How many times have you heard the phrase, ‘getting there is half the fun’? Unless you hate flying or dislike the prospect of a long haul trip, getting to your destination by air is just amazing. The first time I saw clouds – from above – the excitement reawakened my inner child. From then on I’ve always hogged the windows seats, ignored most of the in-flight movie and stared, fascinated by the vistas below. Crossing terminators into night is always particularly special when you fly from daylight into premature darkness; sunset comes early.
Admittedly a childhood memory of an episode of The Twilight Zone – the one with the gremlin on the wing – written by Richard Matheson gave me pause for thought but that soon passed when faced with the open skies.
21. Winslow, Arizona
This stunning shot of the Barringer Meteorite Crater in Winslow, Arizona is such a fine sight to see. It is estimated that the impact occurred around 50,000 years ago, the result of a meteor impact at some 25,000 mph. Putting it in military terms, the equivalent explosion would have been the same as a 20 Megaton hydrogen bomb.
20. Mount Agung, Bali
This impressive image was taken en route from Lombok to Jakarta. The caldera of this volcanic mountain is plainly visible.
19. Southeast of Madrid
Here, neat, serried ranks of newly planted olive groves make for an impressive sight. The differing colours may be due to the soil’s varying chemistry and water retention ability.
Situated in the Mediterranean Sea, the Aeolian Islands are found off the northeast coast of Sicily. Taking this picture while en route to Catania from Dublin the photographer has managed to make a great shot even better with the small cumulus cloud casting a shadow across what is the tip of what is an extinct volcano.
17. Vulcan Arenal
I am always enchanted by the grandeur of mountains and, despite being in the air, their magnificence remains undiminished. October 2010 witnessed this active volcano entering a more dormant phase. It’s still a big attraction for tourists visiting Costa Rica and the steam that continues to come from the caldera teases us of eruptions to come.
16. Curonian Spit
This spit, shared by Russia and Lithuania is around 80 miles long and up to two miles wide and its largest girth. The photograph, entitled ‘Following the Sun’ is aptly named and is well framed giving an amazing sense of perspective towards the horizon.
15. Compahgre Wilderness
This area of Colorado is noted as a backpacking and camping destination. Unspoiled mountains nestle in lush vegetation and the morphology of the land to anyone with a poetic eye looks as if some giant beast had rent its claws through it. For more information, take a look at the annotated photo.
14. Mexico City
It looks almost like a model. This photo was taken on the final approach to Benito Juarez International Airport. The vague shadows cast by clouds give it an almost dreamy air.
The Essequibo River curls and meanders its way lazily towards the coast through the rainforest. The blues and green are extremely vivid and I’m reliably informed that they haven’t been enhanced.
12. Hong Kong
Be afraid, be very afraid. This monstrous structure looks, well, monstrous. The sporting stadia make a face that can only be described as being quite disturbing. It’s like some kind of demon crying out as it breaks free from the Earth.
11. Kronotsky Volcano, Kamchatka
To many, myself included, the Kronotsky volcano in Siberia is one of the most beautiful in the world. Its jagged relief picked out with such contrast by snow and shadow is marvellous to behold.
10. London City
Hand in hand with nature, we humans can make structures that look great from the air too. In London’s financial centre, Canary Wharf’s tallest banking buildings pierce the fog on a cold December day.
9. The Alps
Getting to the best of the best, no list would be complete without a shot of the Alps. Beautifully rugged and simultaneously hostile, it’s no wonder that so many explorers test their mettle here.
Greenland is a geologist’s dream. So much of our current understanding of geology comes from active areas like this. At 38,000 feet the glacial ice floes gain a new level of majesty.
7. Kennedy Space Centre, Florida
Awesome views from plane windows don’t always have to be of static events. Although I’m saving the best for the No.1 spot, this shot of the final mission (STS-135) of the space shuttle Atlantis in July 2011 awakens feelings of aspiration. As a species we can achieve greater things than we often give ourselves credit for.
6. Ocean view
Sometimes a lack of subject matter becomes a subject in itself. Refraction through the glass produces the rainbow effect on the photo of an amazingly calm ocean whose gentle waves add an delicate level of texture to the scene.
5. Great Salt Lake, Utah
This patchwork quilt of mineral ponds to the west of Salt Lake City has an unreal, fake colour effect to it. Simply striking.
The Andes mountains form the longest continental range in the world. Here the effect of shooting through glass rears its pretty head again adding the rainbow effect once more.
Getting a well composed shot of a cloudy scene from the air can be a tricky proposition. The following photograph ranks highly as one of my favourites. The perspective is perfectly captured, the position of the sun behind the camera is amazingly fortuitous and the uniformity of the small cumulus clouds makes this composition just stunning.
2. Aurora Australis
Climbing to a higher altitude than most aeroplanes this stunning image is of the Aurora Australis from above. Thanks to the space programme, astronauts have the chance to take some of the best aerial shots ever seen. As the prospect of space tourism grows ever closer it won’t be long before we see many more images like this taken by a range of amateur and professional photographers.
1. Twin Towers
This photo of the twin towers peaking through the clouds only came to attention after the 9/11 attacks. A chance photo taken by Katie Weisberger, went onto to become an iconic and defining image of the twin towers featuring in newspaper and documentaries across the world.