Los Angeles is often associated as the sprawling web of glamour and dreams. Beyond the Hollywood lore, it is the second-largest city in the United States, one nestled in a very diverse terrain. Both flat and hilly, the geography of Los Angeles offers vast heights in the San Fernando Valley, Santa Monica Mountains, and Mt. Washington, among others. It also borders the Pacific Ocean, making LA one of the ultimate beach life and surfing hubs in American popular culture. Coming after New York and Miami, it is the third most visited city in the United States. Some tourists seek a closer look at the home of the Hollywood film industry while others enjoy a taste of its technically Mediterranean climate. Between tourism, geographical study, and capturing a center of iconic structures – such as the Hollywood Sign and its Spanish and Mexican-influenced architecture – aerial photography in Los Angeles is a dynamically open door. Join us as we delve into the portfolios of LA’s best, exploring work that will change anyone’s perspective on the City of Angels.
At Wonderful Machine, we define Aerial photography as anything shot from a high vantage point, usually from a drone or piloted aircraft. Rising as high as the dreams and aspirations of the many hopeful stars below, here are the 7 best aerial photographers in Los Angeles.
Rocco Ceselin, an Italian-born lifestyle and portrait photographer, has been captivated by visual arts from a young age. A vintage map of United States hung above his bed — each region representing a world of discovery and adventure. Fuelled by his passion, Rocco pursued studies in graphic design and worked as a web designer in Italy. In 2002, his dreams turned into reality as he embarked on a journey that began in San Francisco and eventually led him to the vibrant city of Los Angeles. The multicultural environment, the pulsating lifestyle, and the prospect of embracing a new adventure became the driving force behind Rocco’s photography career. Drawing upon a lifelong passion nurtured since his teenage years, Rocco considers himself incredibly fortunate. His lens captures life in vivid colors, illustrating the myriad of stories that unfold around him. With his skills as a certified drone pilot, Rocco brings a unique perspective to his aerial photography. Richly deep in color, his images showcase careful timing, ensuring optimal light, clouds, and hues that create a mesmerizing visual tapestry. Rocco Ceselin has truly found his calling, one that intertwines artistry and a profound connection with the world around him.
David Swanson is an accomplished photojournalist and video journalist with over 30 years of experience in aerial, breaking news, and conflict/crisis photography. With a rich career that spans both national and international assignments, David’s work has been featured on the front pages of prestigious publications such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post. His unique perspective and exceptional skill in capturing the triumphs and tragedies of the human condition have earned him numerous accolades. This includes the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for his work in the Philadelphia Inquirer series, “The Assault on Learning.” David’s mastery of his craft is evident in his ability to document scenes with utmost clarity and detail, a testament to his FAA-certified drone operator skills. Yet while he starts his day as an aerial photographer in Los Angeles, he works wherever developing news takes him. Whether embedded with troops and civilians in Afghanistan or chronicling the aftermath of natural disasters, David possesses an uncanny knack for capturing the perfect moment, encapsulating the essence of each story he tells. His dedication and unwavering commitment to the field of documentary photography make him trusted and respected in the industry. His exceptional work in aerial photography makes him a rare asset.
Beginning as a motion graphics designer, Saam Gabbay is an accomplished creative who wears many hats. A photographer, commercial director, and creative director, Saam uses both still and motion photography to bring a sense of storytelling to his work. With a rich portfolio that covers portraiture, automotive, and commercial photography, he also blends fashion, conceptual, and adventure into his repertoire. Yet the major through-line of Saam’s work is a relationship with motion. Often capturing subjects in the midst of an activity or scene, his sense of timing results in still photographs that potentially sum up a much larger adventure. Along with Saam’s skill in utilizing drones, he creates work that is as dynamic as it is captivating. Saam’s aerial photography is rich in color and clarity. His output is extremely versatile, capturing vast landscapes, urban scenes, symmetrical highways, groups of people, and lone surfers. The clarity of these images are reflective of his thoughtful and creative compositions. Often taking a cinematic approach, he highlights the geometry of the world from above while allowing any human subjects to be actors in some mysterious drama. Saam – who also creates brand narrative imagery – is exceptional in showing these stories for everything they are within a single aerial image. This paired with his ability to be so diverse in the scenes he shoots makes him a uniquely dynamic aerial photographer. Whether it be catching the perfect wave or organizing a crowd of people to all look up at the same time, Saam is a rare talent in bringing out the story both in a single shot and a motion picture.
Internationally published and awarded, Ilanna Barkusky is a director, photographer, and drone pilot. Finding an early inspiration within her own background in sports and dancing, Ilanna focuses on human activity in her work. This special dedication makes her a unique aerial photographer in Los Angeles as well as worldwide. Often capturing athletes from above, she gets clear, colorful images of divers, basketball players, dancers, and skaters. Bringing out the color in the environment around her subjects is one of Ilanna’s greatest talents. Her images show perfectly clear water as well as vibrantly painted basketball courts, tracks, and skate parks. This reveals a sense of adventure as well as a ready confidence to immerse oneself in athletics. Having a Part 107 commercial certificate in the United States and an Advanced Operations License in Canada, Ilanna has worked across the map. Her work has been exhibited in the United States, Spain, and Canada. Her dedication to capturing the adventure within physical activity has earned her many awards, including recognition by American Photography, The Art Directors Club, and the International Photo Awards. Also on the board of the west coast chapter of The One Club For Creativity, Ilanna’s rare combination of ability and artistic focus has been embraced by clientele including Red Bull, Roxy, LA Clippers, and the Harvard Business Review.
Patrik Giardino is a renowned photographer and director hailing from Malmö, Sweden. After graduating from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Patrik’s keen eye for movement, cinematic composition, and lighting led him to venture into the world of directing commercials. His ability to tell inspiring and cinematic stories through his powerful imagery shows in his collaborations with major brands such as P&G, Nike, Adidas, and Oakley, as well as many famous celebrities and athletes. Yet as an aerial photographer in Los Angeles, he reveals a body of work just as strong as the other many specialties in his vast portfolio. He shows consistent skill in capturing detail and color while being very diverse in his subject matter. Dedicated to bringing a cinematic quality to his imagery, his aerial work is no different. Especially good at shooting landscapes, Patrik utilizes the time of day to bring out their lush colors, giving them the qualities of a painting. Yet with urban scenes, human subjects shot from above, and mountain ranges alike, his timing and use of the sun’s shine upon the ground is a signature talent. Often it will cut across the image, showing a strange geometry within a moment captured in nature. Patrik also captures other natural phenomena, such as the visual impact of a windy day, the setting sun, or a trail of dust lingering behind a speeding vehicle. His achievement of this both in still and moving imagery is equally strong and there is a plethora of moods and corners of the world captured in his engaging portfolio. Represented by renowned agencies Bernstein & Andriulli and Great Bowery Film, Patrik continues to push boundaries and create awe-inspiring imagery that leaves a lasting impression.
Hunter Kerhart is a name that resonates within the world of architectural photography and for good reason. He has elevated the craft of capturing buildings to new heights, both literally and figuratively, as an aerial photographer in Los Angeles. With his well-honed expertise, Hunter specializes in capturing the magnificent architecture that graces the cityscape. From sleek skyscrapers to historic landmarks, his images display meticulous attention to detail, showcasing the symmetrical beauty and vibrant colors that define these structures. What sets Hunter apart is not just his technical skill, but also his deep appreciation for the built environment. His passion for architecture is evident in every frame he captures. But it isn’t just about capturing the physical form; Hunter understands that buildings have a personality of their own. He skillfully uses natural lighting and the time of day to bring out their unique characteristics. Each photograph showcases the intricate design, grandeur, and essence of the architectural marvels he photographs. Hunter’s talent hasn’t gone unnoticed in the industry, and he has had the privilege of working with esteemed clients such as Apple, Netflix, Gensler, and Handel Architects. His work has been featured in renowned publications such as Dwell, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Hollywood Reporter. Certified by the Association of Independent Architectural Photographers (AIAP) and the Professional Aerial Photographers Association (PAPA), Hunter’s dedication to his craft is apparent in every image he produces.
Living the true definition of passion for aerial photography, Vincent LaForet is a master in his field. What makes this possible is not only his skill and ability as a photographer but also his embracing of the latest innovations in technology. This, in turn, makes his work consistently on the cutting edge of what can even be done with imagery. A heavily experienced commercial photographer and director, Vincent has done campaigns for Apple, Nike, General Electric, CNN, Pepsi Co., Goldman Sachs, Accenture, CBRE, and Canon. Also shooting for institutions as legendary as National Geographic, Vanity Fair, and Sports Illustrated, his work as a photojournalist is equally impressive. With images of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the war in Afghanistan, Vincent’s ability to capture human conditions on the ground as well as from above are a rare gem in documentary photography. With the recognition to prove it, his coverage of the post-9/11 events in the Middle East for The New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize. Yet Vincent’s dedication to aerial photography shows itself in heights seldom attained by other photographers within his work. His work is extensive, dedicated, and deeply exploratory of the world witnessed from great heights. Vincent will show an entire city glowing at night and also manage to highlight special buildings and landmarks, making them stand out among the many buildings around them. Creating many ongoing series that explore specific cities around the world from above in his own umbrella effort Project Air, he provides a rare insight into the possibilities in aerial photography like no other. Also recognized as a visual thought leader, Vincent is often a featured speaker in a range of forums, from workshops and schools to addressing millions on CBS Sunday Morning. In every project, his dedication to innovating what can be achieved in aerial photography is a constant redefinition of the art form.
From its Hollywood iconography to the tangles of its notorious traffic, Los Angeles is a city like no other in terms of the variety of what one can capture. As luxurious architecture coexists with valleys, surrounding mountains, and the Pacific Ocean, these Los Angeles aerial photographers are the highest-flying talents to take in the scene.
Find more articles related to aerial photography on our blog.