Photographer George Steinmetz has won numerous awards for his distinctive photography. As a regular contributor to 'National Geographic' magazine, he is almost constantly traveling somewhere new. Unlike many photographers who take pride in being extremely close to their subjects, however, Steinmetz prefers to shoot from above the fray. Really far above it, in fact, using a custom-designed, motorized paraglider. The resulting images (which have been collected in three books: 'African Air,' 'Empty Quarter,' and 'Desert Air'), are stunning and feature utterly transporting, rarely seen perspectives of our planet, with a particular focus on the beauty and danger of the world's extreme deserts.
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The technology of photography has completely changed since Steinmetz first began shooting professionally 30 years ago; the techniques haven't, according to Steinmetz. For him, photography is less about the tools and more about passion, point of view, and craft. "There's a language to photography and you have to be in control of it," he says. "You may have a zoom lens, but that doesn't mean anything. What are you trying to say as a photographer?" Before you can dream big, though, you have to learn the fundamentals of your tools. We asked Steinmetz to offer his insights. He took time off from a shoot in China to guide us through a mini master class of what it takes to snap great photos.
Go deep on one topic.
Find something you're passionate about – portraits of local people, death row inmates, food, whatever – and shoot it as many different ways as you can, Steinmetz says. For Steinmetz, aerials of deserts and arid landscapes have been his focus in recent years. While he's shot them countless times, he always finds something visually new. "I love doing photo essays, and for anyone who wants to become more serious with their images, it's a great way to expand your craft. You keep working on that one thing and you'll be amazed at what you discover. It's like peeling back an onion: You keep finding more and more interesting layers."
Credit: Photograph by Ant Green