10 Spectacular Aerial Photos

Whether it’s a leisurely balloon ride in Provence or a thrill-seeking helicopter tour on Kauai, nothing shows the traveller the lay of the land quite like being above it all. Across the world, travelers always seek out vistas and make the trek to scenic overlooks because seeing things from the bird’s-eye view somehow fills us with a memorable sense of triumph and accomplishment.

No one understands the beauty and power of aerial photographs like photographer Paul Chesley. Paul has traveled the world ten times over taking pictures for National Geographic—from the temples of Thailand to the bustling streets of Japan to the secret canyons of the American Southwest—and capturing secret spots and vanishing traditions.

His life and journey, as well as these spectacular photographs, are from his newest book, Paul Chesley: A Photographic Journey (Goff Books; www.goffbooks.com)
Cairns, Australia
Shifting sandbars dot the waters along the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system, which stretches more than 2,600 kilometers along Australia’s eastern coast.
Eldhraun, Iceland
In 1783, a volcanic eruption sent lava flowing across southern Iceland, creating scores of craters and burying an area twice the size of Chicago with lava three stories deep. Two hundred years later, a gentler landscape has emerged.
Shiprock, New Mexico, USA
Rising majestically from the desert floor, the fortress-like Shiprock is revered by Native Americans and served as a landmark for early pioneers.
Tucson, Arizona
The “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is home to America’s largest fleet of “mothballed” planes. The dry, clear, and virtually smog-free climate of the Arizona desert helps minimize corrosion.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The vibrant colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin are the result of thermophilic bacteria which thrive in the pool’s over-160° F temperature.
Jakarta, Indonesia
The main hall of the Istiqlal Mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia, can accommodate 16,000 worshippers. Indonesia has more Muslim adherents than any other country.
Honolulu, Hawaii
Located near downtown Honolulu in the ancient Punchbowl volcanic crater, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific commemorates men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces.
Bohol, Philippines
The Chocolate Hills are named for the rich cocoa color that their lush carpeting of grass takes on each summer. The more than 1,200 hills were formed by erosion and the uplift of coral deposits.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia
Thirty-four miles southwest of Ayers Rock, the Olga Mountains are known to the Aborigines as Kata Tjuta and are closely related to their Dreamtime legends.
Rock Islands, Palau
Largely uninhabited, the Rock Islands get their unique mushroom shape as a result of erosion, grazing fish, and tiny marine mollusks that scrape at the coral outcroppings.