Drone Photography Reveals the Colours of Sea Salt Production

Looking for some perspective? Try your hand at drone photography. German designer and photographer Tom Hegen has taken to the skies using a DJI drone for his photography series entitled The Salt.

In my aerial photography I focus on landscapes that have been heavily transformed by human intervention. I am trying to sensitise the viewer for those subjects by taking a look on the extraordinary forces impacting our environment.
– Tom Hegen


The Munich-based photographer has made a name for himself with his aerial photography and admirable motivation to create the kind of images that reveal human intervention in all its colours.
The Salt Series, for which Tom won the DJI Drone Photography Award, focusses on salt mines across Europe, showing the remarkable colours they display as a result of the artificial pond’s differing levels of salinity.


We sat down with the photographer to find out more about his work.

THE PLUS: How did you come up with the idea for this series?
Tom Hegen:
As a photographer I am interested in the relationship between man and nature. In my aerial photography I focus on landscapes that have been heavily transformed by human intervention. We have left our marks on Earth’s surface in order to meet our daily needs. I am trying to sensitise the viewer for those subjects by taking a look at the extraordinary forces impacting our environment.

The Salt Series grew out of this concept. The extraction of sea salt is one of the oldest forms of human landscaping and it is the oldest method of salt production. In Europe it dates back to the Antiquity, some 6000 years ago. Within The Salt Series I explore artificial landscapes where nature is channelled, regulated and controlled.


TP: Where are the ponds located and what was your time like there?
The series was taken in Spain and France, and took about a week to shoot. I visited a couple of different locations to get a variety of salt gardens. Before I started taking photos for the project, I had a certain look of the result in mind. I was curious if the salt ponds really looked like how I imagined them in my mind. I was then really amazed by the vibrant hues, textures and abstract shapes I observed.

TP: We heard you like to do a little hiking and travelling for a photography trip. What do you enjoy most about the process of an aerial photography shoot?
My aerial photo projects start with a lot of planning beforehand. I really want to make sure that I get the shots that I have in mind. Reading the light and landscape plays an important role there. I’m already getting really excited about the project while planning it. I always have a concept in mind, and it is great feeling to see the results in the end and see how they match with your early drafts.


TP: What are some of the frustrations involved in drone photography you’ve found?
Aerial photography with multicopters was not always as easy as it is nowadays. This technique became really reliable in the last two to three years. When I started using multicopters, I started with my own built copter and mounted a camera underneath. A lot of my projects are shot with this copter. The programming and handling involved a lot of effort. That has really changed now. Nevertheless, I am not using a drone just for the sake of it. I find it adds value and creative possibilities in telling the story. I still consider helicopters, light planes or hot air balloons for projects.

TP: Was much post-production involved?
Well, like any other photographer, I go through my photos in post. I try to get the composition is precise as possible in the air. The last bit of angle correction I do on the computer. 


TP: You’re also a designer – how do you balance your double life? 
Those two genres really complete with each other. As a graphic designer, my work is partly based on visual rules like proportions, contrast, layout, grids, etcetera. I try to apply the same rules to my aerial photography. When you look at my aerial photo series, I believe you can see my graphic design background. 

TP: Where are you going for your next series?
I still have some unfinished projects on my HD drive I need to finish first. Then I have an upcoming aerial photobook later this year. But with the next projects I will keep focus on human interventions in natural spaces. I see a lot of stories that haven’t been told yet and it’s really important to me that my aerial photos might create an insight to generate consideration.