Of all the planets known thus far in the universe’s murky infinity, Earth is the most colorful. EarthART: Colors of the Earth, a new book from Phaidon, puts the breathtaking hues of Earth on glorious display, in 221 pages of images by aerial photographer Bernard Edmaier. From the sulfurous golden yellow of California’s Death Valley to the glowing red lava of Hawaiian volcanoes to the sickly greens of microscopic algae, the colors in these photographs comprise a palette richer and more varied than any painter’s.
Divided into color-coded chapters (blue, green, yellow, orange, red, violet, brown, grey/black, and white), around 90% of the images in the book were taken from the air. “It’s my favorite perspective,” the German-born, globetrotting Edmaier tells Co.Design in an email. The rest of the photographs were taken as close-ups from the ground, and all were shot on Edmaier’s Hasselblad H5D camera, with 60 megapixels. While making EarthART, “I flew a wide variety of aircrafts, from small Cessnas to spacious Twin Otters, and from small helicopters, like a Hughes 500, to the huge Russian military helicopter MI8 in the Arctic and Denakil Desert.”
One of Edmaier’s most epic adventures in the making of EarthART came as he traveled to the Big Island of Hawaii to photograph the eruption of the Kilauea Volcano. He wanted to capture active lava tubes and skylights–holes in the roofs of gray, crusted-over lava tunnels that peek into glowing red molten lava below. A few days before he arrived on the Big Island, a huge coastal bench had collapsed on the slopes of Kilauea, which meant there was a good chance of getting a shot of a freshly broken up lava tube.
“I chartered a helicopter to get as close as possible to the site of the bench collapse,” Edmaier says. “As we arrived at the coast, the location was densely covered with vapor and smoke due to the violent reactions of hot lava with sea water. There was no way to see anything.” But his pilot, Zac, drawing on his experiences as a pilot in the Vietnam War, started hovering sideways, closer and closer to the site of the collapse, despite strong turbulence. “Suddenly, the wind of the rotor blades blew away all the steam,” Edmaier says. “And what a surprise! A perfect circular lava tube appeared and plenty of red glowing lava was pouring out of it into the sea. I got my once-in-a-lifetime shot.” The stunning image from Kilauea shows an eye-like skylight of red molten lava peeking out from under the crust of an older lava stream, as gray and mottled as elephant skin.
Among his favorite landscapes, Edmaier remembers “an extremely colorful mountain range in the north of Chile close to the Bolivian border: an orgy of all shades of orange.” Its otherworldly colors were created by a chemical alteration of volcanic rocks through geothermal processes. “Flying along Greenland’s incredible east coast is just overwhelming,” Edmaier says. “Colorful, high mountains with weird geological formations, deep fjords, wide crevassed glaciers, icebergs in all different blues, huge floes of sea ice with deep blue meltwater ponds.”
EarthART: Colors of the Earth is available from Phaidon for $59.95 here.