This Series Lets You Experience Volcanic Landscapes from an Aerial Perspective

German designer and photographer Tom Hegen continues to stun us with his aerial photography. Since we last caught up with him for his work on The Salt, Tom has visited Iceland for his new series, The River Veins.


Icelandic river veins are formed as melted water from the glaciers runs across black volcanic sand. This creates a picturesque scene unlike any other, and Tom’s aerial photography offers a fresh and fascinating way to view them.

Tom’s unique aerial photography is captured via drone. His signature style sets him apart, and allows viewers to live vicariously through his camera!

We caught up with Tom to hear more about The River Veins series.

THE PLUS: We are fans of your work, including this project, so how did you come up with the topic for this series?
Tom Hegen:
One question I get asked quite often is: What exactly am I looking at? My work can be very abstract – seemingly somewhere between photography and painting. People are not able to decode on first glance, and don’t realise the photo was taken from the sky. The River Veins Series is exactly one of those topics. It plays with the juxtaposing of abstraction of close-up and far distance shots. However, every photo in this series was shot a couple of hundred meters above the ground.


TP: What fascinates you about the “element of duality” in these river veins?
What really fascinates me about The River Veins series are those constantly repeating structures that can also be found elsewhere in our environment. This repeating quality in nature is also known as fractal geometry. The core idea of fractal geometry is that whether you zoom in on a surface or zoom out, the object always looks the same.

There are many shapes found in nature that can mathematically be described fractals. This phenomenon can be discovered in trees, in our arteries or in the course of a river. The theory of fractal geometry helps us to find order in chaos.


TP: When we spoke about The Salt series, you told us you use aerial photography to focus on how landscapes are transformed by human interaction – how does this series complement that?
This project mainly focuses on how nature looks like without human influence. It’s a contrast that shows the fascination of structure found in nature. Most rivers we know (at least in Europe) are regulated in some way. Their natural flow got pushed back or channelled to make use of the river or to protect land from its power.

If we wouldn’t dictate the rivers way, maybe all river would look like the ones in Iceland. The river systems of Iceland are a sort of archetype of rivers. Still, those rivers systems are getting fed by melting glaciers, mainly caused by global warming.


TP: What was your time in Iceland like?
The first time I have been to Iceland was back in 2015. This time I traveled in a 4×4 car and spent most of my time in the Iceland highlands in search for landscapes that would fit my project ideas. Iceland is a very famous travel destination for nature lovers and photographers.

A lot of locations are photographed to death so I decided to go to places that are much less crowded. There are still a lot of unspoiled spots to explore!


TP: How did you discover these locations?
Most of the photos were planned in advance. I worked on a route that I could follow during my flight. Up in the air, I also run into some unexpected landscapes that turned out to be even fascinating as well.

TP: It seems you’re quite obsessed with landscape photography. Do you think in the future you may explore other types of subjects?
Yes, I am! But I try to find my own access to landscape photography by doing a mix of landscape and abstract fine art photography, always with a very graphical approach. On commissioned projects, however, I also work in other genres like portrait or architecture photography.