Portfolio: George Steinmetz
A third of the Earth's land surface is classified as desert, from the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica to the North African Sahara – and it is a subject that represents a life's passion for landscape photographer George Steinmetz. Inspired by a hitchhiking trip across North Africa in the 1970s, the American aerial artist has spent the past 15 years documenting deserts from above.
The result, a series called Desert Air, is remarkable for both its scope – from the velvet-smooth dunes of Chad's Karnasai Valley to the cracked salt flats of Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia – and the unique mode of transport used to capture the shots: Steinmetz's motorised paraglider.
The "flying lawn chair" as he calls it, traverses the wilderness at a sedate 30mph, sometimes hovering just 30m above the ground as he takes his shots. "To fly and take pictures is usually a recipe for disaster," he says, "but the paraglider was very stable, while hanging from underneath the wings gave unrestricted 180-degree views; it's like sitting on a magic carpet flying."
The biggest challenge, and his favourite image, was this shot of Lake Laguna Colorada in Bolivia, whose unique colour is provided by algae bloom which feeds off the mineral richness of its water. Resting on a vast Andean plateau, the lake is home to one of the rarest species of flamingo, the James's – and is 14,000ft above sea level. "Flying at that altitude is getting towards the limits of what's possible," says Steinmetz. "The air is so thin that the motor had little oxygen to burn and the propeller had little air to push."
Flight for this flock of flamingos didn't come easily either. "The birds were running like mad through the water, flapping their wings, but the air was so thin they couldn't get airborne."
'Desert Air' by George Steinmetz is published by Abrams, priced £37.50
filmIn Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
- 2 Shia LaBeouf claims he was raped during #IAMSORRY art installation performance
- 3 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Michael Buerk wishes he killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer: What we know about JJ Abrams' film
Exodus Gods and Kings casting controversy: Ridley Scott would never cast 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque
Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell’s reputation in tatters as judge rules he used the word ‘pleb’