Celebrating Earth from Above
Five aerial photographers share their top shots of our beautiful planet.
“It’s simple and clear—we only have this one earth,” says German photographer Tom Hegen. It’s a message he tries to evoke in all of his photos, which are intended as beautiful reminders of our planet’s fragility. “Aerial photography is a compelling way to document human intervention, because it makes the dimensions of human force on earth visible,” he explains. Hegen isn’t alone. As drones become more advanced and more affordable, photographers are taking to the sky and permitting us unique perspectives on our changing world. “Scientists give us information with numbers and predictions about future scenarios. Photography provides visual information,” says Hegen. Budapest-based photographer Milan Radisics, who posts his aerial shots on the Instagram account @water.shapes.earth, also sees his work as a tool for awareness. “It gives us the ability to observe our landscapes in a new light: We can get an overview, and overviews give us insights, and insights will generate action.”
Here, we take a minute to appreciate the world’s beauty through the lenses of Radisics, Hegen, and other leading aerial photographers.
Based in Munich, Hegen has won awards for his world-spanning work, including a spot on The International Landscape Photographer of the Year’s coveted Best 101 Landscape Photographers list. He’s particularly interested in the concept of the Anthropocene, the notion that we’re living in an era defined largely by human actions. “I’m fascinated by the abstraction that comes with the change of perspective,” he explains. “The viewer needs to decode what they’re looking at.” tomhegen.de
Australian photographer Gab Scanu’s breathtaking aerial views feature an impressive sense of scale—and drama. He chalks that up to being the son of a cinematographer. “It was something that came naturally to me,” the 21-year-old explains. Scanu has harnessed the power of Instagram to reach a global audience of more than 350,00 followers. “It’s amazing to capture and share unique parts of the world that people don’t necessarily know exist, or to share a new perspective on already popular destinations so that we look at them in a new light.” Last year, his photo of Saudi Arabia’s Mada’in Saleh ruins earned him first place at the prestigious Siena International Photography Awards. gabscanu.com
Budapest-based photographer Milan Radisics’s years in advertising have given him a keen understanding of proportion and aesthetics. He turned to nature photography, and the walks it demanded, as necessary personal time. “It helps me be in the present,” he explains. It’s also led to a new career, contributing to a dozen National Geographic stories, plus more in BBC Wildlife Magazine and Terra Mater. Recently, he has turned his attention towards the planet’s water crisis. His Water Shapes Earth campaign explores the evolution of our waterways and shows, in vivid color, “where water comes from, how it is spreading, how beautifully it shapes the planet, and, in the end, what lays ahead as water retreats”—as in the photograph of a shrinking pond in Hungary at the top of this article. water.shapes.earth; milan.hu
Born in Lebanon, Dany Eid moved to Dubai in 2014 and left his corporate job to pursue life as a professional photographer. When he’s not capturing the ever-changing skyline of his new home, he’s leading workshops around the world, including to Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia. “I miss nature in Dubai, and that’s why Tuscany became a favorite location for me,” says Eid. “Everywhere you look, there’s an interesting subject to shoot, with the light and colors altering so much during the different seasons.” danyeidphotography.com
Inspired by the “life and energy in water,” Anders Carlson uses his drone to capture cerulean shots of his home in Kona, Hawaii that land- and sea-lubbers can’t see from eye level. He typically gets to the beach just before sunrise for his shots. “There’s rarely anyone else around, the light is the best, and everything is just so peaceful. All you hear is sound of the waves breaking, and birds waking up,” he explains. The father of two is also committed to raising awareness for Climate Change, living off the grid and relying on solar energy to power his home. “We grow our own vegetables, have nine chickens for eggs, and try to buy locally whenever possible. Most people understand that climate change exists and that humans continue to have a negative impact on it. The hardest thing is to convince people to take action.” andersimagery.com
Based in Sydney, Australia, Irenaeus Herok travels the world landscape and portrait photography shoots for the likes of Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, Vice, and The Guardian. With a background in design and the fine arts, he takes inspiration from the Old Masters and classic cinema. Using a drone, he likes to highlight “the relationships and scale between objects, and people’s intrusion in the landscape.” This is particularly true in the UAE, where he’s taken to shooting sand-covered roads from above. His work “illustrates how nature still dominates in this harsh environment…The desert has its own calming and soothing disposition.” iherok.com