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This year’s best aerial photography, chosen by National Geographic

By Johnny Simon
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The rise of cheaper, consumer friendly drone technology has made stunning aerial perspectives a new creative frontier for the adventurous nature photographer. The ability to explore a landscape by looking down, rather than across, can help highlight a place’s unique and distinctive geometry.

National Geographic announced the winners of their Nature Photographer of the Year competition earlier this month, and the “Aerials” category provides some of the contest’s most beautiful entries. Seen from high above, various  terrestrial scenes are reduced to their essentials: a winding river canyon, a road cutting through a snowy forest, a flash of hot lava splashing into the ocean below.

Take a look:

1st place

“In Sydney, Australia, the Pacific Ocean at high tide breaks over a natural rock pool enlarged in the 1930s. Avoiding the crowds at the city’s many beaches, a local swims laps.”
Todd Kennedy/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
A rock pool in Sydney, Australia at high tide.

2nd place

“Snow-covered metasequoia trees, also called dawn redwoods, interlace over a road in Takashima, Japan.”
Takahiro Bessho/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
An aerial shot of Metasequoia trees.

3rd place

“Molten earth meets the ocean on the flanks of Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawai’i. A perspective not seen until the advent of drones, this interaction between lava, water, and time contributes to the buildup of an island chain.”
Greg C./2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano

Honorable mention

“Migratory gulls take flight from a cedar tree being washed downstream by a glacial river in British Columbia, Canada.”
Agathe Bernard/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
A downed cedar on a river in British Columbia.

People’s choice

“Utah’s canyons are quite impressive as your walking through the bottom. But they are equally extraordinary when viewed from above. On this image, you can see the many twists and turns this canyon has cut through the sandstone. The bottom of the canyon is full or riparian vegetation and is a whole different world from that above it.”
Greg Swindler/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
Green vegetation blooms at the river’s edge, or riparian, zone of a meandering canyon in Utah.


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