A Devastating Bird’s Eye View Of Earth’s Vanishing Rainforests

Daniel Beltrá takes a helicopter up into the sky to show the real impact of humankind on the planet.

Even when there isn’t a human being to seen in his photographs, the bloody thumbprint of humanity is everywhere in the work of nature photographer Daniel Beltrá. His series Forests focuses on tropical rainforests around the world, showing the vast scale of the transformation the world is going through, spurred by human-made stresses: from the Amazon engulfed in flame to once-lush forests turned into deserts of deforestation.


As a self-described conservation photographer, Beltrá has taken thousands of photos of subjects ranging from the melting glaciers of Greenland to the nightmarish effects of the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill–a project which is now available as a book on his website.

But Forests may be his most personal work. He’s been shooting rainforests around the world since 2001, long enough to see many of them dwindle away before his eyes.

“It’s hard to think of a way that human intervention hasn’t touched the forests that I’ve photographed,” Beltrá says. Timber harvests, many of them illegal, are a constant threat–as is mining. The rainforests of Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia are under constant threat of being cleared as grazing land for livestock, like cattle, or for soy and palm oil infrastructure. Forests end up being drowned by the development of hydroelectric dams, or just plowed down to make new roads, which Beltrá says ends up being “the catalyst for everything else.”

According to Beltrá, he chooses to shoot the world’s forests from the air because it allows him to juxtapose nature with the destruction wrought by unsustainable development. “The unique perspective of aerial photography helps emphasize that the Earth and its resources are finite,” he says. “By bringing images from remote locations where human and business interests and nature are at odds, I hope to instill a deeper appreciation for nature and an understanding of the precarious balance our lifestyle has placed on the planet.”

You can follow Beltrá on Instagram here.

All Photos: ©Daniel Beltrá courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago