Joanna Steidle

Editorial Above the waves: Joanna Steidle

© Joanna Steidle

“…I was amazed by the aerial perspective; I was given a glimpse at the mystery of our ocean and instantly fell in love…” Joanna Steidle

─── by Elizabeth Kahn, March 15, 2024
  • A humpback whale breaches the surface of the ocean, its giant black-and-grey silhouette fringed with white fins, seen from above creates a truly breathtaking spectacle as it emerges from the bottle-green Atlantic waters.

    Aerial drone capture of a humpback whale by Joanna Steidle
    "Circle of Life"

    This image is one of many captured using a drone by American photographer Joanna Steidle near her home on the eastern coastline of New York state. For Steidle, photography and drones are intrinsically linked. Her early forays into the medium in 2016 involved using drones, and from the very first experiment, she said she was hooked.

    “I distinctly remember the moment, I captured a lighthouse (Montauk NY) lantern room at sunrise (attaching this image, too). I couldn’t wait to get home so stopped by a coffee shop and checked my memory card on my laptop. It was at that moment that I knew I had found my purpose in life. The excitement drove me to learn everything possible about photography and drones.”

    Aerial photo of a horse between two trees by Joanna Steidle
    "Between the Cherries"
    Aerial photo of a surfer by Joanna Steidle
    "Blue Crest"

    Her interest in the ocean set the foundation for her practice. She has lived close to the Atlantic for most of her life, and describes it as her ‘happy place,’ where she could ‘connect spiritually with Mother Nature,’ finding contentment in the salt air, sand in her toes, and sun on her face. However, seeing this thing she knew so well from a new perspective was eye-opening, revealing a world of possibilities.

    “I was amazed by the aerial perspective; I was given a glimpse at the mystery of our ocean and instantly fell in love. Whales, dolphins, sharks, rays and the huge schools of menhaden fish. I could fly and stare for hours studying their movements, best perspectives and when to hit the shutter.”

    Aerial photo of a shark swimming toward a shoal of fish by Joanna Steidle. Near Hamptons, NYC, USA
    "The Gateway"
    Aerial Landscape photography by Joanna Steidle. A river surrounded by grass and trees in Long Island, NY, USA
    "Scallop Fall"
    Aerial photo of ocean waves by Joanna Steidle
    "Saphire Rush".

    Her newfound passion for drone photography grew and grew. Driven by a desire to capture the beauty of the natural world with which she felt so connected, she dedicated herself to this style of photography, developing her technical skills and knowledge through hundreds of hours of flying over the coastal landscapes near her home.

    “Drones gave me a chance to bring a gift to the world, a view most others never see. They are like an extension of myself, and each is named after meaningful women in my life, past and present. It is quite like a spiritual connection between me, my drone, the sky, and our earth. Enlightening people’s views on this vast beautiful planet brings me great joy.  The perspective also sparks interest in conserving and protecting our lands and oceans.”

    Aerial photo of manta rays swimming among a shoal of fish by Joanna Steidle.

    Her images are incredibly striking for the level of detail she captures, particularly when it comes to marine life. She flies as close as approach distances allow, to capture the intricate beauty of the ocean surface and the incredible life that exists below its surface.

    Possessing a painting-like quality, her images demonstrate an impressive eye for composition, color, and texture. The natural beauty of the ocean scenery, and other nearby landscapes, as well as some of the flora and fauna that inhabits them, is beautifully conveyed from a perspective that, for most people, would never be possible.

    Aerial photo of horseriders by Joanna Steidle
    "Good Match"
    Joanna Steidle -T op down aerial drone capture of a twisting winding tree lined road near horse stables. Taken in early morning light one fine Winter morning.
    "Golden Way"

    The interactions between species are particularly fascinating, and something Steidle has often sought to capture, both owing to its immense beauty though also to its importance to the ocean ecosystem.

    “Whales and sharks feeding on schools of fish are always a special sight, large fevers of cownose rays gliding in synchrony. I’ve watched humpback whales stop feeding to go play with a passing pod of dolphins. Each species is so important to the delicate balance of the sea. Hopefully, my imagery brings awareness and respect for our oceans. We are not alone, we share this planet, and 71% of it is Ocean!”

    Aerial photo of a humpack whale breaching the ocean by JoannaSteidle

    This is at the heart of everything Joanna does. Her love for the ocean, and indeed the planet in general, drives her passion to try and preserve it in any way she can. The image referred to at the start (seen above) is in Steidle’s words, ‘the direct result of the greatest conservation gain I will witness in my lifetime.’

    In 2012, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission enacted the first large coastwide catch limits on menhaden bait fish (which humpbacks feed upon), leading to increasing numbers of whales, sharks, rays, dolphins, seals, and other marine life closer to the coast than they’ve been since the middle of the last century.

    It is a testament to what is possible when efforts are made to preserve life on our planet, the importance of which, Steidle’s wonderful images beautifully emphasize.


    All images © Joanna Steidle