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Above and beyond! 2020’s best drone photos reach new heights

It's been a high-flying year for drone photos. Check out the winners here.

With every passing year, more drones go on sale and technology leaps forward – and so does the skills and creativity of the photographers using them. As if you needed any proof, check out this year’s Drone Awards 2020, a leading international competition for aerial photography. The contest, which is part of the sixth edition of the Siena Awards Festival, saw a host of amazing entries, each of which gives a fantastic new perspective on the world. 

© Jim Picôt

This year, ‘Love Heart of Nature’ by the Australian photographer, Jim Picôt, was voted the overall winner of the Drone Photo Awards. The shot captures an incredible moment that would surely have been invisible at sea level, a salmon school forming the shape of a heart with a shark swimming inside it. 

Using a host of different drones, this year’s competition received entires from photographers in 126 different countries and with the competition split into nine categories, there was plenty of variety in the images making the grade. The competition’s different sections included Abstract, Empty Cities: Life during Covid-19, Nature, People, Sports, Series, Urban Architecture, Wedding and Animals. As well as the overall winner, each of the competition’s categories has its own top-placed image.

© Paul Hoelen

In the Abstract category, photographer, Paul Hoelen, from New Zealand won first place with ‘Phoenix Rising’, “an aerial image taken in central California dedicated to the evocative regeneration process in the industrial mining site of Lake Owens.” 

© Tomer Appelbaum

In the Empty Cities: Life Under Covid-19 section, ‘Black Flag’ by the Israeli photographer, Tomer Appelbaum, came out on top, “immortalizing thousands of Israelis who maintain the social distance imposed by the anti Covid-19 restrictions, while protesting against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Rabin Square.”

© Joseph Cheires

The Nature category’s top image came from Mexican photographer Joseph Cheires, whose  image, ‘Gray Whale Plays Pushing Tourists’, was shot in Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California (Mexico), and shows one of the grey whales famous for accompanying boats in a playful way. 

© Alessandra Meniconzi

In the People category, ‘Frozen Land’ took top spot. Shot by the Swiss photographer, Alessandra Meniconzi, “it celebrates daily winter life in the Eurasian steppe, with temperatures below -30°C, and journeys across frozen rivers and lakes.”

© Roberto Corinaldesi

Turning to the Sports section, ‘On the Sea’ by Italian photographer, Roberto Corinaldesi, features “people swimming among the white foam of the waves immersed in the blue carpet of a sea, that has somehow become a place to take refuge.”

The Series category was won by the portfolio ‘Empty Seas and Crowded Shores’ by Indian photographer, Srikanth Mannepuri. In these images, “the story of a slowly collapsing marine life is told, unable to resist the excessive consumption of fish.”

© Tomasz Kowalski

In the Urban category, Polish photographer, Tomasz Kowalski, won with ‘Alien Structure on Earth’. This image of the famous Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur “invites us to change our point of view and perceive the strength of a structure in a more incisive way than we ever imagined before.”

© Dmitrii Viliunov

As for the Animals category, the winning image came from Russian photographer, Dmitrii Viliunov, with his image ‘Where Herons Live’, a shot that grants the viewer an unusual view of a herons nesting in the tree tops. 

© Mohamed Azmeel

Finally for stills, the Wedding category winner came from Maldivian photographer, Mohamed Azmeel. His shot, ‘Tropical Bride, had “the aim of making something creative using flowers and leaves left over from wedding decorations.”

Of course, drones can also shoot brilliant video, and the Drone Awards 2020 had separate categories for that, too. With ‘Dubai Showreel 2019’, filmmaker, Bachir Moukarzel was the overall winner – and you can check out the film here.  

There was also a Covid-19 Video category where US filmmakers, Pablo Barrera and Edward Kostakis took top spot with ‘NY on Pause’. Check it out here.

To see all of the winners, runners up, highly commended and commended images in the Drone Awards 2020, head over to the Drone Awards 2020 gallery. A few more are featured below by kind permission of the organisers. And if you can get there, the winners will be on display at the Siena Awards Festival, scheduled from 24 October to 29 November at the Accademia dei Fisiocritici in Siena, Italy. See the competition site for me details.

© Hong Jen Chiang
© Tugo Cheng
© Boyan Ortse
© Dimitris Tosidis
© Rafal Ganowski
© Rex Zou
© Attila Balogh
© Nicolas Pelletier
© Md Tanveer Hassan Rohan
© Krzysztof Krawczyk