Photo Essay

Recent Aerials - Exploring the Square Format

Recent Aerial Images - 1

I've always enjoyed photographing from the airplane window when I travel. Some of the first images I put up on JPG were of that kind, and the JPG team was kind enough to publish them (you can see them at if you'd like).

When I started moving more and more to the square format almost a year ago, I got away from that subject matter. It didn't seem like square framing would lend itself to aerials. But recently I decided to see if I could make it work after all.

One of the things I love about aerial images is that they're so challenging to get. You need the right seat, to have some luck with the condition of the window or to find ways to work around it, and of course you never know whether there will be anything to photograph at all. So you have to be attentive and prepared to react very quickly since, if an interesting scene does in fact present itself, it will go by VERY quickly. I really enjoy putting myself in that state of relaxed awareness, followed by total concentration during the short window of time that images are there to be recorded.

Another challenge is post-processing. The raw files I get out of the camera are typically low-contrast and bluish, and not what I remember seeing at the time I pressed the shutter. I believe that's because, during the flight, the eye and brain adjust and compensate for the airplane window and the atmospheric haze below it, but the camera doesn't. So the challenge is to enhance the image -but not too much. It's very tempting to push the contrast or saturation slider just a bit farther, as the image becomes more and more dramatic and eye-popping with every notch. I'm not saying that's wrong, but it's not my aesthetic - what I was privileged to actually see is what I want to share.

These images are from flights on April 7, May 10-11 (crossing the date line) and June 19 of this year. I've tried to reproduce as faithfully as possible the sights that took my breath away, without yielding to the temptation of embellishing them.

They all read better at the larger size, so I recommend clicking on the links I've provided to the "On Black" site, which shows the image about twice as large.

Many, many thanks to JPG for making this the story of the week for week 41, and to all the kind friends who nominated the story for that honor, most recently Paul Lavallee

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42 responses

  • Ryan Watkins

    Ryan Watkins (Deleted) gave props (29 Aug 2010):

    Very impressive! Well done.

  • Simon Kossoff

    Simon Kossoff (Deleted) said (30 Aug 2010):

    Wonderful essay, both the images and the writing. Story of the week (again) for me..

  • Deborah Downes

    Deborah Downes gave props (31 Aug 2010):

    Wonderful essay. Amazing images. Sure has my vote.

  • Lise Utne

    Lise Utne gave props (31 Aug 2010):

    Beautiful, each and every one a gem!

  • Nicolette de Joncaire

    Nicolette de Joncaire   gave props (1 Sep 2010):

    Both pictures and text are brilliant. A great photographer at work

  • Catherine Hadler

    Catherine Hadler gave props (1 Sep 2010):

    fascinating and beautiful

  • Aaron Schwartz

    Aaron Schwartz gave props (1 Sep 2010):

    Story of the week for sure.

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (2 Sep 2010):

    Hell YEAH! Rad!

  • Jean Pierre Vacherot

    Jean Pierre Vacherot (Deleted) gave props (2 Sep 2010):

    Great essay. Voted

  • Kitsmumma

    Kitsmumma gave props (2 Sep 2010):

    I think the square format works beautifully with these, gorgeous work.

  • Carol Arntsen Masiak

    Carol Arntsen Masiak gave props (2 Sep 2010):

    gorgeous series and great narrative - love all your aerial images!

  • Maura Wolfson-Foster

    Maura Wolfson-Foster gave props (3 Sep 2010):

    Absolutely superior work Alexis - my congratulations (and, vote) ~ !!!!!

  • dp *

    dp * gave props (3 Sep 2010):

    Heck yeah these are way RAD and of course the read is great.

  • Llorenç Rosanes

    Llorenç Rosanes (Deleted) gave props (3 Sep 2010):

    Bueno, ya sabes que adoro estas imágenes. Es realmente la historia de la semana, incluso la del mes para mí. Y el texto es fantástico también. Me gusta tu explicación del formato cuadrado y la de la post-edición de las fotos para conseguir reproducir lo que tú veías desde tu asiento. Un 10, amigo, un 10!

  • Adam Ames

    Adam Ames gave props (4 Sep 2010):

    Excellent series and fantastic POV (literally)

  • Mykola Swarnyk

    Mykola Swarnyk gave props (4 Sep 2010):

    Thank you for that honest and calm explanation - it`s excellent!

  • Dilshad Aroos

    Dilshad Aroos (Deleted) gave props (5 Sep 2010):

    Brilliant series of images mate....definitely Rad.

  • dana io

    dana io gave props (5 Sep 2010):

    Amazing... v!!

  • Michele Randell

    Michele Randell gave props (5 Sep 2010):

    One of the best essays and text ever on JPG..Voted and fingers crossed it gets published!

  • Navrooz

    Navrooz gave props (6 Sep 2010):


  • Jason Platt

    Jason Platt gave props (6 Sep 2010):

    the best!

  • Chris Sanford

    Chris Sanford (Deleted) gave props (6 Sep 2010):

    This SHOULD be printed!

  • Mark Gilliland

    Mark Gilliland gave props (6 Sep 2010):

    Awesome work!! Gets my vote!!

  • Kevin House

    Kevin House gave props (7 Sep 2010):

    amazing collection! breathtakingly grand!

  • Jim Hart

    Jim Hart said (7 Sep 2010):

    two enthusiastic votes

  • Didi Witchard

    Didi Witchard gave props (7 Sep 2010):

    voted! they're all beautiful creations!

  • ! Mario Scattoloni ¡

    ! Mario Scattoloni ¡ gave props (11 Sep 2010):

    The colours & tones R incredible the collection of images ar all stunning.

  • jen bellefleur

    jen bellefleur gave props (11 Sep 2010):

    these are wonderful, i hear a story in these emotional landscapes, loneliness, fear, the joy of reunion.

  • jen bellefleur

    jen bellefleur gave props (11 Sep 2010):

    these are wonderful, i hear a story in these emotional landscapes, loneliness, fear, the joy of reunion.

  • claudia luthi

    claudia luthi said (28 Sep 2010):

    "So the world doesn't come thinged; it doesn't come evented. You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean. The ocean waves, and the universe peoples. And as I wave and say to you 'Yoo-hoo!' the world is waving with me at you and saying 'Hi! I'm here!' "

    Absolutely fascinating series, Alexis

  • Paul Lavallee

    Paul Lavallee gave props (7 Oct 2010):

    another outstanding collection of images!

  • Maxim D

    Maxim D gave props (12 Oct 2010):

    Fantastic images vividly depicting the splendor of our planet. Congratulations on getting chosen for the Story of the Week!

  • Eric Sayah

    Eric Sayah gave props (13 Oct 2010):

    Congrats on your Story of the week. Very well deserved!

  • Michele Randell

    Michele Randell gave props (13 Oct 2010):

    Congratulations Alexis on Story of the week..Woo hoo and well deserved!

  • Dominic Kite

    Dominic Kite gave props (13 Oct 2010):

    that's a great set of photos. Very nice.

  • Caroline Penris

    Caroline Penris gave props (13 Oct 2010):

    yes, voted!

  • Roxana Brivent-Barnes

    Roxana Brivent-Barnes said (14 Oct 2010):

    It is worth it to be published my friend, superb shots, V!

  • Deborah Downes

    Deborah Downes gave props (14 Oct 2010):

    Back to give my heartfelt congratulations for Story of the Week. Truly deserved, my friend.

  • Toby Morrison (JPG Admin)

    Toby Morrison (JPG Admin)   gave props (14 Oct 2010):

    Great entry! Congrats for being selected as JPG's Story of the Week.

  • Jim Ford

    Jim Ford (Deleted) gave props (19 Oct 2010):

    very nice Alexis....voted!

  • Robin Perkins

    Robin Perkins gave props (27 Nov 2010):

    Love them, voted.

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