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THE WORLD FROM ABOVE
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." Leonardo da Vinci.
The ability to view the Earth from above is extremely powerful. Few get to see it in their lifetime, even fewer see it daily. Looking down at the surface of the Earth from aloft is unique in many ways. It can be one dimensional, but revealing and centering at the same time. I have been flying since 1995 and have been able to get a bird's eye view of the United States of America from coast to coast. In that time, I have seen subtle and dramatic change to familiar landscapes below. Many of us have peered out the window of a commercial aircraft whilst cruising at 35,000 ft. The planet looks flat, almost one dimensional. It's akin to looking at the ceiling. Topographic features are hard to define. Signs of life are difficult to perceive, save for the gigantic farms of the Plains States or major cities that occasionally emerge from the misty horizon and pass below. It's not until you descend to the lower altitudes of our atmosphere, that the surface of the Earth begins to reveal not only character but signs of human activity.
I often fly small single engine aircraft in the upper Midwest of the United States. These machines fly much lower and slower than traditional jet aircraft. This allows for a better vantage point of the surface. I'm a commercial photographer and often do aerial shots. I learned that capturing shadows helps bring another dimension to aerial photographs, so I prefer shooting in the early morning or late afternoon when shadows are the longest and the light is the softest. Flying at lower altitudes also reveals change to the planet not perceptible from the surface or at really high altitudes. I frequently see farm run-off into otherwise pristine streams, erosion, open pit mines, habitat encroachment and so on. Recently I flew over a logging operation and noticed that they left a few rows of trees standing between a highway and the clear-cut, almost as if to disguise what is going on behind.
In 2010, I began sharing photos on the Instagram app. Using my iPhone 4, I posted random images of anything - a wide assortment of topics. I decided later in the year that I would dedicate my photo stream strictly to images of scenes I see from above. My desire is to share views of the planet from a unique perspective. Flying centers me. Every time. As I watch the surface pass below, I am reminded that individually we are small, but as a whole we have a huge impact on the planet for better or worse.
Adam Senatori is a commercial photographer and pilot working in the Midwest of the United States.