Aerial photos of Iceland’s coast look like beautiful abstract art

Story highlights

Photographer Zack Seckler offers a bird's-eye view of Iceland's southern coast

His photos, taken aboard an ultra-light aircraft, resemble abstract art

CNN  — 

In November, with winter fast closing in, photographer Zack Seckler strapped himself into an ultra-light aircraft and headed off into squally skies over southern Iceland.

He returned with incredible images that show a different view of the wild Nordic landscapes drawing more and more visitors each year.

Away from the volcanoes and sheer-walled glaciers that have come to symbolize Iceland, Seckler’s aerial shots reveal an ethereal, textured world where ice-blue meltwaters swirl into crystalline seas populated by seals, sea lions and seabirds.

His locations were largely determined by the whims of the weather.

Unable to fit the shooting in during the preferred months of summer, and with a self-imposed deadline of 2015, Seckler ignored advice telling him to delay until better conditions.

Photographer Zack Seckler

“It gets really difficult at that time of year,” Seckler said. “Hurricane season is coming, and the hours of light are limited. The pilot recommended I didn’t come that week.”

Undeterred, Seckler tailored his shoot to allow for the weather, flying day trips out of Reykjavik and avoiding storm fronts that could’ve landed him in trouble.

“The plane would’ve survived, but we could’ve been forced to land in an isolated place,” he said.

Conditions indeed proved problematic, grounding him for a whole day at one point.

The most alarming event, he said, was a revelation from the aircraft’s pilot as they swooped over Iceland’s jagged coastline.

“I asked him where he got the plane from as we were flying along; that was the point he told me he’d made it himself,” Seckler said. “That was pretty terrifying.”

Social media

  • Follow @CNNPhotos on Twitter to join the conversation about photography.

    The fear, he says, was worth it for the unique perspective offered by such a tiny aircraft.

    Able to fly down to just a few feet off the ground and then soar to 1,000 feet, the ultra-light enabled the photographer to capture scenes from above in close detail. See video of Seckler as he takes to the skies

    Despite the weather-imposed route, he said it was his intention to remain close to Iceland’s coastline rather than turn inland to see its smoldering volcanoes and waterfalls.

    “Based on the research that I did, given the scenarios and the time, the southern coast seemed to have what I wanted,” he said. “What I find really compelling about Iceland is the tremendous variety of water.”

    Seckler said he deliberately avoids showing the horizon in his photographs to add to the disorientation of viewing such unusual images.

    It’s a technique he’s previously deployed in Botswana.

    “With this series, my goal is to create aerial photography that’s somewhat unexpected. … It plays with the balance between reality and abstract.”

    There is, of course, a major downside to hiring an aircraft to create his images: A hefty price tag.

    Seckler said he’s planning further aerial projects, researching possible trips to the Arctic and Africa, but he could use a commercial partner to help shoulder the expense.

    “What I specifically look for is places that have very interesting landscapes, that have a lot of colors to play with,” he said.

    “There’s so many beautiful places to go to.”

    Iceland’s Golden Circle: The big attractions plus secretive sites

    A stopover buddy can show you local sites during a layover

    Iceland’s food can be, well, unusual; check out these 10 dishes

    Zack Seckler is a photographer based in New York. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. His Iceland aerials will be exhibited at the Robin Rice Gallery in Manhattan from March 16 through May 8.