“Taking pictures from a hot air balloon is easier than a drone,” says Lithuanian photographer Karolis Janulis, reminiscing about one of his past forays in aerial photography. “You are standing still, you can make a nice composition–but an air balloon is being controlled by the wind, you can’t control the direction so you have to shoot whatever is directly below you.”
Long fascinated with shooting landscapes from above, Janulis has tried climbing hills, bridges, towers, and, finally, climbing onto a hot air balloon to get the perfect perspective of his native Lithuania. In early 2015 a friend let him fly his drone, and Janulis finally found the flexibility he needed to get the exact shots he wanted–from highways and traffic circles to patterned farmlands. For his latest series, Winter, Janulis traveled around Lithuania in his car to capture the country blanketed in snow.
After experiencing an unseasonably warm December, the city of Vilnius, where Janulis is based, finally got its first snow. That morning, Janulis jumped at the chance to shoot the city in all its frozen glory. “The autumn was very boring, there’s no contrast,” he says. “When the snow fell it changed everything–the places we knew and were familiar with, it’s harder to recognize. It’s a brand new view of things.”
Shot from around 400 feet above ground, Janulis’s aerial shots give the viewer the unique sensation on looking in on another world. One shot of a forest covered in snow outside of Vilnius brings to mind those quaint miniature Christmas villages people set out in their houses around the holidays. Frozen lakes look like lunar lanscapes from above. Though many of the photos look like scenes Janulis just happened to come across while flying his drone, most of his photos are in fact carefully planned out. For instance, in a photo that shows a red car parked on a frozen lake–circular track marks suggesting recently done doughnuts left in its wake–was staged by Janulis and some friends.
To get the shots, Janulis uses a DJI Phantom II Vision Plus camera, just one part of about 17 pounds of equipment he carries around with him. Drone photography is more complicated than point-and-shoot, he says; it takes time to set up, it’s expensive, and laws about flying drones vary per country. Still, it offers a fascinating perspective on everyday life. “I put all my photography skills into drone photography because these perspectives are still unknown and unseen,” he says. “This is the reason people have wanted to fly for many years, but now we have another possibility.”