Up in the air: Cities of the world through the lens of Ewout Pahud de Mortanges

The Netherlands based photographer inspires fresh perspective with his stunning aerial shots of architectural and human landscapes around the world.

by Jincy Iype Published on : Jan 04, 2020

 I wandered everywhere, through cities and countries wide. And everywhere I went, the world was on my side. - Roman Payne, Rooftop Soliloquy.  

For 28-year-old Ewout Pahud de Mortanges, travel has been synonymous with learning - about oneself, about cultures, and about people. He has been discovering cities and freezing them in time with his remarkable photographs of architectural and human landscape. The majority of works by the Netherlands based freelance photographer are aerial drone shots, revealing and cementing a city’s essence and fabric in ways that even locals may fail to notice. Carrying a childlike curiosity and wandering through new and old places alike, he has captured various locations, be it his own picturesque hometown Bloemendaal in The Netherlands, the winding highways of Singapore, or the blue city of Jodhpur, in Rajasthan, India.

Netherlands based freelance photographer Ewout Pahud de Mortanges | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
Netherlands based freelance photographer Ewout Pahud de Mortanges Image Credit: Ewout Pahud

Mortanges ventured into photography at the age of 18, when he bought his first DSLR camera for Christmas, and has continued to perfect his art over the last decade. He started shooting near his hometown, enthused by its quaint aesthetic. Interestingly, his last name is Mortanges, which means ‘mountain’ – a place people often love to travel to.

Mortanges is greatly inspired by English photographer Jimmy Nelson, acclaimed photojournalist Steve McCurry, fine-art travel photographer Peter Stewart and landscape photographer Daniel Kordan, all of whom have played a major role in shaping his style of photography. He is also humble to add that all photographers inspire him in some way or the other, because it is interesting to delve into someone else’s perspective.

An aerial shot of a tennis court in Bloemendaal, The Netherlands, in autumn | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
An aerial shot of a tennis court in Bloemendaal, The Netherlands, in autumn Image Credit: Ewout Pahud
The historic windmills of Zaanse Schans in The Netherlands on a misty morning | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
The historic windmills of Zaanse Schans in The Netherlands on a misty morning Image Credit: Ewout Pahud
The picturesque Dutch village, Zaanse Schans | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
The picturesque Dutch village, Zaanse Schans Image Credit: Ewout Pahud
A delightful row of rainbow coloured houses in Houten, The Netherlands | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
A delightful row of rainbow coloured houses in Houten, The Netherlands Image Credit: Ewout Pahud

To view his pictures is like discovering and marvelling at something that has been in front of you all along, but something you failed to notice as special. For Mortanges, perspective is key – so much that it is his aim to build a different outlook toward cities through his images. “For example, when you are walking in a city like Barcelona, you have no idea how breathtaking and visually strong its architecture is… not in its entirety. Oh, but when you view it from the air! You realise how stunning a city or a place is when you view it from the air. This is why I enjoy doing what I do.”

Boats in a sea of green - summer time in Menton, southern France | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
Boats in a sea of green - summer time in Menton, southern France Image Credit: Ewout Pahud
Asia by night – Singapore’s illuminated cityscape | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
Asia by night – Singapore’s illuminated cityscape Image Credit: Ewout Pahud
Looped grays in a sea of green – aerial shot of highways in Singapore | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
Looped grays in a sea of green – aerial shot of highways in Singapore Image Credit: Ewout Pahud
All lines lead to La Sagrada Famila - Barcelona, Spain | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
All lines lead to La Sagrada Famila - Barcelona, Spain Image Credit: Ewout Pahud

His creative method involves travelling for almost three months annually to capture images, and then processing them using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom and Luminar 4. On how he decides specific locations, “The key to finding locations is very simple. Research. Hours and hours of research. Once an area of interest has been found, I use Google Maps to store these locations in the form of flags for future exploration. It should be said at this point, one could use Google Maps in the same way that we use Google Earth to search for locations.”

A photograph of the vitality of Hong Kong’s night market | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
A photograph of the vitality of Hong Kong’s night market Image Credit: Ewout Pahud
Lights that come alive at night in Hong Kong | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
Lights that come alive at night in Hong Kong Image Credit: Ewout Pahud

Mortanges reveals to us that he was mildly nervous and positively excited the first time he came to India in 2013, mostly because it was his first solo trip, and India was unlike any other country he had been to. Little did he know, he would go on to make six more trips, travelling through the myriad lanes of Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. He was particularly drawn to the pink city of Jaipur, where he lived for three months, and the holy city of Varanasi, which he visited thrice.

Concrete jungle against Mount Fuji in Japan | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
Concrete jungle against Mount Fuji in Japan Image Credit: Ewout Pahud
Drone shot of a beach in La Barceloneta, Spain | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
Drone shot of a beach in La Barceloneta, Spain Image Credit: Ewout Pahud
A holy man and an Indian summer - Jaipur, Rajasthan | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
A holy man and an Indian summer - Jaipur, Rajasthan Image Credit: Ewout Pahud
The blue city – Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
The blue city – Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India Image Credit: Ewout Pahud

We ask him what is in store this year, and how he plans to STIR up 2020. “I currently have a concussion and so my foremost goal is to get better and stay healthy!” he exclaims, giving us a detailed lowdown:

See: I plan to travel and discover more of Europe, especially the big cities, and capture these in aerial photographs.

Think: I want to research more stunning locations for aerial photography, especially places that have not been photographed extensively yet. That would be incredible.

Inspire: When someone looks at my pictures, I want to inspire them to think differently – how playing with perspectives and angles can breathe life into an otherwise generic element. Look at things differently, approach them differently, even if it seems simple at first.

Reflect: I want to reflect more on my learning, and practise the creative process of editing.

Pastel play - Picasso Houses of De Côte d’Azur, Menton, France | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
Pastel play - Picasso Houses of De Côte d’Azur, Menton, France Image Credit: Ewout Pahud
Technicolour Tokyo - a facade of a building in Japan | Ewout Pahud| STIRworld
Technicolour Tokyo - a facade of a building in Japan Image Credit: Ewout Pahud

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