In honor of Earth Day (April 22), we’re shining the spotlight on the Four Elements: Wind, Water, Earth, and Fire! This month on ISO, you’ll find stories about the best 500px photographs that capture these four elements in a groundbreaking way—and the crop of talented photographers behind the shot. You can follow all our Four Elements posts on social media with the hashtag #PlanetPX.
Let’s start with our First Element of the Week—WIND!

The geographical layout of the Earth is full of covert patterns and shapes—and it takes an expert eye to spot them. For many years, Klaus Leidorf has managed to capture the most artistic and breathtaking landscapes around the world, shooting from above in a Cessna 172 aircraft.

Want to know how he shot these images? We recently caught up with the Germany-based photographer, and asked him to share the story behind some of his photos. Plus, scroll down for our exclusive Q&A with him and get aerial photography tips—from gear to location scouting. Read on!

“I shot this in Thaldorf, Lower Bavaria in Germany during the afternoon of May 1995. I was flying in my Cessna 172. I wanted to capture the lonely chapel in the middle of a field, and the odd way the flowers are planted. To get the shot, I opened the window and using a Rollei 6008. For post-processing, I simply improved the clarity, and did some sharpening.”

“During March of 2003, I was on an aerial archaeology prospection flight in Schwangau, Eastern Allgau in Bavaria. While I was up in the air, I saw this odd shape out of the corner of my eye, so I shot it with a Fine Pix S2Pro. I enjoyed capturing the uniqueness of the shape. It reminded me of a bird. I didn’t edit this too much, and I only did some slight sharpening.”

“I was flying on my way back to the airfield when I caught this very moment, with the nice evening light. This was shot in the late afternoon of December 2006 in Essenbach-Ohu, Lower Bavaria in Germany. Flying in my Cessna 172, I opened the window and shot this image with a Canon EOS 5D. As I was shooting, the beautiful light gave me a pleasant chill in contrast to the nuclear power plant. In post, I slightly optimized the grey value distribution.”

“This is the Großvenediger mountain in the High Tauern near Matrei in East Tyrol, Austria. I was documenting glaciers there for the Austrian Environmental Office. I didn’t plan the shot too much. I just composed the geographic structure, with the ridge of the mountain and the hikers to be in the center. Again, I was in my Cessna 172, and I shot with a Canon EOS 5D. This shot was taken in July 2012, which is a summer month, so it feels odd to photograph hikers in the snow. Also, being so close to people outside my plane up in the sky is a rare thing. To process the image, I only did some slight tonal correction and increased the clarity.”

“I was flying in Spain to document solar fields in the afternoon of July 2007. When I was flying over Mairena in Murcia, I spotted this plantation in the distance. So I flew closer to capture the right angle and picture detail. I shot this image with a Canon EOS 5D. It is always a great joy for me to capture these kinds of geographic patterns. I didn’t do much post-processing except for some tonal correction and some sharpening.”

Feeling inspired? Now let’s meet the guy behind the lens. Scroll down to get more insights into Klaus Leidorf’s work, from his personal photo tips to his thoughts on using drones for aerial photography.

Klaus Leidorf, pictured in his Cessna 172

Photographer Klaus Leidorf in his Cessna 172

Hi Klaus. Welcome to 500px! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?
I live in a village near Landshut in Lower Bavaria, Germany. I work as a photography artist and freelance aerial archaeologist at the Bavarian State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments. I am also doing lots of photographic documentation for other clients, such as architects.

How did you get started with photography, specifically with shooting aerial photos?
It was a coincidence. I was asked if I want to take over the aerial archaeology for the state of Bavaria, and I accepted. Photography is a passion of mine since I was a child. To combine it with flying seemed like a great opportunity. I never regretted thus decision.

That’s so inspiring. What do you look for when you are scouting for locations?
Next to ancient sites, I look for unique shapes and patterns, as well as interesting light moments.

Where is the best location in the world to take the best aerial photos?
I think anywhere in the world, no matter where you are, there is always something to discover from the air.

Do you have any aerial photography tips that you can share with us?
The right photo equipment is crucial, especially the telephoto lens with an image stabilizer. Furthermore, it is important to keep an eye on the weather before taking off. Most of the small airplanes allow you to open the window, which helps to avoid getting a milky effect or reflections on the photographs.

Speaking of photo equipment, what gear can we find in your camera bag?
I shoot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with 28 to 300 mm zoom lens, and Canon 1Ds Mark III with 300 mm 2x converter lens.

Today, there is a lot of buzz surrounding the use of camera-equipped drones to achieve aerial shots in places that humans can’t ordinarily reach. How do you feel about the move towards drones in aerial photography?
Generally I don’t have a problem with drones in aerial photography. What I know is that, for me, it is not an option as I need to see the whole view from above to select the perfect detail for my photographs. And there is no need for me to take photos from places I can’t reach with my Cessna.

With your years of experience as an aerial photographer, could you talk about the pros and cons of using drones to achieve aerial shots?
As I said, drones allow you to reach difficult and inaccessible places. That’s a pro. Another advantage is that, depending on the drone, the flight hour might be cheaper than hiring a pilot and plane, or maintaining a plane. Another plus—vertical photographs are possible whereas I take my images out of the side window. However, there are some cons. Number one, you are not really able to see the whole picture from above to select the right details you want to capture. Also, depending on where the cameras are mounted, the angle is limited. With the camera usually in my hand, getting almost any angle is possible. Another disadvantage is missing out on the flying experience itself. That’s never an option for me, as it is part of aerial photography, especially while shooting creative pictures.

To see more of his amazing pictures, follow Klaus Leidorf on 500px.

You can also visit his website at
For art and print requests, Klaus works closely with Contempop art gallery. Visit for more information.