In 2001, during a flight in the tiny Cessna he’d chartered, photographer David Maisel felt his fingers grow so numb from the cold that he began to lose dexterity operating his medium-format camera. When Maisel told the pilot, the man laughed. It’s not the cold, the pilot explained, it’s your brain.
The pilot had soared up to 10,000 feet, circling and banking the plane for hours at a time, and Maisel’s brain was indeed starved of oxygen. Loss of dexterity, extreme cold and heat, and cramped conditions are all challenges the photographer must endure as he uses altitude to compose his stunning images.
“Shooting from the air gives me a perspective that's not usual. It also allows for gathering information that you ordinarily wouldn't be able to see,” Maisel said. “It also allows for a graphic intensity to the images. When you're removing the sky and most sense of scale from the frame, the images become abstract.”
The results from that day’s flight, titled The Lake Project, are a series of surreal and otherworldly pictures of salt flats that are all that remain of what was once California’s biggest natural lake.