The world above us has always fascinated me. Unlike land and sea, the sky is the one realm of this planet that we have absolutely no ability to explore without artificial help. Few people probably know the names of the inventors of scuba gear, submarines or even the railway engine, but just about everybody knows that the Wright brothers were the inventors of the first ever airplane. Although that didn't happen until 1903, attempts to create a way for man to fly go back hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Even Leonardo da Vinci himself famously created several flying machines that may or may not have worked - depending on who you ask.
There's something oddly serene and calming about looking down on the world from such heights. It would certainly explain our long fascination with building increasingly taller buildings throughout history (though this also had practical motivations of being better to spot enemies). We've always wanted to see the world as the birds do, and ever since we got the ability to do so, we haven't looked back.
Today, aerial photography is its own, vast category of photography. Photographers go through all sorts of lengths in planes, helicopters, hot air balloons and more just to get that one perfect aerial shot. Thanks to aerial drones becoming more and more affordable (and simultaneously more sophisticated) these days, you don't necessarily even have to leave the ground to be able to get a bird's eye view of things.
This collection shows some of the most stunning, beautiful images taken by noted aerial photographers like Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Klaus Leidorf, Gray Malin and others. Some show the beauty and wilderness of nature, while others show off the symmetry and ordered chaos of human settlements and cities.
1. Check out these crystal blue waters in the Cayman Islands.
2. Alternatively, there's the traffic of Los Angeles.
3. Cut logs await further processing at a lumber yard in Port-Gentil, Ogooué-Maritime Province, Gabon.
4. The Louis-Saint-Laurent, a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, does its thing in Resolute Bay.
5. The one and only Central Park in New York City.
6. These fertile plots of land in Ma'an, Jordan are the result of center pivot irrigation.
7. A small islet in a sea of rice fields in Bali, Indonesia.
8. A view of a beach owned by various seaside resorts off the coast of the Adriatic Sea in Italy.
9. These trees provide a stunning contrast to the snow.
10. Bus stations are a nightmare, but from up here, this bus terminal actually looks very organized.
11. This flock of sheep stops for no man.
12. A seemingly endless sea of rubber tires at a scrap yard.
13. There's just something so satisfying about the way those ripples line up.
14. A confrontation between hippos and crocodiles at South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.
15. This drum set belongs to legendary drummer Neil Peart.
In case you don't know, Neil Peart is the drummer for Rush, arguably the greatest prog-rock band of all time.
16. Aerial view of America's largest hot spring, the Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone National Park.
17. Barcelona, Spain. The famous Gaudi-designed Basilica de la Sagrada Familia can be seen in the bottom left corner.
18. Yankee Stadium in New York City is looking sharp.
19. A caravan of camels travels across the deserts of Nouakchott, Mauritania.
20. Beachgoers cool off at Azul Beach in Brazil ...
21. ... And across the world on the shores of Saint-Tropez, France.
22. These surfers await the waves at Maroubra, New South Wales.
23. Hundreds of worm and animal trails show the significance of this acacia tree at Tsavo National Park, Kenya, which is known locally as the "Tree of Life."
24. A worker takes a quick break on some bales of cotton in the Ivory Coast. If I worked here, I would just be napping constantly.
25. These boats are used by workers in Mali, who dive to the bottom of the river to collect buckets of sand and gravel, which they then sell to construction companies.