Christiaan Van Heijst Reveals Us the Superb World from Above


“I simply have a look at what the universe presents to me and do my greatest to seize,” says Boeing 747 captain and high-flying photographer Christiaan van Heijst. Flying for the reason that age of 14, his job takes him around the globe, opening up his digicam to numerous sights. He tells us how he skillfully takes images whereas flying a number of the most large business airplanes on the earth.

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Aviation and images. I’ve been captivated with these two matters since my early childhood, having been born right into a family that was expert in each. Whereas aviation has taken a backseat so far as work is worried, it’s nonetheless a subject I look into nearly day by day. The times once I’d fly the skies with a digicam are realistically nonetheless some years away. I sustain with the most recent developments within the aviation world and luxuriate in seeing the work of different aviation photographers. Lots of them, like Christiaan, give a singular perspective of the splendidly close-knit world aviation neighborhood community. For each plane you see within the sky, a whole bunch of invisible palms led to its profitable journey throughout seas and borders. And thru the eyes of some lucky individuals like Christiaan, these of us on the bottom get to see magical visuals.

The Important Picture Gear Utilized by Christiaan van Heijst

Christiaan informed us:

“All cockpit home windows are layered and thick, stopping sharp photos when zooming greater than roughly 50mm, so I’m restricted to wide-angle lenses largely.”

The Phoblographer: Hello Christiaan. Please inform us about your self and the way you bought into images.

Christiaan van Heijst: Many thanks for inviting me for this interview; it’s an actual pleasure to speak with you thru these questions.

I used to be born and raised within the Netherlands; 39 years outdated and at present Captain on the Boeing 747. Ever since I used to be a really younger boy, I used to be captivated by the views I noticed by means of the window once I flew as a passenger. These views and experiences have vastly influenced the remainder of my life, ultimately propelling me into aviation and images. I bear in mind I used to be so taken away by the unbelievable views and complete expertise of being up there, so excessive from the planet. I nonetheless really feel that very same sense of surprise whereas flying in any case these years.

Ever since my flights as a pupil pilot, I made a decision to hold a digicam with me to doc these unimaginable views and sceneries, hoping to share the unbelievable pure magnificence I see from the cockpit on my flights. This resulted in a parallel profession to flying, with out me even realizing it on the time. Flying and images are a pure mixture for me, and I’m glad to see an ever-growing viewers is appreciating those self same views with me as properly, as I’m satisfied that extra individuals must be seeing the world from that elevated perspective, exhibiting the unbelievable magnificence that transcends borders, nations, ideologies, and beliefs. Views of a planet all of us share and scenes that -hopefully- encourage individuals to look past our petty variations.

The Phoblographer: How lengthy have you ever been flying? What was the day whenever you determined it could be good to {photograph} whilst you’re up there?

Christiaan van Heijst: I began glider flying on the age of 14, the minimal authorized age to begin flying classes within the Netherlands, and moved to motorized flying on the age of 17. I obtained my non-public pilot license even earlier than I bought my driver’s license, and that is how I began my lengthy profession in aviation. I studied aeronautical engineering for a number of years however determined to go pursue my dream and observe skilled pilot coaching as a substitute in any case.

My first skilled pilot job was as a copilot on the Fokker 50 turboprop for an organization that specialised in leasing out their plane (together with crew) to different firms. This rapidly noticed me flying throughout Europe for varied African airways and navy contract work in Afghanistan. Particularly the adventures in Africa and Afghanistan have been a serious motive for me to hold a digicam with me since I understood instantly that what I noticed and skilled there was actually distinctive. I merely needed to doc all of it as a result of nobody else would or might. Little did I do know that this could change into the beginning of an entire new profession with loads of challenges, setbacks, and occasional superb highlights.

Overflying the Italian Alps throughout a transparent winter day

The Phoblographer: Cockpit pictures are one thing a whole lot of pilots take however, other than these, your different images are fairly cinematic in nature. The place did you develop a watch for such fantastic scenes?

Christiaan van Heijst: Thanks on your form phrases; that’s very nice to listen to and a giant praise. I’m not fairly certain what you imply with cinematic, however I all the time attempt to shoot topics as half of a bigger scene. Utilizing clouds, traces, the horizon, and even the placement of the moon to be a part of a composition that offers depth and deeper that means to an in any other case comparatively easy picture.

I by no means took any programs in images or different artistic arts. I simply observe my instinct and sense of the second.

Ultimate runway 25R in Hong Kong

The Phoblographer: Flying at night time, with hardly any mild round – how technically difficult is it to get a shot that isn’t blurry but additionally properly uncovered?

Christiaan van Heijst: The low-light, long-exposure pictures are probably the most difficult of all, and I slowly mastered them after years of experimenting. Such lengthy publicity pictures include a few challenges like airplane motion, turbulence, digicam place, window reflections, and naturally, having the best tools.

For sure, I can solely take these photos when the airplane is flying in clean air with no turbulence or turns. Subsequent, I’ve to handle to stabilize the digicam by putting it in a means it can’t transfer too simply, so I usually place it in entrance of me on the glare protect and with the lens opening instantly towards the window. As a result of there is no such thing as a room for a tripod within the cockpit, I usually use something at hand to raise and stabilize the digicam lens at the very least a bit bit to permit for a transparent shot. Dimming the lights within the cockpit as a lot as sensible prevents reflections, although they don’t seem to be all the time completely preventable. One other main issue is having the best tools: a digicam able to dealing with very excessive sensor sensitivity mixed with a really light-sensitive lens, ideally f2.8 or higher.

Utilizing wide-angle lenses additionally helps because it captures an enormous a part of the sky and the minor actions of the celebs are practically invisible in the long run end result.

Dawn and veils of aurora borealis (northern lights) over northern Canada

The Phoblographer: It’s laborious sufficient in lots of locations to get a Milky Approach shot from the bottom. May you inform us how this one was achieved whereas on the transfer?

Christiaan van Heijst: For pictures of the Milky Approach, I’ve to be type of fortunate as properly with the route I’m flying. The Milky Approach is just clearly seen from the Northern hemisphere for a few months within the 12 months, so I’m fairly restricted to that time-frame. Thankfully, I do fly throughout the Atlantic Ocean fairly commonly, and this permits me to see and {photograph} it in the course of the summer season months very often.

Some persons are stunned the celebs are so sharp as seen from a transferring airplane, however please do remember that the pace of the airplane relative to the celebs is totally negligible for the reason that stars are so distant. So long as the airplane doesn’t shake from turbulence, the celebs are barely transferring in any respect, even throughout 30-second exposures.

For the reason that cockpit is comparatively small, there’s merely no room for utilizing tripods or different tools. For long-exposure pictures, I place the digicam on the glare-shield (on high of the instrument panel) and towards the entrance window. To stabilise the digicam I usually put something that’s obtainable beneath the lens. This generally is a glasses case or tuna sandwich, no matter is at hand and obtainable.

The Phoblographer: Do the airways you’re employed/have labored for have any considerations about your aerial images? Is it fairly simple so that you can go on board every time with cameras in your pilot case?

Christiaan van Heijst: My earlier and present employers are very pleased with my images and even encourage me to maintain on going so long as I do my work correctly, after all. I by no means submit something that may injury the corporate or my occupation, nor do I ever submit something political or remotely (religiously) delicate, so it could by no means inflict any injury on the corporate model. I intend to seize the great thing about the world every time my work permits me, and happily my present employer makes nice use of that on-line presence as properly, working collectively in a really fruitful means.

Carrying digicam tools has by no means been a difficulty, however it requires some widespread sense when to take photos and naturally, when not.

Passing by an enormous thunderstorm throughout sundown, someplace over the Indian Ocean

The Phoblographer: Has there ever been a scenario the place your employer has requested to see a number of the images you’ve taken earlier than you submit them on-line?

Christiaan van Heijst: A few years in the past, we flew a really particular constitution flight with eight elephants from a zoo in Tokyo, Japan, to a nature reserve in Vientiane, Laos, and eight different elephants again for a world breeding program. This was fairly an advanced flight in lots of features, not within the least the loading and unloading of the animals on board the 747. Our cargo on board will be very delicate since purchasers don’t all the time respect it when their freight is positioned on-line, however on this case, my employer was very comfortable to see the operation by means of my images.

For sure, I needed to ensure my employer would conform to it earlier than I might place these photos on-line.

One other 747 is flying head-on, leaving a robust contrail behind her that’s brightly painted by the setting solar.

The Phoblographer: Given that you just’ve in all probability flown internationally, what have been a few of your favourite images taken from above, and why?

Christiaan van Heijst: I’m being requested that query very often, and the reply is sort of boring: there’s not one single picture that I take into account my greatest or ‘favorite,’ just because they’re all components of a bigger picture I wish to convey, like components of the puzzle that full the entire.

Basically, I do love flying over Afghanistan, and a few of these photos invoke the deepest feelings in me personally, similar to a number of the Northern Lights photos I took whereas flying north of Alaska or Greenland. Seeing the aurora reflecting off the ice sheets within the Arctic sea whereas the curtains of inexperienced and turquoise lights have been dancing above was nothing in need of enchanting.

However even seeing the Netherlands, my small dwelling nation, from above is all the time a deal with to the attention.

A protracted publicity shot over India with a number of capturing stars and a faint a part of the milky means forward.

The Phoblographer: You garner a whole lot of appreciation on your work, nevertheless have individuals ever contacted you asking if what you’re doing is protected for passengers?

Christiaan van Heijst: Sure, this is among the most ceaselessly requested questions, and I can actually say I solely take photos when there’s time and nothing else to do for me as a pilot. Flying the plane and the protection of the flight is all the time precedence primary; anything comes at a distant second.
Having stated that, flying long-haul leads to lengthy hours throughout a cruise the place not quite a bit is happening within the flight deck, giving me loads of moments to rapidly take a shot of two when time permits. It’s like driving a automotive: whenever you drive by means of a busy neighbourhood you might be to maintain your eyes on the street, however when driving on the freeway, there’s loads of time to alter the radio station. Identical with flying: as soon as on cruise and with the autopilot flying the airplane, there’s time for the occasional photograph.

Discovering a path by means of stormy skies

And on high of that, we frequently fly with so-called heavy crews: three and even 4 pilots so every of us can take some in-flight relaxation. This relaxation interval can be a good time to shoot some photos and benefit from the surroundings.

Perhaps it’s additionally good to say I’m solely flying cargo now; no passengers

An Airbus A330 passing by under, over a cloudy, winter Afghanistan

The Phoblographer: Do you propose forward to take images based mostly on the flight paths you understand you’ll be taking?

Christiaan van Heijst: One of many main setbacks of taking photos from the air is that I’ve zero affect on the climate or views outdoors of my home windows. After I’m scheduled for sure routes, I do know that I can count on some particular sceneries, however I’m utterly depending on the climate en route and time of day always. That’s why I by no means plan any particular pictures: I simply have a look at what the universe presents to me and do my greatest to seize something when it floats by, all the time prepared for something.

A thunderstorm at sundown, someplace over central Kazakhstan

The Phoblographer: While you’re again on stable floor, I’m pretty sure you’re in all probability longing to go up within the air once more. However down right here on earth, what genres of images do you take pleasure in doing probably the most?

Christiaan van Heijst: Humorous sufficient, I barely ever take photos once I’m dwelling within the Netherlands, however I do take some images in additional unique I go to occasionally. My images is principally centered on capturing the world from the cockpit and documenting my views as soon as aloft.

However I like to seize scenes, individuals, and atmospheres as soon as I journey overseas. I’ve taken in depth collection of journey and impressionistic photos in Iran, North Korea, Hong Kong, and India for instance, however my focus will all the time be on aerial images. And who is aware of; an entire universe of photographic alternatives is on the market. The sky will not be the restrict.

Vivid static discharges dancing across the home windows whereas flying by means of closely charged clouds: a innocent however stunning phenomenon

All photos by Christiaan van Heijst. Used with permission. Drop by his web site in addition to his Instagram and Fb pages to see extra of his images

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