• 07.29.11

Stephan Zirwes’s Stunning Aerial Photos Put Google Earth To Shame

The Stuttgart-based photog hangs out of helicopters to capture the large-scale patterns and textures of the natural and man-made environment.

One of the best things about flying is the bird’s-eye view: the vast patchwork of farmland, the manicured suburban plots with their glistening swimming pools, and the seemingly endless stretches of ocean. As details become indiscernible, the landscape takes on a striking regularity and chaos turns to order. The Stuttgart-based photographer Stephan Zirwes captures that perspective, rendering natural and man-made settings into stunning abstract compositions.


Zirwes’s aerial photos, shot from a large-format digital Hasselbad while hanging out of a helicopter, range from richly textured farmland and industrial airfields (behold the beauty of a runway!) to patterned snow and veined tributaries. The ski-slope pictures, in particular, point up the majesty of nature and — excuse the triteness — our relative puniness.

About the author

Belinda Lanks is the editorial director of Co.Design. Before joining, she was the managing editor of Metropolis.