Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.

Arts and Entertainment

These Aerial Photos Of Los Angeles Are The Best We've Seen

Before you
Dear reader, we're asking you to help us keep local news available for all. Your tax-deductible financial support keeps our stories free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

When you get away from all the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and take a good look at the city up from high above, it's quite breathtaking and beautiful. A Los Angeles-based photographer has snapped gorgeous black-and-white aerial pictures for the past two years while soaring over the city in a helicopter, and he's hoping to turn those photos into a book.

The seed for Mike Kelley's photography project was first planted in his head when he was hired to shoot aerial photography for a commercial real estate developer, Kelley tells LAist. When the 28-year-old photographer hopped in the helicopter with a pilot, he was absolutely captivated with how his cityscape snapshots turned out, and decided to keep shooting these type of photos.

During the span of two years, Kelley took over 35 helicopter rides. He flew over everywhere in the city, including Hollywood, Pasadena, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach and Griffith Park. The rides didn't come cheap either. He would spend $550 per hour, something he says was pretty painful to cut the check for at times. However, Kelly says he made it a priority in his life to do this.

"Some people like to party, some people like to go out for fancy dinners, some people like racing cars or [insert whatever hobby here]!" Kelley says. "I just decided I wanted to spend it all on helicopter flights. Whether this was a good decision remains to be seen."

Support for LAist comes from

It's not easy to organize the helicopter rides either. Kelley had to organize his flights with local air traffic control, and also had to deal with fickle weather conditions. It was all worth it though, because he'd get the chance to shoot over some of his favorite places, like LAX.

"Something about hovering 500 feet above a 747 rolling underneath you is just mind-blowing," Kelley says. "There's so much going on for that shot to happen...between the obvious technologies between the two aircraft, the communication and cooperation between air traffic control and pilot, the intimate knowledge of air traffic control procedures and boundaries, plus of course the absolute iconic elements of LAX below you. We all know that it can be an absolute grind to get in and out of there on the ground, but from above it's just like an incredible orchestra of moving pieces below. So fascinating to watch it all unfold while hovering above. It never, ever got old."

Kelley recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the printing of his book of aerial photos, titled LA Airspace. He has less than a month to go and has already raised over $18,000 of his $35,000 goal.

As for what interested Kelley the most about shooting Los Angeles from up above? "I've photographed many cities from above—and L.A. is probably the most interesting in terms of the varieties of landscapes, architecture, infrastructure, and lifestyles."

Photos: Massive Line Of Cargo Ships Waiting Offshore Due To Labor Dispute
Really Neat Photo Shows A Day's Worth Of Take-Offs At LAX