low angle compared with most aerial imagery, that extols with great vigor, the immense potential of the style.
2. “Tonle Sap and Chong Kneas village’, Cambodia” – Stuart Chape
A wonderfully composed image, captured from a helicopter by award-winning environmental and social photographer Stuart Chape. Each element: the litany of tiny boats; the coastal flora; the xanthous water, forms tactile textures and patterns that intrigue, and engage the eye.
It is a stunning image, one that not only captures the unique beauty of the scene, but also the relationship that many communities across the world share with their natural environment.
3. Untitled, from the series ‘CRASH’ – Yukiko Sugiyama
A maritime graveyard, where the rusting shells of once proud vessels, slowly disintegrate and disappear into the murky depths. A striking scene, seemingly from some dystopian realm in a science fiction movie, yet it is not, in fact, something imagined but one of the many corners of the earth where technologies that are longer deemed useful, are left to die.
Yukiko Sugiyama’s CRASH series portrays these technological graveyards in order to dissect the relationship between the natural world and human inventions. Her images emblematize both the frantic pace of human innovation, though also its fickle nature: these artifacts, barely decades before would have been viewed as the pinnacle of their field, and now, dissolve in Mother Nature’s grasp.
4. Untitled, from the series “Vietnam from Above” – Khanh Phan-Thi
Khanh Phan-Thi’s captivating image depicts a woman drying sticks of crimson incense, which, in Vietnam is commonly used during prayer as a means of connecting with the dead. Award-winning Vietnamese photographer Khanh Phan-Thi, is fast developing a reputation for capturing powerful aerial images that convey the remarkable beauty and cultural heritage of her homeland, and has transcribed this extraordinary scene with perfect clarity, imparting both its intense beauty and the profound diligence and respect that the subject has for their work.
5. “Ice Exploration”, Alaska – Janessa Anderson
A breathtaking scene portrays a lone kayaker, navigating a narrow waterway that has emerged among the gradually melting Alaskan ice. The bright hues of the vessel, catch the eye against the azure water; the ice, cracks forming, and the waning frost forming an exquisite glaze.
Captured from a 90-degree angle, from a great height, the photographer has captured the true magnificence of the scene, which emblematizes the fragility and temporality of nature.
6. “South Asia’s largest Eid prayers” – Azim Khan Ronnie
An extraordinary image depicting South Asia’s largest Eid-ul-Fitr congregation, in Gor-e-Shahid Boro Math, Dinajpur, Bangladesh. According to organizers’ estimates, over 600,000 devotees take part in the proceedings, and though this image may portray but a fraction of that number, photographer Azim Khan Ronnie has nevertheless captured the immensity of the occasion. Captured from a great height, using a slightly lower angle (rather than a 90˚) as to portray each from head to toe, the participant and their intricately-patterned prayer rugs, form a kaleidoscopic mosaic that captivates immediately.
7. “A work full of colors”, La Spezia, Liguria, Italy – Sara Zanini
Sara Zanini drone photograph of La Spezias’ docks, Italy, is an intruiging one. Captured from a perpendicular angle, the myriad containers form blocks of color, vivid, and clean against their leaden backdrop.
Simple, yet perfectly framed, and skillfully executed, it is an impressive composition that evokes the work of the color field painters, and, demonstrates how the aerial perspective can render relatively quotidian scenes compelling.
8. “A Cold Road” – Tomáš Neuwirth
A truly extraordinary image, depicting the mountain pass of Vidly in the Czech Republic’s Jeseníky Mountains. The myriad of snow-frosted pines angled dramatically toward the camera, appear like archers’ arrows, juxtaposed against the inky, embowed shape of the mountain road.
It is an exquisite scene, artfully, and skillfully transcribed by the photographer, and demonstrates both the fairytale beauty of our planet and the dramatic contrast that often exists between the natural and the man-made.
9. “Basketball II” – Ilanna Barkusky
Part of her award-winning Color Series, in which photographer, Ilanna Barkusky, explores the intersection of sport and art through aerial perspectives, this striking image was shot in her hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia. Viewed from above, the half-court is transformed into a mosaic of bold geometric shapes, colored in vivid, primary hues that contrast with the expressive kinetics of the lone player and his elongated shadow.
10. “Colors from a Mining Pond” – Evan Petty
At first glance, and indeed until you read the title, Evan Petty’s image appears as an abstract painting, a compelling amalgam of textures and tones. However, it is in fact an aerial photograph depicting a mine tailing pond in the western state of Nevada, USA, a haven of gold production, along with other minerals and ores such as barite, copper, limestone & precious opals.
It demonstrates how human impact has transformed this once natural landscape into something unrecognizable, its ethereal beauty belying the macabre reality behind its inception.
All images © their respective owners
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NB: The 2022 Travel Photography Award is open for entries until August 31 – Photographers can submit their work here.