Tree Farms Become Abstract Art, Using Cameras on Kites

Dutch photog Gerco de Ruijter captures aerial views of Holland and beyond without ever stepping foot in a helicopter.

At eye level, the tree farms of Holland don’t look like much: just big fields of greenery stretched helter skelter over the countryside. But captured from overhead, as in the images of Dutch photographer Gerco de Ruijter, the trees shrink to pinpoints, like God’s very own Morse code.


“I am striving to create images the viewer may look at twice or three times without understanding what precisely he is looking at,” de Ruijter says in an artist’s statement. It’s a theme that runs through all his photography, which falls somewhere between the crisp, romantic compositions of Ansel Adams and the sparse grids of Mondrian. As de Ruijter puts it: “How abstract can a landscape become while remaining a landscape?”

“The irregularities cause you to once again notice nature,” says the artist.

To squeeze that kind of ambiguity from his subjects, de Ruijter flies his camera in mid-air, sometimes literally. Of the images shown above from the tree series Baumschule, all but two were shot by attaching a camera to a kite, setting a timer, then letting the Dutch winds guide the contraption skyward. De Ruijter snapped the other two (images one and two) by dangling a fishing rod, outfitted in a 2.5-inch-by-2.5-inch camera with a wide-angle lens, over his feet.

So how much control does he wield over the final product? “There is always an element of chance,” he tells Co. in an email. “I am not looking through a viewfinder. On the other hand, I am trying to make all the decisions I can beforehand: The height of the camera in relation to the subject, the direction of the shadows, the framing of the grid, the time of day and season, etc.”

The resulting photographs appear in some cases as tightly choreographed as a military formation (slide two). In others, something’s ever-so-slightly out of whack, like an off-beat dancer in the corps de ballet; note the errant plow tracks in slide three. And ultimately, de Ruijter says, that’s the point: “Even though this series ‘Baumschule’ deals with an extremely defined cultural landscape, it are the abnormalities that jump into view. ” The irregularities in the patterns cause the viewer to once again notice nature.?

The following slideshow features a selection from Baumschule, in addition to older photographs including some de Ruijter shot using a helikite — a cross between a helium-filled balloon and a kite — in the Southwestern United States. Limited-edition prints are available for $2,700 to $4,200, depending on size. Contact de Ruijter directly to buy them.

[Hat tip to Bldgblog; images courtesy of de Ruijter]


About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.