geography, light, photography

We Need More Aerial Gold On This Page

In my constant struggle for content* and my constant struggle against too much content, I present the above photograph. I believe it’s the Columbia River on the Oregon/Washington border (no one posted any signs that I could see). Sunset from about 30,000 feet. I grouped it with a bunch of other aerial and from-above photos on Flickr. See them here.

I am partial to photography taken from a high place. A few people have made cottage industries, of sorts, out of the practice of aerial photography. (As well as an aerial photography agency that I don’t know too much about since its site is mostly in French.) Some favorites of mine include:

Bernhard Edmaier
Yann-Arthus Bertrand
George Steinmetz
Vincent Laforet
Subhankar Banerjee

And some older favorites:

Andre Kertesz
Rene Burri

*I have a backlog of posts-in-progress, but am reluctant to publish them for outside reasons.


4 thoughts on “We Need More Aerial Gold On This Page

  1. Christian says:

    Some of the photos you show are low-level…in some cases perhaps taken with/from a kite. One of the traveling fellows in the architecture department at Cal just spent 9 months traveling the world taking photos with a home-built kite-aerial-photography setup (as there aren’t viable off-the-shelf kits, I think). Apparently KAP allows a range that cannot be achieved from a fast moving and higher altitude airplane/helicopter.

  2. Tim Lesle says:

    Right: the Kertesz and Burri photos aren’t even taken from something floating or flying. They’re in buildings. (And, those guys are much better known for other kinds of photos.) The rest are all taken from airplanes or helicopters of some sort. George Steinmetz has been running around the globe snapping terrific photos on, I think, an ultralight.

    Like just about every other low-cost technique, Flickr has a group devoted to KAP. I’ve been looking at pictures like these for some months, with some envy. This guy in Finland has some interesting stuff.

    Until I can get the right combination of strong kite, stronger wind, light camera that I don’t mind hitting the ground, and remote trigger, I’ll just have to keep watching others do it. Is the Berkeley guy Cris Bentton? Because his stuff is on Flickr, too.

  3. Christian says:

    The Dartmouth architecture professor who helped the student (who spent the traveling fellowship money taking KAP photos…but I digress) is indeed Cris Benton. Cris has used KAP to document the salt ponds of the South Bay…it’s a pet project of his.

  4. will says:

    These are great, especially the older ones, and bring to mind an early variation of KAP. Connoisseurs of aerial gold, or aerial sepia, should head to the MOMA in San Francisco, where the 1906 earthquake centenary is being observed in an exhibit of photos taken immediately and shortly after the quake and fire. It’s a great exhibit for many reasons, one being to get an idea of the scale of destruction, of which I hadn’t been aware. The city was almost entirely destroyed, and the photos recall images of razed cities like Dresden or Hiroshima. The best point of view for this impression, and the highlight of the exhibit, are aerial photos taken almost immediately after. Some of these are startling panoramas taken by a photographer who used an invention he named–this is almost the best part–the captive airship. He tethered together balloons, probably like the weather balloons used today, and sent up his camera to about 2,000 feet on the, yes, captive airship. As remarkable as the photos themselves is the mystery of how he aimed his camera to take the coordinated chain of shots that I’m guessing a panorama would require, and how he tripped the shutter (a friend suggested highly trained pigeons). The contemporary reaction to these photos was, predictably, astonishment, both because of the novelty–these must have been among the first aerial photos ever taken–and the content: San Francisco in virtual ruin, the only standing structures being the cupola of city hall and the shells of a few buildings downtown. These are still powerful images, for which people at the time were willing to pay $10,000. Go check them out, as well as many other great shots taken on Browning hand-helds that delivered photos as crisp as any taken by the latest technology.

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