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Capturing storms from the best seat in the sky

January 11, 2019 08:20 IST

One perk of being a pilot, apart from travelling the world, is a front-row seat to the Earth’s natural wonders -- from jaw-dropping sunrises to silver slivers of lightning against ink coloured-clouds.

One among them is Ecuador-based Santiago Borja who is known as “The Storm Pilot” because of the images he’s taken.

Borja, who lives in Quito, Ecuador, was kind enough to grant us permission to show some off his work.

For more of his work, check out his website  or his Instagram account @santiagoborja.

So be ready to be amazed!

Borja began his photography four years ago. Each of Borja’s flights departs from Guayaquil, Ecuador, and often travel through New York and the Caribbean, zones of considerable weather activity. Photograph: www.santiagoborja.com
 

Don’t worry, Borja doesn’t take photographs when he’s manning the plane. He mostly snaps the shots while on his commute -- his fellow pilots let him sit in the observer’s seat and capture what's going on out the window. Photograph: www.santiagoborja.com

Borja says his favourite experiences are when he's flying and he gets to see very rare atmospheric events such as storms, Atlantic sunrises and some very unusual cloud formations. Photograph: www.santiagoborja.com

Borja, who became a pilot because he wanted to see the world from a unique perspective, flies a Boeing 767 for a major airline. “On our long haul flights we’re usually three to four pilots and we switch places,” explains Borja. “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.” Photograph: www.santiagoborja.com

When asked what his favourite spot to click images is, he says – The Amazon. Photograph: www.santiagoborja.com

Despite the incredible images he takes, he and the crew stay safe and protect others. The plane never flies near or above the storm, but long lenses are enough to do the work more than fine. As a result, the passengers are safe and sound, and they get to see some incredible images once they are back on the ground. Photograph: www.santiagoborja.com

Borja’s images have attracted interest from NASA, MIT and the University of Columbia. He has also won an award from National Geographic. Photograph: www.santiagoborja.com

He’s not the only pilot to snap photographs from 30,000 feet. Pilot photographer Christiaan van Heijst is also known for his striking cockpit captures. Photograph: www.santiagoborja.com

Despite a growing portfolio, there are plenty of weather conditions he's never photographed. One common misconception of Borja’s work is that the photographs are taken in turbulence. Borja explains it’s actually the opposite. “The fact that you can see the storm is because you are away from the storm and you are flying through clear air. So I would say that all of my images happen in a very quiet, very calm environment. There’s no turbulence, there is not much going on in the cabin." Photograph: www.santiagoborja.com

Borja’s images are the subject of a book, “#TheStormPilot,” published by teNeues, accompanied by illuminating insight from meteorologist Michaela Koschak. Photograph: www.santiagoborja.com
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