Amazing Winners of the 2021 Drone Photo Awards Celebrate the World From Above

Pink-Footed Geese Flying In To Norway

“Pink-Footed Geese Meeting the Winter” by Terje Kolaas. Overall Winner.
“Thousands of Pink-footed Geese roost in central Norway in spring, on their way to the breeding grounds on Svalbard in the Arctic. Probably because of climate change, they arrive earlier every year and often the ground and the fields where they feed are covered by snow when they arrive. The geese tend to use the same paths, so when waiting for them in the air with a drone, photos like this one are possible.”

Produced by the Siena Awards, the 2021 Drone Photo Awards celebrate the best in international drone photography. This year, a photo capturing thousands of geese coming to roost in the Arctic Circle was named the overall winner. Photographer Terje Kolaas patiently waited along their flight path and was able to take in this incredible scene with his drone. For his efforts, he will take home €500,000 (approximately $585K) worth of camera equipment in addition to other prizes.

This year, tens of thousands of images were submitted from photographers in 102 countries. In addition to the top prize, nine category winners were also announced. The categories represent a vast array of themes, from Sport and Wildlife to People and Wedding. Australian photographer Phil De Glanville won the Sport category with his incredible image of surfer Ollie Henry. As Henry rides an enormous wave, a rainbow touches down to make the moment even more magical.

Italian wedding photographer Matteo Original also seized the moment with his winning photograph Verso l'Infinito Insieme a Te. The title, which translates to “Toward Infinity Together With You,” refers to the stunning clouds that Original spotted on the horizon. By placing the couple on a long boardwalk stretching toward the clouds, he was able to create a beautiful visual metaphor for their love.

All of the winning photographs will be featured in the Above Us Only Sky exhibition in Siena, Italy. The exhibit will run from October 23 to December 5, 2021 as part of the Siena Awards Festival.

See more winning images from the 2021 Drone Photo Awards.

Aerial Photo of Bride and Groom on the Beach

“Verso l'Infinito Insieme a Te” by Matteo Originale. First Place, Wedding.
“Marina di Pisa, a late summer evening at sunset… I spotted those clouds on the horizon and I decided to place the couple towards their infinity full of love.”

Surfer on Waves in Australia Under a Rainbow

“Gold at the End of the Rainbow” by Phil De Glanville. First Place, Sport.
“I found gold at the end of this rainbow as surfer, Ollie Henry, escapes a monster wave off the coast of South West Western Australia.”

500 Year Old Monastery in Moscow Region

“Metaphorical Statement About City and Winter” by Sergei Poletaev. First Place, Urban.
“A 500-year-old monastery in the Moscow region and a large power plant in the background. The steam from the cooling towers is particularly dense due to severe frost.”

Aerial Image of Man Fishing in Mangrove Forest

“Fishing in Mangrove Forest” by Trung Pham Huy. First Place, People. 
A fisherman starts 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 the winter season.”

Abstract Photos of Minerals from Above

“Abstract nature” by Manuel Enrique González Carmona. Runner-Up, Series.
“Minerals, water, and water currents are the ingredients with which nature creates these abstract and ephemeral landscapes. This canvas is actually a pond of toxic waste from a copper mine, located in the province of Huelva. These ephemeral formations will disappear with the next torrential rains and new waste inputs. After an initial human intervention, it never ceases to amaze me how nature molds and paints with the different minerals and colors to create these abstractions worthy of the best abstract painters.”

Aerial Photo of Green Turtle Heading to Water After Laying Eggs

“Back to Adventure” by Qasim Al Farsi. First Place, Wildlife.
“Green turtle heading back to water after laying down eggs in her peaceful nest at Oman coastline between Ras Al Jinz and Rashad turtle reserve.”

Zebra herd in the Namib Rand Nature Reserve in Namibia

“Fairy Circles” by George Steinmetz. Highly Commended, Wildlife.
“Zebra herd in the Namib Rand Nature Reserve in Namibia. The thin grasses here have a rare speckled pattern known as “fairy circles”, a phenomenon that is poorly understood. Grasses seem to grow higher on the inner rim of the circles due to less competition for water on the inside of the ring.”

Aerial Photo of the Kingdom Centre in Saudi Arabia

“The Kingdom Centre” by George Steinmetz. Runner-Up, Urban.
“Standing 992 feet high, the Kingdom Centre was the tallest skyscraper in Saudi Arabia when completed in 2002—and is considered only the second to have been built in the country—but is now 5th on the list.”

Women Collecting Water from Dry River Bed

“Collecting Water from Driedout Riverbeds” by Sujon Adhikary. Highly Commended, People.
“Around 263 million people globally have access to water sources that are considered safe, but need to spend at least 30 minutes walking or queuing to collect their water. And the task of providing water for households falls disproportionately to women and girls, especially in rural areas.”

Bear Sleeping on Rocks

“Sleeping Beauty” by Martin Gregus. Commended, Wildlife.
“Working closely with the bears and getting them used to our behavior meant that by day 5 we were well underway to documenting some truly unique behavior. By this point, we have gotten to know in detail the personalities of 27 different bears, and they in return welcomed us into their lives and let us film around the clock. Utilizing drones, remote cameras, and custom-made gear in order to capture the most intimate footage.”

Canyon in Utah

“Entrance to Another World” by Laura Bennett. Commended, Nature.
“In a remote, rugged canyon in Utah, sunset lit the walls of the canyon to provide a surrealistic impression. It reminded me of cinematic productions of other worlds.”

Drone Photo of Bride and Groom in Garden

“Boundless sea of love” by Wujiang Zhu. Runner-Up, Wedding.
“A unique location for the traditional pictures of a newly married couple, in the middle of a beautifully kept garden in the blooming season.”

Aerial Photo of River Filled with Mining Waste

“Poisoned River” by Gheorghe Popa. First Place, Abstract.
“This is a detailed photograph of one of the small rivers filled with poison. “Poisoned Beauty” is a personal project that tells the story of the natural disaster in the “Apuseni Mountains”, but in a beautifully abstract way. This abstract colorful pattern is created by nature combined with the chemical waste resulted from the copper and gold mining process.”

Couple Posing in Bathing Suits on Ice Hummocks in Russia

“Beach Season” by Alexandr Vlassyuk. Runner-Up, People.
“I took this picture in February 2021 on ice hummocks at the Kapchagai reservoir in the Almaty region. The air temperature on that day was -10 degrees Celsius; for our region and season it could be said warm, and so, without waiting for summer, we decided to open the beach season!”

Abstract Aerial Photo of Shipping Containers

“Caleidoscopio” by Paolo Crocetta. Runner-Up, Abstract.
“This shot was inspired by the colorful patterns of the Navajo people. The bright colors of the containers and the diagonals created by the play of light and shadow give life to an interesting pattern.”

Town in Oregon Covered in Fire Retardant

“Blanketed in Fire Retardant” by Adrees Latif. First Place, Series.
“In 2020, Oregon bore the brunt of nearly 100 major wildfires raging across Western United States, one of the most destructive on state record. On the morning of September 8, flames from a human-caused fire started in nearby Ashland. Driven by over 40 mph winds, the Almeda fire quickly spread through retirement communities, trailer home parks, malls, and businesses. In just a few hours, half of Talent was left in ashes. Experts call the fire an urban conflagration, one that burned through dry grasslands, riparian areas with dense fuel loads, and through urban areas with densely packed residences. In apocalyptic scenes, the town of Talent was left blanketed in a red flame retardant dropped by aerial firefighting efforts in hopes of saving the town. Three fatalities were reported, 3000 residents were displaced and nearly 3000 structures over a nine-mile area were destroyed.”

Drone Photo Awards: Website

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by the Drone Photo Awards.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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