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'Riverbeds IV', Iceland | © Jin-Woo Prensena
'Riverbeds IV', Iceland | © Jin-Woo Prensena

This Travel Photographer Goes to Extreme Lengths to Capture the Perfect Photo

Picture of Alex Jordan
Travel Editor
Updated: 3 April 2017

It was the Chinese philosopher and poet Wang Zhihuan who said: “You can enjoy a grander sight, by climbing to a greater height.” Photographer Jin-Woo Prensena knows this better than most. Often taking to the skies in a helicopter in search of the perfect shot, Prensena is famous for his daredevil antics while airborne.

Hanging sideways out of the chopper, connected to safety by a single tether, Prensena captures images of remote landscapes and urban sprawls. “Straightforward and uplifting”, in the artist’s own words, despite the challenges Prensena often faces behind the camera, the final images are “unobtrusive and peaceful”, taken from his vantage point hundreds of meters up in the sky.

In his first London exhibition Elements, Prensena will show 29 of his works-to-date, including bird’s eye views over Icelandic riverbeds, snow-coated forests in Whistler and sun-bathed beaches in the photographer’s hometown of Los Angeles.

“I have always loved to travel, and for my type of photography it is an essential element,” Prensena tells Culture Trip. “But as a photographer my brain thinks mostly in images and the biggest priority for me becomes working in the environment I am in. I can’t help but to obsess over my surroundings, and don’t necessarily enjoy the moment so much without a camera.”

Prensena is looking forward to bringing his work to London for the first time. “I wanted to give the viewer the unique opportunity to enjoy some of my beautiful photography shot travelling all around the world, in literally all elements,” he says. “My images come from the open sea, far out off the coast of Mexico, aerials shot flying over the highlands of Iceland, the rainforests of Kauai, the frozen backcountry of Whistler, the jungle of Tulum and the hot deserts of Southern California.”

'The Green Paradise', Kauai | © Jin-Woo Prensena

‘The Green Paradise’, Kauai, Hawaiian Islands | © Jin-Woo Prensena

“When I travel outside of my home base Los Angeles, the process of shooting from up in the air becomes challenging. For example, for my aerial images from Kauai I had to travel with double the amount of equipment I would normally pack. Extra supplies are limited on the island, and so is my window to shoot.

“In a well-known place like Hawaii, images must also be carefully thought out to truly capture something unique. Aerial images, specifically, have to be taken in the right angles, otherwise they lose the magic of the moment.

“My three featured images Paradise Fall, Blue and The Green Paradise from Kauai reflect this. When I get the shot right, the impression is incomparable. My Phase One IQ3 100MP medium format camera allows me to print oversize in ultra high resolution, vibrant colors and a phenomenal feel of depth. I wouldn’t shoot with anything else.”

'Frost', Whistler, Canada | © Jin-Woo Prensena

‘Frost’, Whistler, Canada | © Jin-Woo Prensena

“My image Frost was one of the more challenging shots to capture. I took this image in the winter of 2016 flying over the beautiful backcountry of Whistler, Canada, but had to postpone the heli shoot half a dozen of times due to bad weather.

“I was waiting in limbo, eager to get up in the air, but could not due to the higher powers. Finally, I got the green light, literally hours before my scheduled flight back home to LA. I was hunting for the right aerial shot of pure nature showing nothing else than snow covered trees. But even with no shortage of trees, finding the right image was quite the task.

“The freezing temperatures slowed the mechanics of my camera, so it became even more challenging to fire the right shot off and for it to be in true focus. Fortunately, it all worked, out I am so happy with the outcome.”


'Riverbeds II', Iceland | © Jin-Woo Prensena

‘Riverbeds II’, Iceland | © Jin-Woo Prensena

'Fournineteen - Santa Monica', USA | © Jin-Woo Prensena

‘Fournineteen’, Santa Monica, USA | © Jin-Woo Prensena

'Concrete Playground', Venice Beach | © Jin-Woo Prensena

‘Concrete Playground’, Venice Beach, USA | © Jin-Woo Prensena

ELEMENTS will be at the Dorchester Collection’s contemporary arts hotel 45 Park Lane, London, W1K 1PN from April 4th – June 5th, 2017.

Interested in travel photography? Then you might also like to find out about 10 Instagram Travellers you need to follow and how an agoraphobic photographer is using Google Street View to her advantage.