This Aerial Photography Series Flies you above Western Australia’s Most Stunning Salt Mines

Continuing seamlessly on from his last, Tom Hegen’s latest series on salt mines takes you high above the salt flats of Western Australia on an expedition of colour and composition.

The images of THE SALT SERIES II are as forensic as those he shot over Europe for part I. Only this time the motor fuelling the aerial aspect of aerial photography was a small aeroplane, not a drone.

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Nonetheless, the award-winning German photographer Tom doesn’t fail to stun us yet again with his work, which this time takes the form of a series of striking pastel-coloured revelations of human intervention into the natural environment down under.

In our interview, we learned about how it was different shooting from an aeroplane rather than a drone and what Tom’s got lined up next.

THE PLUS: How long did you spend in Australia? What’s the story behind the trip?
Tom Hegen:
I spent about two weeks in Western Australia exploring different geological areas, coastlines and mining sites. The main reason flying to Australia was for focusing on mine sites, like gold mining, aluminium mining and salt mining. Australia is a stunning country, rich in natural resources. Often those areas are exploited by man. THE SALT SERIES II is actually an extension to the first part, which also focused on the intervention of man in natural environments. The salt flats in Western Australia are very unique in terms of colour and shape and I wanted to show a new perspective on this topic.

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TP: For the first Salt Series, you sent up drone cameras. Any reason you went up in a plane this time?
TH:
The salt flats in Western Australia are incredible huge and only accessible by air. For me, it doesn’t make a big difference shooting from an aeroplane, helicopter or working with a drone. I have even done projects from top of a bridge. I focus in the single image, the series and the concept rather than technique.

TP: What was it like shooting out a small plane? Did it allow you to do things differently?
TH:
Taking photos from a small aeroplane can be quite challenging as the aircraft moves very fast. Imagine shooting out of an open window of a moving car with 150km/h, with a 200mm zoom lens and trying to capture an animal 500 metres away. It’s something like that. What really is important is the communication between the pilot and me. He really needs to know what shot I would like to get and I need to tell him in the right moment when to tip the aeroplane. Taking this series was very much teamwork.

On the other hand, aircraft are extremely flexible and can usually go much higher than helicopters or drones. For this series, I wanted to be really high up to get the photos from right of the top, having no perspective in the photos. In this way, the photos appear mainly flat, almost like a painting.

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TP: Your previous Salt Series has quite bold, vibrant colours. This one is more pastel. How come it turned out that way?
TH:
The salt lakes in Southern Europe are very different to the ones from THE SALT SERIES II. In Europe, there are very vibrant hues amongst. Australia has also pink lakes but the brine (salt water) in Western Australia has very unique components which lead them to those beautiful pastel blues. In the post processing, I wanted to keep great care of turquoise hues and make a decent colour contrast to the brown dams.


TP: Working on a new book, then?
TH:
Indeed. In the last months, I have been working on a concept for a new book. It will also be about aerial photography and human intervention in the environment. But this time I would like to experiment a little with new media. It’s going to be a long term project for the next one or two years. So let’s see what happens next.

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TP: Last time we featured you, you’d been in Iceland shooting volcanic rivers. What have you been up to apart from this Australia trip?
TH:
On my trip to Iceland and Greenland, I did several projects on themes around ice, water and ocean. A set of series from Icebergs, Glacier Pools or the melting surface of the Arctic Ice Sheets were the result. Apart from that, I have been in the Netherlands, doing a project on Greenhouse farming but had no time to process them yet.

TP: What have you got lined up this summer?
TH:
I will be in Africa soon, exploring some dryer areas of our planet. Apart from that, I would like to start working on my book project soon.

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