Dronestagram contest winners and the art of the drone-based selfie

On his way to work one day, drone photographer Alexey Goncharov sat on a bench near Moscow’s Mercury City Tower, searching for the best angle to capture the perfect reflection off the soaring, pinkish-bronze mirrored windows.

He sent his drone up the 1,112-foot-tall building. While the drone was in the flight, he spotted three window washers dangling on the side of the building. “I liked the way their work looked from that perspective,” recounted the physicist at Moscow State University. “They seemed to wash the city itself, not just the building's windows.”

His high-flying photograph earned him second prize in the urban category of the 2017 Dronestagram contest. The French photo-sharing community is dedicated to displaying the best aerial images by professionals and enthusiasts.

In the past, drones have been mostly used by the military. The photography aspect offers a new perspective of the world from the simple beauty of perfect rows of lavender fields being harvested by a lone tractor in Provence, France, to the hard-to-reach ancient rock fortress Sigiriya in Sri Lanka.

There’s a photo of a winding Transylvania road leading to Count Dracula’s castle and a sandy beach magically turned into a giant sheet of drawing paper with a picture of a shark nipping at the heels of the photographer’s son. This piece of imagination won an award for Frenchman Romain Gaillard in the creativity category. Another prize in that category went to Cape Town, South Africa, photographer Luke Bell for his shot reflecting the long shadows of two cows drinking from a dam on a farm near Stellenbosch.

“I launched my drone to capture the scene in a way that was impossible with any other type of cameras,” noted Bell.

More than 8,000 photographs from around the world were entered in the fourth annual contest. A panel of experts from National Geographic and Dronestagram judged the high-flying entries, which will be published in National Geographic Magazine. A book of drone photographs, "Dronescapes: The New Aerial Photography From Dronestagram," was published in May.

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