"Creating landscape images that hover on the line between abstraction and reality is intoxicating. It’s turning the natural elements of our world into painted patterns, creases on canvas and brushstrokes from below."
What is it in our nature that compels us to seek higher ground when encountering new landscapes? In cities, we ascend man-made towers toward panoramic views. In the country, we climb hills. Deep in forests, we summit peaks above the tree line. We launch skyward drones and peer from tiny airplane windows upon vast blue carpets framed by patchwork quilts of green, gold, soil, and concrete.
It is easier to glean a more complete view of our surrounding and sustaining environment when positioned above it. With a bird’s eye view comes a new appreciation for our habitat, and an understanding of how it is shaped, mowed, pocked, plowed, divided, and fenced by humans. The higher the vantage point, the greater the blurring between the real and abstract.
Those who travel beyond the terrestrial realm — explorers and astronauts who have gazed back from the surface of the moon or a space station in orbit — report a certain cognitive shift in awareness, a new and heightened sense of the “big picture."
This psychological phenomenon is known as the Overview Effect. To see the entirety of our home and our loved ones, the total sphere of human existence, as a pale blue dot suspended in the full, vast darkness of the void is understandably described as both overwhelming and awe-inducing. But is it possible to achieve the same life-changing and now imperative perspective shift without leaving the troposphere?
Flying with the birds in ultralight aircrafts, photographer Zack Seckler evokes wonder and awe in aerial abstracts. The effect is surprisingly grounding; a solitary sea turtle commands attention in a South African canvas of blue, a loafing group of seals by an Icelandic glacial river delta assert the otherworldly beauty and majesty of our common home, a watercolor “painting” demands a closer look. Seen from above, wildlife in ethereal habitats speaks to a certain headspace where deep-seated perceptions are confronted and reality is reordered. In each photo is a unique vision with a call to action: rise above and protect.
Zack Seckler shares an overview below:
When flying, I typically take off from an area of population density and gradually fly into a remote wilderness. The process of seeing the landscape change in that way is powerful. Sometimes it appears as if I’m venturing away from civilization and into the wild — this feeling is like no other. At other times, when I see refuse strewn upon beaches or other signs of humanity, it seems I can never quite escape the grips of our species' influence.
Flying at altitudes that are typically only accessible to birds... it’s a remarkable experience. Being amongst the natural world, able to soar over it and through it, is a humbling delight. It makes me feel like I’m just one living thing amongst many.
I’ve been fortunate to see a wonderful variety of ocean-scapes as a result of my aerial endeavors. Through my images, in one breath people can see the powerful waves of the Atlantic crashing over volcanic beaches and in another encounter the clear emerald waters of the Indian Ocean. Each coastal scene I come across has its own unique and intrinsic beauty.
There is something magical about seeing our planet from a new perspective. For me, the combination of creating landscape images that hover on the line between abstraction and reality is intoxicating. It’s turning the natural elements of our world into painted patterns, creases on canvas and brushstrokes from below. I hope my images open viewers to connect with our earth from a renewed perspective.