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From Above

This assignment ran from Aug 1 to Aug 22, 2015.

Right now, this assignment only has one rule: Look down. Whether you’re looking down at your feet, from the top of a building, or from an airplane, we want to see what your world looks like from above.

This is a view I’m excited to explore but one I couldn’t do alone. I’ve asked two Your Shot photographers to join me as guest editors for this assignment. Jassen Todorov is one of Your Shot’s most talented aerial photographers. Concentrating on the western United States, he makes stunning images while flying a plane (not something to try at home!). You can read more about his work in this Storehouse feature. Brian Yen is an incredibly creative photographer and winner of the 2014 National Geographic Magazine Photography Contest. He has experience with drones and drone photography and can really think outside the box.

And me? Well, most of you know me. I’m the one without any aerial photography experience but a great appreciation for the art of it and an interest in how we can take what we learn in aerial photography and apply it to heights a bit closer to the ground. The advent of camera phones, GoPros, and other small cameras make this easier than ever. I once taped my camera phone under a high cabinet to take an image from above. What are some safe and creative ways you can get to this interesting angle?

Over the next few weeks you’ll be hearing from Jassen, Brian, and me about what we love and have learned through aerial photography—and how we can apply that to this assignment.

We can’t wait to see you all get creative, get abstract, and show us your view From Above.

“There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view.”—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Curated by:

Marie McGrory
Producer, Nat Geo Travel
Assignment Status
  • Open

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  • Closed

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  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Aug 29, 2015.
Thank you for your contributions!

Behind the Edit

Posted oct 13, 2015

We have posted a Behind the Edit on our Editor's Spotlight. Some of our favorite photos that didn't make it in to the story. Enjoy!

Send Us Another!

Posted aug 15, 2015

One week left and we can't get enough. We are adding one more submission for everyone. Bring it on!

From Brian

Posted aug 13, 2015

It’s been a real honor to be chosen as a guest editor. I’ve also developed a newfound respect for the professional editors. It’s not an easy task picking through 9,000-plus images to assemble a compelling story line. I’ve come to know many Your Shot members intimately through their toes.

There are certain categories of images that we’ve been seeing a lot of: the toes/shoes selfies, airplane wings, tops of heads, children looking up, pets looking up, spiral staircases. All of these are potentially good topics to shoot, but as you shoot try to keep in mind what makes your particular shot stand out from the rest.  Although this image from Dana C. could easily be grouped with the toe selfies, it utilizes the intimate and first-person nature of a toe selfie to draw the viewer into the complex feelings of a mother. On the one hand, the weight gain visible through the daily ritual of a weigh in; on the other hand the love gained from two healthy toddlers.

When you shoot from a different perspective it’s simply a new tool for telling a story about what’s in front of the camera. But merely using a new tool doesn’t produce great results; it needs to be used wisely. Try to think about what you’re shooting, and if shot From Above, does it produce the optimum result? Does the perspective From Above give you a more compelling image or merely a different image?

Here are a few examples from the net that utilize the From Above vantage point to produce fresh and attractive visuals that probably could not have been done as well from other perspectives. They were done intentionally and thoughtfully. The photographers chose the From Above perspective as a way of telling the story, not a From Above point of view in search of a story.

Photographer Damon Winter shot the aerial series for a New York Times drought story. The aerial put the big question of men vs. nature in a single contrasting frame.

Photographer Benny Lam shot this series to demonstrate the insanely cramped conditions Hong Kong’s people have to live in due to the high price of real estate. In each frame, the viewer is both intrigued by the details of the private lives of the subject and shocked by the condition they live in.

From Jassen

Posted aug 7, 2015

Looking at all of your pictures is a humbling experience. Thank you! Today I feel more alive and more inspired than ever. Our world, as seen from above, is colorful and expansive. This is a view that we often forget in our daily lives, yet one that is miraculous and glorious. I, for one, can’t wait to see our entire planet Earth from above!

As you are thinking about your own submissions, consider pushing your boundaries. Take a day trip to another city, explore mountain peaks, get to the top of some skyscrapers, walk over a bridge, or take a helicopter ride. Dream and think big. Imagine there are no limits. And as you enter this state of excitement, capture that very moment by pushing the button. These are the kinds of photos that will be most cherished by you.

I often think about the composition of the image. What is my message and why? Where is the light coming from and how do I want to position myself in relation to the light source? Take advantage of the beautiful soft light at sunrise or sunset as it will for sure enhance and beautify your image. Experiment and don’t worry about failure--if it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it, then try again, and again, and yet one more time, or just one more time. Heck, I will just keep doing this because it is fun! I believe persistence pays off and I know that taking thousands of pictures is just a part of this wonderful process we call learning.

As you may know, aerial photography is a passion of mine. If you are also interested in aerial work, I’ve put together some basic principles that guide my work. You can read them in this Editor's Spotlight.

I thank you again for sharing your pictures and I look forward to seeing more of your special moments From Above.

- Jassen T.

Marie McGrory

Marie McGrory

Producer, Nat Geo Travel
Marie McGrory is a Producer with National Geographic Travel. She believes photography can help us find the moments, feelings, and stories that transcend cultural boundaries.