Seeing the world from above is always a thrilling experience – even if it’s just from an airplane window.
So imagine how photographer Jin-Woo Prensena feels hanging out of a helicopter. The daredevil lensman takes spectacular shots of the world from above – suspended in the air, often more than 7,500 feet above ground.
“Aerial fine art photography attracts me because it is one of the most challenging types of photography,” Prensena tells CNN Travel.
The resulting photos are intricate, perfectly composed photos of beaches, airports and cities – all from this incredible vantage point.
Germany-born, LA-based Prensena has always had a penchant for travel – his international background imbued him with a sense of adventure.
“English is my second language,” he explains. “I originally come from Germany and my parents come from South Korea.”
He’s lived in California for the past 20 years and branched into aerial photography three years ago. This art form attracted Prensena because it combined his interest in travel and his love of adventure and challenge. He previously worked in Hollywood – traveling across the globe and mixing in high-profile circles.
“I worked for around 12 years for a very well known, A-list celebrity as his estate manager/handler,” says Prensena.
“I traveled all over the world […] I started wanting to capture all the experiences I had throughout the travel. That’s how I got slowly into photography.”
Prensena has always been daring – he has a head for heights and loves a challenge.
“When I was younger in Germany, I was a paratrooper in the military service, so I did quite a bit of jumps out of helicopters and airplanes so it’s not totally new to me,” he says.
“I like any type of challenge, I’m a very competitive person,” he admits.
Inspired to experiment with aerial photography, Prensena took to the skies with his helicopter pilot friend Aaron Fitzgerald, from Airborne Images. The two discussed how Prensena could get the best possible shots.
“We’re both daredevils and so I said in an ideal world I would love to shoot not just in a helicopter but actually hanging out,” recalls Prensena.
“It gives me much more freedom to use the camera in any type of angle. Especially if I want to shoot vertically, fully vertical down, which, I believe, as a photographer gives you a very unique angle.”
Unique vantage point
Prensena says the experience of photographing the world from above, suspended from a moving helicopter, is unforgettable.
“You’re totally fueled up with adrenaline, but then on the other hand you have to be creative,” he says. “You have to be technically very savvy, you’re up in the air and you have to be creative as well.”
During these aerial shoots, Prensena is attached to the helicopter with a professional rescue harness, to ensure his safety. Everything else in the helicopter is strapped down so there’s no chance anything could fly out. The whole enterprise has to be meticulously planned. Fortunately, Prensena’s former Hollywood job instilled him with great organizational skills.