Goats and Soda: NPR

Women collect water from a dry river in Khulna, Bangladesh. This photo is one of the “highly praised” images from this year’s Drone Photo Contest.

Sujon Adhikary


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Sujon Adhikary


Women collect water from a dry river in Khulna, Bangladesh. This photo is one of the “highly praised” images from this year’s Drone Photo Contest.

Sujon Adhikary

What does our planet look like from the sky?

This year’s Drone Photo Awards winning images captured a breathtakingly spectacular view of the world. From the height above, a field of bright green grass in Vietnam looks like faux fur – and a frozen reservoir in Kazakhstan resembles shards of broken glass.

The awards, in their fourth year, have received entries from 105 countries and 2,900 professional and amateur photographers, said Luca Venturi, contest founder and art director of Siena Awards, a group based in Siena, Italy, that organizes the international photo competitions

The availability of cheaper and better drones over the past few years has helped popularize this style, especially among amateurs, he said. Ken Geiger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and one of this year’s judges for the awards. Not only is drone photography “fun,” he added, “it’s a form of expression that helps us learn things about our planet that we didn’t know before.”

The contest is open to all types of aerial photography, not only taken by drones but also blimps, kites, parachutes, helicopters and even hot air balloons.

Here is a selection of contest winners and reputable mentions around the world, including the lower-income countries covered by Goats and Soda. There’s photorealism – and it’s also staged scenes that capture the pandemic times we live in.

The trees revealed their true colors

A fisherman paddles through mangrove trees in Tam Giang Lagoon in Vietnam’s Hue province. Mangroves lose all their leaves in winter, exposing their white trees.

Trung Pham Huy


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Trung Pham Huy


A fisherman paddles through mangrove trees in Tam Giang Lagoon in Vietnam’s Hue province. Mangroves lose all their leaves in winter, exposing their white trees.

Trung Pham Huy

Photographer Pham Huy Trung called his “Fishing in the Mangrove Forest,” taken in Vietnam’s Hue province, “a balance between people and nature.”

A former engineer, Trung said he is practical when he uses drones to take pictures, always checking wind and fog levels before setting out because both can affect picture quality. His real goal, he said, is to find moments when a person “feels stillness in the universe, inside and out.”

Scales and color play a big role in this picture. “The white color of the forest shows how wonderful nature is, while the red color of the fisherman’s clothing represents the beauty of the people, “Trung said.” Small and big, red and white – there are many more things to do [in harmony] together in life. “

Sunset – on ice

Photographer Alexandr Vlassyuk and a friend “sunbathe” on ice hummocks at the Kapchagay reservoir in Almaty, Kazakhstan. “Without waiting for summer, we decided to open the beach season!” said Vlassyuk.

Alexandr Vlassyuk


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Alexandr Vlassyuk


Photographer Alexandr Vlassyuk and a friend “sunbathe” on ice hummocks at the Kapchagay reservoir in Almaty, Kazakhstan. “Without waiting for summer, we decided to open the beach season!” said Vlassyuk.

Alexandr Vlassyuk

In the photo “Beach Season,” taken at a reservoir in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Alexandr Vlassyuk is both photographer and subject – a work he says is no small feat. He runs the drone while posing with his friend on ice hummocks at a temperature of 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Both are almost naked. Oh, and windy, he added.

“The hunt has become difficult,” said Vlassyuk, an advertising photographer with a passion for landscapes. “I took a series of shots with two drones. The batteries were low. In order not to freeze, we had to warm up ourselves.”

Geiger said he liked the concept. “It’s just so high that I can’t help but vote for it. It makes me smile.” And the “pop of people and color” amid the broken ice, he said, “creates a strong entry point” for viewers.

Red-hot harvest

The women order the dried red peppers at a factory in Bogura, Bangladesh. “Bogura’s kids are famous all over the country,” said photographer MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan. But workers are only paid “$ 2 after 10 hours of work – and in some areas they earn less.”

MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan


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MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan


The women order the dried red peppers at a factory in Bogura, Bangladesh. “Bogura’s kids are famous all over the country,” said photographer MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan. But workers are only paid “$ 2 after 10 hours of work – and in some areas they earn less.”

MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan

MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan, a freelance photographer from New York, always tried to take pictures from the highest place possible – before the picture of drones arrived. “I’m trying to find a place where I can see the place from above,” like a rooftop, he says. “It allows me to really see that location.”

When commercial drones became available, he said, he knew he needed to have one. “I try to avoid gatherings where a lot of photographers are flying drones. Sometimes I go to unknown places and fly my drone from a safe location to see what I can find.”

One of those places is the yard of a chili factory in Bogura, Bangladesh, a little over 100 miles from where Rohan grew up in Dhaka. Her photo “Red Chiles Harvesting” captures two rows of women sitting under umbrellas as they are arranged on a carpet of bright red peppers to dry and preserve.

Other winners in heaven and praise

People eat alfresco at makeshift restaurants in the snowy valley of Kongdoori, Gulmarg, in Jammu & Kashmir of India.

Dipabrata On


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Dipabrata On


People eat alfresco at makeshift restaurants in the snowy valley of Kongdoori, Gulmarg, in Jammu & Kashmir of India.

Dipabrata On

Women harvest grass in Vietnam. Grass has many uses, including as fodder for animals and fertilizer.

Khanh Phan |


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Khanh Phan |

A photo from Adas Vasiliauskas ’series“ COVID Self-Isolation Sucks, ”which garnered praise from this year’s Drone Photo Awards. The set of images, taken on the streets of his native Lithuania, plays on people’s desire to “live life” despite living in a “COVID nightmare,” he said. In this particular photo, a man posing on the bed of a truck pretends to ride his scooter.

Adas Vasiliauskas


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Adas Vasiliauskas


A photo from Adas Vasiliauskas ’series“ COVID Self-Isolation Sucks, ”which garnered praise from this year’s Drone Photo Awards. The set of images, taken on the streets of his native Lithuania, plays on people’s desire to “live life” despite living in a “COVID nightmare,” he said. In this particular photo, a man posing on the bed of a truck pretends to ride his scooter.

Adas Vasiliauskas

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