Feast your eyes on some of the best pictures that pilot and photographer Christiaan van Heijst took in 2017
He flies a Boeing 747-8 cargo plane and produced jaw-dropping pictures from the cockpit last year
The incredible pictures give a glimpse of the view from the office pilots are treated to every day
We all know that the best view in a plane is from the cockpit – and these stunning pictures underscore that.
Feast your eyes on some of the best pictures that pilot and photographer Christiaan van Heijst took in 2017.
He flies a Boeing 747-8 cargo plane and produced jaw-dropping pictures from the cockpit last year, of thunderstorms, shooting stars, the Northern Lights, carpets of cloud and cities lit up at night.
The incredible pictures give a glimpse of the view from the office pilots are treated to every day.
Van Heijst, 34, from Haarlem in The Netherlands, said: ‘All photos together create a much bigger picture of what it’s like to fly high up in the empty skies, an isolated vastness where humans or animals naturally have no place to be.
‘One of the fascinating aspects of flying for me is being in this vast and nearly empty world that is completely alien for human beings and can only be seen and experienced when flying a modern aeroplane.
‘These are views and impressions humankind has only been able to behold for a hundred years, and before that it was only seen by birds.
‘There is a powerful and peaceful sense of solitude about it while sitting in a small cockpit, 38,000ft up in the sky with a vista that extends thousands of miles from horizon to horizon and not another human being close for hundreds of miles, except my colleague of course.
‘Views that are unique and never to be seen again, I just feel I have to capture and share them, before they are gone for good.’
Van Heijst has been mesmerised by flying since he was four years old and worked towards getting his pilot’s licence at 18.
He always kept his camera with him as he began flying, and over 14 years as a professional pilot he has honed his photography technique.
He said: ‘One of my favourite shots are the two where we see the Northern Lights or the thunderstorm with a small glimpse in the cockpit of the 747, as if we’re hanging outside the aeroplane.
‘By placing the camera like this I was hoping to capture the unnatural sensation of flying a very sophisticated aeroplane and complex cockpit in an endless natural environment where neither human or animal would be able to observe the world.
‘The aurora is still one of the most magical and inspiring phenomena I have seen so far, no matter how often it shows up during our night flights.
‘It adds to the almost super-natural sensation of seeing the world from that unique angle and perspective and makes us feel so small and insignificant in comparison to the dimensions of the weather and aurora.’
Van Heijst says that one of his favourite routes is to and from Anchorage.
He said: ‘In general, I always look forward to flights to and from Anchorage, Alaska, because of the Alaskan landscapes and the high chances of Northern Lights.
‘If you want to see the Northern Lights, you’ll have the highest chance if you go and fly up to Northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland or high up Norway. For spectacular mountains the Himalayas or Afghanistan are absolutely breathtaking when flying between Europe and south-east Asia. But nearly every part of the planet has its own beauty in its own way.’
His advice for budding photographers wanting to take the perfect shot from a plane window is to make sure that only light from outside hits the lens.
He said: ‘Try to keep the camera as still as possible, maybe even by securing it between the seat and the window. Next to that, it’s important to make sure no light from the cabin is falling onto the window and camera at all. Try covering up the window and/or camera with a blanket so only the light from outside is falling onto the lens.
‘Long shutter times are possible, but you have to keep the camera as steady as possible. The benefit we have as pilots is that the windows are much larger and I can simply place the camera in the corner of the window frame where I can easily keep it still.
‘Try using shuttertimes of a second, and turn that up to longer shuttertimes if you manage to keep the camera steady.’