Aerial Photography is the art of taking pictures of Earth from height, revealing the entirety of an area
Hindsight refers to the wisdom that comes from being able to see a situation in its entirety; namely, from a bird's eye view. Aerial photography offers this wisdom from the sky in the form of pictures. It is the process of taking photographs of the Earth from an elevated position, capturing vast areas of space. Early pioneers used kites, pigeons and even rockets to carry their cameras into the sky. Since then, aerial photography has come a long way. The first aerial photograph was taken in 1858 by French photographer and balloonist Gasper Felix Tournachon, known as "Nadar." The picture of the French village of Petit-Becetre was taken from a tethered hot-air balloon only 80 meters above the ground.
The advancement of technology made it easier to take cameras into the sky at greater heights. It wasn't until 1909 that Wilbur Wright took the first aerial photograph from an aeroplane. The picture captured an aerial image of the military field at Centocelli, near Rome. Also, the use of aerial photography aided the sketching and drawing of battle maps during World War I. Aerial photography enabled both sides to record the entire battlefront of the war. The importance of aerial photography eventually led to the production of special cameras. Sherman M. Fairchild was the first to feature thermal infrared detectors and shutter lids built inside the lenses of cameras, stabilizing the image and significantly improving photo quality. At the end of the war, Sherman Fairchild used the camera for other purposes. By taking a series of overlapping photographs of Manhattan Island, he created the first aerial map. The map was an instant success and aerial photography was established as an entity in and of itself, proving useful to the amateur photographer as well.
Turkey's very own aerial photographer, Timur Kara has been flying high in the skies to capture various images of Turkey.
Daily Sabah: Aerial photography is a rather specialized field, where does your interest in aerial photography stem from?
Timur Kara: Back in the 1970s while living in Germany, my father was an amateur photographer. He would take portraits and pictures at weddings with his Konika camera, and as all good sons do, I served as his assistant. That very camera was later passed on to me. Through the lens of my father's camera, I zoomed in to that which the eye would often overlook. Not only was I able to magnify portions of an image, the concept of being able to freeze time and capture it forever fascinated me. There were times when I would capture the boisterous laugh of a rather jolly "uncle" or the fragments of a broken heart that lay behind empty eyes. Some years later, I met Werner Peter's, an aerial photographer in Germany. He made me his apprentice and laid the foundation for my career. Werner Peters showed me another aspect of photography. He was more than just a mentor, he became a friend. When he decided to retire in 2001, I decided to move to Antalya and open my own office. Upon my decision to move from Germany to Turkey, I invited Werner to move to Turkey with me. Little to my surprise, he accepted. Now, as an 84- year-old German retiree residing in Antalya, he is still my best friend to whom I turn for advice. I have since opened an office in Dubai, which has been in operation since 2008. I chose Dubai for its extravagance; everything in Dubai is glamorous. I was fortunate enough to work with world leading brands. I extended my photography to other areas such as food, advertising agencies and constructions companies, to mention a few.
DS: What is aerial photography now used for?
TK: There is actually two types of aerial photography: oblique aerial photography, in which the photo is taken from an aircraft of some sort (an aeroplane, helicopter or balloon). This type of photo is taken at an angle so it ultimately gives the picture depth and definition unseen by the naked human eye. This type of photography is commonly used for tourism, construction progress reports, archaeology, advertising and promotion work, commercial and residential property of land sale or legal disputes.
Vertical aerial photography, on the other hand, is taken directly from above while looking down; therefore producing flat images which are often used for mapping projects (river widths and courses, shorelines, landslide areas) and scientific studies (farm evaluation, flood risk assessment, geometric surveys).Both methods of aerial photography were originally developed for military purposes. It was only after World War 1 that aerial photography started to gain prominence for civilian use.
DS: What does aerial photography offer that normal photography does not?
They say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and I couldn't agree with this more. We can often take for granted what we see with the human eye and usually things can happen in a matter of moments. Photography captures these moments and makes them eternal. It allows one to freeze a frame and examine it. It's like magic. Aerial photography takes that concept to another level. Besides the thrill of flying at 12,000 feet and hanging out an open door of a helicopter with a camera in hand, aerial photography allows you to see the bigger picture. When you see the bigger picture from up in the sky, it reinforces just how small you are and where you fit in the grand scheme of things. Aerial photography also provides the opportunity to see change over time. You can track the development of a project in phases with pictures. It reveals the terrain as it exists in nature, completely.
I was once flying over the desert of Dubai, the sand looked golden and the sun was setting lazily. As it set, it cast a shadow of the camels crossing the landscape and, at that moment, it dawned on me that what seems magnificent down below is actually glorious from here because the reality is, you see a different picture when you look down.
DS: Where have you taken the most bizarre photo?
I have flown over various countries, numerous cities and photographed thousands of pictures. I can confidently say that Turkey is one of the very few places around the world that has changed with such rapid speed. My very first photograph of Istanbul was taken 17 years ago, in 1999. It is not just the city of Istanbul that has shown expansion; even coastlines such as the Mediterranean have been transformed. Areas that were completely empty one year ago now have skyscrapers, hotels and various other infrastructure. One can clearly observe this change from the sky.
One of my favorite pictures is the photo of Mount Nemrut (also known as Mount Nimrod) in Van. The project required me to take a picture of Van for an advertisement. To get to Van, you must fly over Mount Nemrut, the eighth Wonder of the World, and for very good reason. The mountain is situated in Turkey's southeast and it is notorious for its statues of Greek and Persian gods erected in 62 B.C. I know from experience that flying over mountains is always significant since cloud formations above the mountains often result in breathtaking pictures. However, I hadn't had the opportunity to fly over Mount Nemrut before, so I didn't really have much expectation. I had seen many pictures of Mount Nemrut from ground level, but never from the sky. As we made our ascent, the mountain came into view, with the Euphrates resting in the middle of it. I was not just awe struck, I was enchanted. Taking photos of Mount Nemrut at that height is no longer safe because further out in the mountainous areas there are terrorists. Considering the height at which planes fly, the trip is quite dangerous.
What started off with his father's Konika camera, turned into an adventure, taking him to new heights.