Hull Fair © Chris Fenton
Humans have always sought means to fly. From boomerangs and the beliefs of Siberian shamans to the airplanes and the recreational paragliding we are more familiar with today, the desire to fly presents itself as a universal human trait. Drones have enabled photographers to partially fulfil this strangely innate desire, taking to the skies and capturing the ground from a bird’s eye perspective. Here are some of our favorites (in no particular order).
Azurite Pond, 2016, © Michael B. Rasmussen
From Naestved located on Zealand, Danish photographer Michael B. Rasmussen can reach untouched coastlines, calm fjords and beautiful rich forests within an hour’s drive. “Nature has always been my playground” says the artist, though this doesn’t mean he doesn’t also enjoy exploring cities, capturing the everyday life of strangers and architectural wonders with a pocket-sized point-and-shoot. One slight snag about living where he does is that his drones risk being shot down by “confused hunters” during hunting season, which means he has to constantly plan ahead, knowing which areas are off limits. Michael describes himself as an “amateur” photographer even though he has been taking pictures for more than twenty years: “ I believe that there is always something new to learn, new techniques to explore, and there is always room for growth”.
The Estuary, 2016, © Michael B. Rasmussen
Family holding hands in the dunes, Nida, Lithuania © Karolis Janulis
Lithuanian photographer Karolis Janulis always wanted wings to see what the world looks like from a bird’s perspective. The DJI phantom in part granted his wish, allowing Karolis to acquire bird vision and capture his native Lithuania from the sky. Often recognised as a precursor of the movement, he was flying when few others were: “In the beginning, it was easy because most of the places and interesting action were still not discovered from the air, by me or by anyone else”. Today still Karolis captures awe-inspiring landscapes with a marked human presence, and this distinguishes his work from other aerial photographers. “Drone photography has changed my life totally. It has become my lifestyle”, says the artist, “as a pioneer, I have gone through many things, opened brand new views from above, noticed the play of shadows, and truly experienced the flight of the bird. All of this still brings an adrenaline rush, and it transforms into an addiction.”
Kids play basketball during the break, Vilnius, Lithuania © Karolis Janulis
Image © Tarasov Maxim
“I love to shoot nature – the way it changes, lives, breaths” says Russian photograph Tarasov Maxim. Aerial photography has given him an entirely new perspective on the places familiar to him: “suddenly, things that were hidden from us became visible”. Tarasov lives in the South Ural region of Russia, famous for its beautiful nature and recent meteorite fall. Capturing the ground from the sky, Tarasov was mesmerised by the small details that we don’t usually notice around us, and also discovered that a landscape can be abstract: “Recognizable and well-known images could be changed, childhood memories could be given with new colours, and commonplace things could become unique”. The artist places great importance in exploring and believes that one of the greatest joys of drone photography is sharing these newly discovered secrets with friends and family. One of the main issues drone photographers face in his region is the infamous Russian winter: “When the temperature outside is less than -15C all the equipment freezes and the batteries are discharged. I can handle such weather but the electronics cannot”.
Image © Tarasov Maxim
Ghost Ship, 2016, © Reese Lassman
“I like to look for everyday things that we see from ground level and photograph them from a perspective people don’t usually get to experience” says Detroit-based photographer Reese Lassman, who primarily captures natural and urban landscapes from an aerial view. His biggest concern while out shooting is safety: “I lost one drone to a heavy gust and unexpected change in wind direction, and I lost another drone to radio interference. So when I’m fly around people, animals, or property I’m always very focused on not making mistakes”.
Whirl, 2016, © Reese Lassman
Coogee beach, Sydney, Australia, © Aaron and Tom of the Vertical Project
Though technically two individuals, Aaron and Tom nail it collaborating together on The Vertical Project. Based between Sydney and Perth, Aaron and Tom are both drone pilots and airline pilots, so constantly find themselves in new locations. The pair love the ocean, as is evident in their photographs of beautiful beaches found in Australia and around the world. One of the biggest obstacles they face are the laws prohibiting or restricting drone use, and these regulations vary from country to country. This is why they have not yet visited Cuba: “As much as we’d love to visit and photograph Cuba, we don’t want our drones to be confiscated!”
Bondi icebergs, Sydney, Australia, © Aaron and Tom of the Vertical Project
Rainbow Quary, © Zane Isaac
“My home is the truly enchanting small town of Crestone Colorado in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at the foot of the Rockies” says photographer Zane Isaac, who routinely takes pictures of “anything and everything”, though his favourite photos are “those unbelievably magical moments when it seems as if all the beauty in the universe has aligned before your eyes”. The artist wants the viewer to see the unbelievable beauty he sees all around us. The only kinks in his seemingly perfect natural universe are the regulations faced by almost all drone photographers worldwide, on which he says: “Model aviation has been around for a hundred years and never has there been such resistance to its existence. Is a radio controlled toy car a drone? What if i put a camera on it is it then a drone? If I attach a camera to a kite is it now a drone? Shall we regulate kites now?”
Image © Zane Isaac
Hull-based photographer Chris Fenton prefers to play it safe working as a professional drone pilot in law-abiding old Blighty; his preferred photographic subjects are buildings and events, and he always asks permission from the landowner. Chris feels that the most frustrating obstacles drone photographers face are those flyers who don’t care to follow the UAV regulations set out by the CAA and give drones a bad reputation. His stunning bird’s eye captures of the iconic Hull fair are at first glance reminiscent of bassets liquorice allsorts, a much-loved British confection. “The sun was a little hazy when I took the daytime shots, but I managed to get what I wanted”, Chris told the Hull Daily Mail.
Kingston, Jamaica, © Chris Fenton
Looking down, © Robert Work
Dubai-based photographer and engineer Robert Work is forever in awe of the photogenic city that he has come to call home: “It’s an amazing city where there’s always a new spectacle to shoot, and it always contrasts sharply with its desert surroundings”. A few time a year he heads out to the Empty Quarter near Liwa in the United Arab Emirates — it’s the largest sand dune in the world and a perfect subject for aerial photography. “I can recognize all of the dunes by now” he says, “but with the wind, they show a different character on every trip”. The artist fears that drones will be outlawed entirely in the upcoming years after several reported incidents of drones causing airports to delay flights. “I think the biggest obstacle to drone photography are the few bad actors who give this genre a bad name” he says. This would be a great shame, for as the photographer observes, “drone photography has definitely provided landscape photographers new ways to express their craft”. And the medium is definitely all the richer for it.
Shortcut, © Robert Work
Image © Cameron Puglisi
Sky is evidently not the limit for Adelaide-based photographer Cameron Puglisi, who started by capturing beaches and sunsets and now shoots a wide range of subjects, including weddings, buildings for architectural shoots, band film clips and crop harvests. One of the biggest obstacles he faces as a professional drone photographer is unpredictable weather conditions: “I recently photographed two weddings over a single weekend, with strong winds forecast for the first day and heavy rain for the second. Luckily, when it came time to photograph the ceremonies, the weather had cleared up significantly otherwise both shoots would have been cancelled.”
Image © Cameron Puglisi
Vertical Racing, © Shoayb Hesham
Another Dubai-based photographer to make it into this list is architect Shoayb Hesham. “I always loved flying and aviation since my childhood, I also tried to join aviation before joining Architecture but due to unforseen circumstances I couldn’t do it” he says. But the dream stayed with him. As an architect he usually deals with two-dimensional drawings showing buildings from above; from this unique perspective he set out to combine an architect perspective with aerial photography to see the whole world as a plan. One problem with this method is that everything would have the same depth in a 2D frame. To get around this the artist focuses more on the shadow than the subject itself, as can be seen clearly in his iconic camel photograph Vertical Racing that was captured at one of the most famous and prestigious camel races in Dubai. Since rediscovering a childhood dream in flying, Shoayb has also attained a paragliding license — now he can experience the world as if he were a bird, and not just through his camera lens.
Vertical Allignment, © Shoayb Hesham
Caribou trails in the fall, © Nansen Weber
“I specialise in arctic wildlife” says British Columbia-based photographer Nansen Weber. His entire childhood and adolescence was spent exploring the reaches of the high arctic, “from muskox to polar bears to narwhales, it is all part of the fun!” The advent of drones has enabled the photographer to explore areas which were previously invisible from the ground and enriched his experience as an explorer. But it’s not all fun and games. A major concern while photographing in this wilderness is the harsh arctic climate, through which it’s not always easy to pilot a drone, and the remoteness of some of his favourite shooting locations. The photographer elaborates: “Nobody is going to come and help me if my vehicle breaks down or if I get stuck in the mud with the ATV. I have to be almost completely self reliant, the nearest hospital is a very expensive plane ride away”. He hopes that his aerial photographs succeed in communicating how extraordinarily beautiful this region is, and at the same time raise awareness of what we have to lose. He leaves us on this solemn note: “the arctic is changing so fast with climate change, it is important that people see the greatness we have to help preserve it for generations to come”.
Stranded belugas, © Nansen Weber
Image © Brooke Holm
“My work is inspired by my desire to see things in new ways” says New York-based photographer Brooke Holm. She succeeds in that her work is dominated by minimalism and abstraction, producing a unique, painterly aerial photographic style. At first glance it is difficult to tell whether her pictures are paintings or photographs; isolated beaches and fields are effortlessly conveyed with what seem to be pastel-coloured brushstrokes. The artist captured this series in various locations including Svalbard, Western Australia, Iceland, USA and New Zealand.
Image © Brooke Holm