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'The storm pilot' who chases lightning with his camera

Santiago Borja, an Ecuadorian commercial pilot and photographer, has seen the stormy night sky of our planet like few others. From the cockpit of his aircraft he captures lightning, storms and other natural phenomena in incredible and award-winning photographs. #TheStormPilot, his new book, compiles his best images taken from the sky.
29 Ago 2018 – 12:23 PM EDT
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"When I started in aviation I was not an expert in photography and it was through flying that I understood the privilege that pilots have to see spectacular scenarios that are not common," Santiago Borja, told Univision. A commercial pilot who has dedicated himself to photographing storms from the window of the plane's cabin. This photo was taken a few miles from Miami, Florida, on a flight from Guayaquil to New York at 34,000 feet. Crédito: Santiago Borja (santiagoborja.com)
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"I began photographing landscapes and cities, especially during the day. The storms came later," says Borja. "I did tests and at first I had no idea what would come out," he continued. This photograph of a storm illuminated from its center by lightning was taken over the Pacific Ocean, south of Panama. The image, which shows perfectly the development of a storm, has been studied by scientists. Crédito: Santiago Borja (santiagoborja.com)
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"The lightning bolts are very fast and it is difficult to see at first sight what happened. However, in the photos you can see the lights, colors and shapes," added Borja. "At the moment of live lightning it's just a flash of light," he continued. The photograph was taken at six in the morning in April 2018, on the Caribbean Sea. Crédito: Santiago Borja (santiagoborja.com)
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"The technique has been the most complicated thing for me. After studying photography, I would board the airplanes thinking that with speed it would be impossible to make a slow exposure that didn't move. Playing around I realized that it is a combination between technique and luck," he says. This image is from the cockpit on the approach to the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil. Crédito: Santiago Borja (santiagoborja.com)
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"For the photo to be clear in part you have to be lucky because the plane must be flying in a calm air, without turbulence, so that the camera remains stable," added Borja, who in his Instagram account showcases his photos to more than 70,000 followers. This storm was photographed over the Andes mountain range in Colombia in 2018. Crédito: Santiago Borja (santiagoborja.com)
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"On the other hand, with the technique I learned that the lighting bolts work like a flash, a flash that for a thousandth of a second illuminates 80% of the frame and stops the movement, even if the shutter stays open for several seconds", added Borja. The image shows a powerful strike on the east coast of the USA, with the lights of Miami in the background. Crédito: Santiago Borja (santiagoborja.com)
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"I always see storms on the route I frequent, most during the hurricane season (June to November). Around Panama, a few miles north and south, is where we find them most often," he continued. The image shows lightning over the Caribbean Sea in April 2018. Crédito: Santiago Borja (santiagoborja.com)
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"The flights are planned to avoid large hurricanes. The storms that I photograph although they are seen as dangerous and threatening are actually very small on the global scale. These should also be avoided but if they are isolated the flight route is not changed drastically," he said. The photograph shows an isolated storm over the Atlantic Ocean, a few miles off the coast of Florida. Crédito: Santiago Borja (santiagoborja.com)
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"Commercial airplanes we fly under the tropopause (the transition zone between the troposphere and the stratosphere) and that is the limit of the storms, it is impossible to see them from above from a commercial plane, we always see it from the side", he went on. This image was taken over Guayaquil, Ecuador, in the background the sun is hidden behind Quito and the Antisana volcano can be seen, where the Andes end and the Amazon begins. Crédito: Santiago Borja (santiagoborja.com)
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Santiago Borja is Ecuadorian and pilots commercial aircraft for a major airlines on routes to the Americas and Europe. For nine years he has worked in civil aviation and has been taking photographs for five years. In the picture a storm over the Atlantic Ocean, a few miles south of Jamaica, at 35,000 feet. Crédito: Santiago Borja (santiagoborja.com)
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His photographs have been recognized by several awards including Sony World Photography 2018, the Prix de la Photographie, Paris (P×3) (2018) and the Tokyo International Photo Award, among others. The German publisher, teNeues, this year released #TheStormPilot, a book with 160 photographs of storms taken by Borja. Santiago Borja (santiagoborja.com)
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