Aerial Photos Taken From Helicopter Reveal the Stunning Symmetry of Airports

Southern California Logistics Airport

Southern California Logistics Airport

As with many aviation fanatics, photographer Mike Kelley‘s fascination with air travel started when he was a child, and it's never slowed down. We were first introduced to Kelley's work through his viral composite photograph of arrivals and departures at LAX, which then translated into his project on airports around the world—AirportraitsNow he's back in California, with a new striking series that captures airports and boneyards from a new vantage point.

For Life Cycles, Kelley hired a helicopter to fly over LAX, the Southern California Logistics Airport, and Seattle's Boeing Field/King County International Airport, as well as the Mojave and Victorville boneyards. Building on his desire to demonstrate the complexity and scale of modern air travel, Kelley's photographs are a symphony of symmetry. His carefully composed shots show careful attention to the architecture of the planes and surrounding structures, creating compositions that are both intriguing and artistic.

Of course, obtaining permissions to fly over these spaces is not easy, but Kelley has continuously cultivated his relationship with LAX since his initial image went viral in 2014. Working with the airport to shoot imagery for marketing campaigns, he's also cultivated the relationships that allow him to carry out these personal projects. For Life Cycle, Kelley shows these majestic airplanes in all their glory, from their flying days at bustling terminals to being repaired—or put to rest—at the boneyards.

“The sum of human knowledge, effort, and effort to get these birds built, flown, and retired is enormous,” Kelley tells My Modern Met via email. “While we are locked in a dingy terminal or griping about TSA lines, we're surrounded by an incredible infrastructure that's almost impossible to comprehend from ground level.”

Indeed, Kelley's keen eye cuts through the apparent chaos of the airport to seek out the subtle rhythms that guide the space. By honing in and isolating these elements, he reveals a hidden beauty that only an aviation lover could discover.

Aviation lover Mike Kelley captures the hidden beauty of airports and boneyards by flying helicopters overhead and shooting aerial photographs of these magical spaces.

airport photography mike kelley

Terminals 4, 5, 6, and 7, LAX

aviation photographs mike kelley

airfield photography mike kelley

Tom Bradley International Terminal, LAX

airport photo mike kelley

airplane photo mike kelley

737 MAX aircraft, Boeing Field/King County International Airport, Seattle

airport photos mike kelley

A 787-10, Boeing Field/King County International Airport, Seattle

It took about seven total flights for Kelley to complete the series, which includes LAX as well as the Victorville boneyard, where aging planes are repaired or placed in retirement.

Aerial Aviation Photos - Mike Kelley

Southern California Logistics Airport

Aerial Aviation Photos - Mike Kelley

Sunset at the Victorville Boneyard

Sunset at the Victorville Boneyard

Mojave Air and Space Port

Mojave Air and Space Port

Southern California Logistics Airport

Southern California Logistics Airport

“My wish is for people to come away from this series with an appreciation for the complexity and scale of modern air travel,” shares Kelley, who hopes to continue the series at more airports.

airplane photograph mike kelley

aviation photography mike kelly

photos of airplanes mike kelley

photos of airfields mike kelley

Terminal 4, LAX

planes on tarmac photo mike kelley

Tom Bradley International Terminal, LAX

photos of planes mike kelly

Air France and British Airways A380s

airport runway photography mike kelley

Mike Kelley: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Shop

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Mike Kelley.

Related Articles:

Spectacular Aerial Shots of International Airports

Three-Dimensional Aerial Shots of Airports

Hair-Raising Photos of Jumbo Jets Over the Beach

Glittering Nighttime Photos of Airplanes Highlight the Majestic Beauty of Flight

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer 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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