Nature photographers often compose close-up shots of animals or
plants, but not Bernhard Edmaier. He's above all
that—literally. A former civil engineer and geologist, Edmaier
specializes in aerial photography of natural landscapes. His latest
Earthsong (Phaidon, $59.95), is an oversized
treasure trove of pictures that showcase water, earth and vegetation
on six continents. The photographs are beautiful and powerful, their
colors sumptuous, their composition inspired.
Edmaier has arranged the work in four sections: "Aqua"
(rivers, hot springs, swamps, ice boulders, crater lakes, sandbanks,
coral reefs, mud pools); "Barren" (glaciers, limestone
mountains, volcanic cones); "Desert" (dunes, lava fields,
sandstone, canyons, salt lakes, dry riverbeds, badlands); and
"Green" (mangrove forests, marshes, algae, cloud forest,
grasslands, meadows, alluvial woodlands).
These natural tableaux, often photographed from a perspective that
renders the resulting image abstract, are testimonials to the
physical forces that shape our world. The pictures capture the
underlying order and inherent drama of a changing Earth with
contrast and detail that could be characterized as painterly or
sculptural, except that no human artist could manufacture such
organic subtlety. Watersheds laced with rivulets are one of
Edmaier's favorite subjects; they call to mind similar patterns
found in branching blood vessels and spreading tree limbs. Other
motifs include the chromatic extravagance of minerals, the sinuous
ripples of dunes and the naked beauty of weathered rock. Be
forewarned: You'll be painfully tempted to cut out pages and hang
them on the wall.
In the pair of pictures above, on the left splintered towers of ice
at the tip of the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina sag under their
own weight until they shatter and fall into the sea, and on the
right a shallow stream emanates from a marshy area on the south
coast of Iceland. The water is colored yellow by iron minerals
dissolved from a streambed of black volcanic rock. A sparse blanket
of grass holds together a sandbank separating the marsh from the ocean.