Drones have enabled us to zoom into the sky and get up-close and personal with some of Earth’s most spectacular, and sometimes perilous, natural events and landscapes. From weaving around active volcanos to zooming in on a polar bear town, or simply getting up high enough to really take in the view, they have brought a whole new angle of photography to the table.
The Drone Photo Awards recognize some of the finest and most staggering images in the business and recently announced their winners for 2022. Take a look at some of our highlights from the competition and get a taste for what the spectacular images really show.
The above photo, Feast, was taken in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, by photographer Igor Altuna. In it, we see the bloated remains of a dead hippopotamus, which has become a sizable meal for a group of crocodiles in the Luangwa River.
Photo Of The Year was awarded to Armand Sarlangue for Big Bang, which shows a secondary fissure happening off the main crater of Fagradalsfjall volcano, Iceland. The Sauron-like arrangement represents the very last eruptive phase. As if flying around hot rock isn’t already turbulent enough, Sarlangue also had to battle with rain and strong winds during a storm that hit west Iceland when this shot was taken.
While the title of this beautiful shot might seem like irony, it’s actually a nod to the explosion crater’s name Ljótipollur, which literally means ugly puddle. Found in the south Highlands of Iceland in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, it’s surrounded by colorful rhyolite mountains and hot springs. The red is lava rock, which stands in contrast to the vegetation growing in the region.
This is a drone view of Cuejdel lake, the largest landslide dam in Romania, which can be found in Carpathian Forest. Trees that once stood on land are now surrounded by water, which is why half of those in this image look as if they’re trapped in ice.
Behold, a harbor seal sitting upon a large ice pancake. Ice disks, as they’re also known, form when the water’s surface starts to free but is prevented from forming a solid ice sheet due to wake and tide action. The result is clumps of ice smacking into each other, eventually smoothing out into perfect frosty pancakes.
Nothing demonstrates the sheer size of a blue whale quite like a scale banana in the form of a baby one. These cetaceans aren’t just the biggest animals on Earth, they’re also the largest to have ever existed. Despite their enormity, commercial whaling has threatened their existence but following a ban, the population is increasing for the first time.
Another volcanic Icelandic shot comes from the Reykjanes peninsula which was struck by thousands of earthquakes in the lead up to an eruption. Then, at 8:45 pm on March 19, 2021, the floor of the Geldigadalir valley succumbed to magmatic pressure and ripped open, freeing slews of molten rock.
A drone zooming over a yearling polar bear shows it grappling with fresh ice during a play session with its sibling in which the young bears were jumping in and out of the water. It took five months to secure the shot, which Ledoux spent in a remote camp on the east coast of Svalbard.
Back in Iceland again (what can we say, it really is a great spot for drone photography) this time for the dramatic coloration of the Highlands landscape. Soaring above the ground, Trustup was inspired to call this shot Fertility in reference to the vitality of the landscape rich in water, grass, and flourishing greenery.
These strange floating islands are called "phumdis" and are unique to Loktak Lake in northeastern India. The floating masses of vegetation consist of vegetation, soil, and organic matter in various states of decomposition, with a spongy surface that’s bouncy like a trampoline. A bit like icebergs, only a small amount of their total mass is visible, with 80 percent sitting below the surface.
This tree isn’t actually a tree, but the journey of water inland from a source at the bottom of the photo. Photographer Gomez traced on its “branches” to enhance the visual trick.
This contrasting shot shows the point at which a glacial river meets the Atlantic Ocean. The many directions of the flowing water represent the different flows of water coming off the glaciers in, you guessed it, Iceland.
See more winning shots from The Drone Photo Awards 2022.