As we approach the dog days of summer, it’s likely you’ve spent a day or two at the beach. It’s less likely, however, that you saw the throngs of sun-tanned skin and umbrellas while harnessed and hanging out of a helicopter—which is how Belgian photographer Antoine Rose captures these aerial shots of Miami’s and New York’s beaches.
Rose began the Up in the Air series while working as a photographer for the Kiteboarding World Cup. During one Eurocopter flight over Rio de Janeiro, he noticed how graphically interesting the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches looked. “It was so different than standing on the beach,” he says. He snapped a photograph. Since then he’s captured the Hamptons and Coney Island in New York, and Miami.
Up in the Air offers a gimlet-eyed view of the coast, but Rose says the process is no day at the beach. (Sorry! It was too easy.) Besides planning around hired helicopters and contending with air traffic control, he can only work when the weather allows it: “Sometimes I travel days and weeks with no results because of unfavorable environments,” he says. Once he went to Rio de Janeiro for a week and returned with no photos. Often, it’s dangerous work: Once, he had to be hospitalized after a bad field landing. Another time in Miami, he got symptoms of vertigo.
Rose, a self-described “neurotic perfectionist,” is working with a team of engineers to develop stabilization equipment to make shooting from a vibrating, hovering aircraft more viable. It’s a big investment to make, both physically and financially, but Rose is enamored with his subject, which is both a study in minimalism and sociology. The colors and patterns of the umbrellas reveal which beaches are public and which are private. It’s most visible in Miami, where there are more hotels on the beach, and therefore more orderly, homogenous patterns. Public beaches, by contrast, are a chaotic burst of ant-sized people and their belongings.
Up in the Air is an ongoing project, and Rose says he plans to shoot more locations around the world. See more of his work.