Anyone who’s ever been in the window seat on a flight has a photo of the sky from above the clouds. The wing of the plane is inevitably in the frame, but that just makes it cooler, and whether you get a shot at nighttime with a city sparkling down below or a sunrise lighting up the sky just so, there’s something about the sight that we just can’t resist snapping a photo of.
Santiago Borja, however, gets these shots from the cockpit.
Borja, a pilot based out of Ecuador, has caught the nickname “The Storm Pilot” because of his penchant for capturing intense weather patterns from 40,000 feet, photos that are both stunning and mind-boggling.
Those are lightning bolts before they hit the Earth (!!!).
Borja’s work is a meteorologist’s dream, including striking detail and colors that don’t look like they should even exist in nature -- but here's the proof that they do! He told CNN that the photos truly just started as a hobby -- he was good with a camera and stared down some gorgeous scenery day after day at work.
“I realized that we have such great views from the aircraft, that it would be a really good opportunity to portray those landscapes and then share these views with my friends [and] with my family -- and ultimately with everybody else,” he said.
But don’t fret -- Borja doesn’t compromise the safety of his manifest while he’s snapping away.
“On our long haul flights we're usually three to four pilots, and we switch places,” he explained. “So on a 12-hour flight we always get six hours off the controls. So that's a perfect opportunity for me to try different angles, different lenses.”
His burgeoning photography career has even landed him a book deal: Titled “#TheStormPilot,” the coffee table-esque tome includes a series of Borja’s photographs depicting the fascinating storms with commentary and insight by meteorologist Michaela Koschak.
Though he’s not the first pilot-slash-photographer -- CNN also interviewed photographer Christiaan van Heijst early last year for his cockpit landscapes -- Borja’s focus on storms and weather conditions is unique.
One of his shots, titled “Pacific Storm,” took viewers by surprise and won Borja third place in a National Geographic photography award category. Oh, and NASA has used his photography for research. NASA.
What’s great about photographing the storms, Borja said, is that the plane is not actually flying through them -- no turbulence = a great shot.
“It's a very quiet, very peaceful moment -- and it's kind of great because you get to enjoy the image, even if I don't have my camera on board, I just enjoy looking at the stars,” he said.