Aerial photography – The UNESCO World Heritage Site Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

In our pursuit to become the new standard in regional aviation in the Yucatan Peninsula, at Fly Cozumel, we’re always challenging ourselves, coming with new product ideas, or finding ways to inspire others with our commitment to do everything with passion and creativity. That’s what brought 6 years ago to create the First Annual Aerial Photography Contest in the Caribbean. As for today, it remains the most important aerial photography competition.

We live in a world where we perceive things depending on our perspective; Until we open our eyes and start looking at things from different angles, we really understand or appreciate them.

That’s what we love about flying, as it allows us to get a better understanding and unique visualization of our planet and its wonders. It’s almost the same effect that we obtain from professional photography; Those who master the art of photography help the common eyes find the beauty of a unique moment, a special place, or even any given situation. They capture the essence of it. Besides showing the beauty of the Riviera Maya from a unique point of view, the idea of the contest was to gather talented artists and allow them to see the world from a truly unique perspective, up in the air, and motivate them to get the most out of it. For this 6th edition, we invited two of the most talented photographers of the Riviera Maya: Sol Tamargo and Matt Addock, founders of Del Sol Photography, arguably the most prestigious wedding photography company in the Riviera Maya, and took them on a private flight to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, in search for the Last virgin island in the Caribbean, known as “Cayo Culebra.”

The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a paradise of pristine beauty, listed UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. It consists of diverse marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems. The unspoiled beaches, the mangroves, cenotes, and the lagoons are home to various marine and land species, such as dolphins, manatees, thousands of birds, reptiles, and mammals, all coexisting freely, making this unique area the perfect scenario for an aerial photography contest.

We talked to Sol and Matt about their thoughts on the contest, their experience onboard our brand new Cessna Station Air, and they even threw some photography tips! So if you’re into photography and nature, you’ll find their answers inspiring and full of knowledge; read on to see why.

 

[Q] Was this your first time flying over the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve?

Sol: Yes, this was my first visit to Sian Ka’an up in the clouds. The  best of it was “Seeing” Mother Nature from an elevated perspective; all the lines, textures, colors, and all the ecosystems!

Matt: Yes! I got a sneak peek at the area briefly back in the summer of 2020 when Leo took us on this adventure. However, this was the first time ever flying solely over the Reserve to get a more detailed look at the region and hearing about Cayo Culebra. For sure, a first from the air and from this altitude.

 

[Q] Of all the natural wonders available, what surprised you the most?

Matt: The slight contrast of “the Yin and Yang” relationship of the Biosphere’s lagoon-side versus the Caribbean ocean and its colors; The colors are epic and almost beyond comprehension. It felt like 100% another world.

 

[Q] What do you like most about aerial photography?

Sol: It’s quite a challenge taking photos while flying at great speed; You cannot ask the pilot: “stop here and let me focus”.

Matt: My greatest goal to make aerial photographs is to try to see all aspects of the landscapes. Using focal lenses to jump closer or even changing elevation by 500+- feet grants me the freedom to see all elements.

Aerial Photography Cancun

 

[Q] What photo did you not seem to get?

Sol: I think I got everything that I wanted.

Matt: That is a great question, probably my favorite. Although my eyes saw it all (I have mental photos), flying at several hundred miles per hour is limiting and actually elevates my adrenaline and endorphin distribution in my body. This elevated heart rate and attention to detail by having a heightened sense of observation tell you that you are constantly missing the thing you just saw. I missed 90% of what I wanted to photograph. There is so much, it’s impossible to pay it all justice and photograph every segment of this Biosphere.

 

[Q] Tell us about the gear you brought on board to get the best pics:

Sol: I used a Canon RP,  which is the new mirrorless model by Canon: it is fast, light and it gets flawless colors.

Matt: I found the next equipment optimal for the challenge: I used 3 camera bodies.

  1. Canon EOS R Mirrorless + 35mm RF lens
  2. Canon EOS R6 Mirrorless + 70-200L EF Lens with RF converter
  3. Sony A7-3 Mirrorless + 24-105 G Master lens.
  4. Google Pixel 4 cellphone
Sian Kaan Fly Cozumel

 

[Q] Is there any pro tip that you would like to share with us, the so-called “smartphone photographers”?

Sol: The only “hack” for any smartphone photographer is to pay special attention to composition. That’s it! And make sure that what is on frame is attractive to the eye.

Matt: A smartphone is an INCREDIBLE option for aerial photography and videography. My Tip/trick to hack is understanding your phone’s ability to do stabilization. A fast Google search + name of your phone will likely have many youtube videos with people explaining or comparing the phone’s stabilization. Understanding your equipment and couple with the aerial movement is vital. I made a video using aerials from my smartphone. Today’s smartphones feature beautiful + 1080 Full HD or even 4k, good depth of field, dynamic range, and stabilization features, so almost anyone can make great content. I choose to record in HD. The results are always fantastic. It’s all about practice; as Leo says: “every master was once a beginner.”

[Q] You and Sol are business associates; how was it competing with your partner?

Sol: Matt and I are partners, we do not compete, but we complement each other perfectly.

Matt: Sol has a wonderful eye. Whatever she sees or equipment she has, she will always arrange compositions with love. I’ve seen her photos, and I love every one of them. For me, it’s impossible to compete with her or declare a winner. There are so many beautiful photos.

Aerial Photography Tulum

 

[Q] Sol, what do admire of Matts work?

Sol: I admire Matt’s technical skills, he always knows what I don’t.

[Q] What do you admire most of Sol’s work?

Matt: She has a crystal clear vision and inspiration at the moment to do the right thing. And since the right thing is a subjective thing, an artist must have a fantastic instinct and capability to reach the vision they are inspired to have at the moment. Sol has this skill.

[Q] Do you think you can win the competition?

Sol: I don’t care about winning, not at all! Having the opportunity to be there was a privilege in itself. Let Matt win, he sure is more excited about it.

Matt: I think everyone who gets to see this place is already a winner, even if they get to first see it through these pictures. I hope to inspire others with these photos. If so, then everything wins. Sian Ka’an is gold and #bucketlist territory.

[Q] What about the Fly Cozumel experience? Did you enjoy it?

Sol: The Fly Cozumel plane is beautiful and perfect for this type of flight. Abraham (the pilot) and Leo are spectacular.

Matt: Abraham is a knowledgeable and skilled pilot. One of my friends on the other side of Mexico knew him and immediately saw our social media posts about Fly Cozumel. So the pilot seems famous… that’s awesome! And Leo (Waltman), well, he is a legend; A visionary, and a brilliant entrepreneur that has a way to go about making things happen. I also want to fly again and again! I Love aerial photography. I think next time, we may have to remove the doors and simply harness in.

Tulum Flights

 

[Q] Is flying to Sian Ka’an an experience you would recommend to other photographers?

Sol: This is a great experience to have perspective. Flying and seeing everything from the sky fills the spirit of gratitude. I enjoyed being able to admire the beauty of the landscape and the diversity.

Matt: I would recommend it to all people, photographers, or not. If you love photography, and all you have is a smartphone or any camera, an aerial tour is a must-do. Take stills, make a video, take mental pics! Aerial tours are all about the whole trip to get to a specific destination. There are many both natural or man-made wonders to see from above, such as archaeological sites, impressive resorts, and of course, the miracle of nature at its splendor; so the experience is worthy and as I said I would do it again and again!

 

[Q] Tell us something about the next photos.

Sian Kaan UNESCO Del Sol Photography

It is a shot of the natural canals between the mangroves and Cayo Culebra, the last virgin island of the Mexican Caribbean, North and Southern side.

Fly Cozumel Tulum

Many of my favorite shots of the tour include the context of the actual airplane.  To set a scale, it is difficult for the viewer to place the size and scope of what you are looking at without some perspective to set things in place. The window and wing of the aircraft give me this connection and this shot features the island in all its actual beauty.

Sian-Kaan--UNESCO-Del-Sol-Photograph-0010

This showcases my favorite from the lagoon.

The shear contrast of the Yin and Yang relationship of the Biosphere side of the lagoon vs Caribbean ocean and the colors.

 

Check out the photos that were chosen for the 6th Annual Aerial Photography Competition and vote your favorite by clicking here .

To see the full Sian Ka’an gallery shot by Sol Tamargo and Matt Addock, click here.

Feeling inspired and want to try our Flying over Sian Ka’an experience? We’re waiting for you, step onboard! Give us a call.

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On Board by Fly Cozumel is being issued monthly and covers brief information and news about the destinations of Fly Cozumel.

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