Drones are in many ways photography's equivalent of unlocking 'God mode' – and the winners of this year's Drone Photo Awards 2021 have certainly backed up that theory with some incredible aerial shots.
This seventh edition of the drone photo awards, which is run in conjunction with Italy's popular Siena International Photo Awards, attracted around 14,000 submissions from over 100 countries worldwide.
Not all of these shots were taken on consumer drones like the DJI Air 2S – the competition is also open to more advanced, sky-based platforms like fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, balloons, blimps and even rockets.
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This explains the huge variety and overall quality of the photos. But many, including the 'photo of the year' winner 'Pink-Footed Geese Meeting the Winter' (below), were only possible using drones like the DJI Mavic 2 Pro.
We've rounded up all of the impressive category winners below – and you can see all of the winning entries in each of the nine main categories, including video, at the Drone Photo Awards 2021 site.
Photo of the year
- 'Pink-Footed Geese Meeting the Winter' by Terje Kolaas
Norwegian photographer Terje Kolaas has been a birder since the age of 12 and put all of the experience to good use in this shot of geese roosting in central Norway during in spring, while on their way to the breeding grounds on Svalbard in the Arctics.
Apparently, the geese are arriving earlier every year (most likely due to climate change), which means the fields where they feed tend to be covered in snow when they arrive. Luckily, the geese use the same paths, so it's possible to wait for them in the air with a drone and snap incredible shots like this.
- 'Metaphorical Statement About City and Winter', by Sergei Poletaev
Russian aerial and architectural photography Sergei Poletaev tends to use pro-level drones like the DJI Inspire series, and this what allows him to capture challenging shots like this with a high dynamic range.
This winning shot in the 'urban' category shows a 500-year-old monastery in the Moscow region, with a large power plant in the background. According to Sergei Poletaev, the steam from the cooling towers is particularly dense because of a recent severe frost.
- 'Back to adventure', by Qasim Al Farsi
This nicely-composed shot from Omani photographer Qasim Al Farsi shows a green turtle scuttling back to the sea after laying down eggs in her nest.
It was shot over the Oman coastline between Raw Al Jinz and Rashad turtle reserve, where Qasim Al Farsi also shoots landscape, architecture , travel photography projects.
- 'Gold at the End of the Rainbow', by Phil De Glanville
Australian photographer Phil De Glanville is also a graphic designer, and you can see that influence in his superb wave photography – which here also includes a rainbow for good measure.
It shows surfer Ollie Henry escaping a monster wave off the coast of South West Western Australia, and is all the more impressive considering Phil de Glanville only picked up his first drone a couple of years ago.
- 'Fishing in Mangrove Forest', by Trung Pham Huy
Vietnamese snapper Trung Pham Huy only picked up photography from the end of 2016, after which he mainly focused on landscape and daily life photos in Vietnam. He's already seen success in the Skypixel and Sony World Photo Awards, and this shot won the 'People' category in the Drone Photo Awards.
While on first glance it might look more like the neurons of a human brain, it actually shows a fisherman starting his fishing day in the mangrove forest in the lagoon of Tam Giang in the Hue province. Mangroves lose all their leaves and turn white during winter, hence their brain-like resemblance from above.
- 'Extragalactic', by Martin Sanchez
What's better than a photo of an erupting volcano? A shot inside an erupting volcano, which American photographer Martin Sanchez managed to capture in Iceland.
Martin Sanchez says he only discovered drone photography in late 2015, and "at first didn't really know what to do with it". But after focusing initially on mastering flight and live-streaming from the sky, he started photographing from a top-down perspective – which let him to take stunning shots like this.
- 'Poisoned River', by Gheorghe Popa
The Romanian photographer Gheorghe Popa is also a pharmacist by trade – and it's this depth of knowledge that lets him immersive himself in long-term projects like 'Poisoned Beauty', which tells the story of the natural disaster in the 'Apuseni Mountains' in an abstract way.
While the colors in the aerial shot are incredible, the pattern is actually created by nature combined with the chemical waste resulted from the copper and gold mining process.
- 'Verso l'Infinito Insieme a Te', by Matteo Originale
Wedding photos have really upped their game in the last few years – no longer is a staged shot on the local bridge or beneath the Church tree enough to sate today's newlyweds.
Instead, an aerial drone shot at sunset with a backdrop of some incredible clouds is the order of the day, and Italian photographer Matteo Originale was happy to oblige with this winning shot at Marina di Pisa.
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Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at both TechRadar and Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.