Stunning aerial photos show the collision of man-made lakes, rivers, and mines with actual nature

Alexander HeilnerIntrepid Potash Mine, near Mohab, Utah

Aerial and landscape photographer Alexander Heilner has always been interested in how the artificial and the natural coexist.

For the past 25 years he’s explored this concept on large and small scales.

“I’m really interested in the idea that all the things we build are actually mark-making across the earth, and it’s artistic in some way, but not initially,” he told Business Insider.

His mission to document railroads, housing developments, and potash mines that have altered the landscape has made for some georgous and thought-provoking work.

Keep scrolling for the photos, the stories, and more about the man behind the lens.

Heilner discovered mesmerising potash mines in Utah while on a cross-country commercial flight. They immediately caught his eye and he knew he had to come back to photograph them.

Alexander Heilner
Intrepid Potash Mine near Mohab, Utah

Potash is a high potassium compound that's a major ingredient in fertilisers used by farmers across North America. 'If you ate any vegetables today, and they were grown in America, there's a decent chance that potash from this mine helped grow it,' says Heilner.

Alexander Heilner
Intrepid Potash Mine near Mohab, Utah

Potash is produced in desert regions where inland seas or lakes have dried out. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind potassium salt deposits. Over time, sediment buries these deposits and they become potash ore, which is soluble. These mines pump the potash all the way to the surface of the water held in these 'evaporation pools.'

Alexander Heilner
Intrepid Potash Mine near Mohab, Utah

But the colours of the water aren't produced naturally by the potash. Dyes are used to help speed up the crystallization process that's necessary for the potash to be used in fertiliser. About 60% of US potash production happens at this mine near Mohab, Utah.

Alexander Heilner
Intrepid Potash Mine near Mohab, Utah

Another formation that Heilner found intriguing is the world's largest artificial archipelago, Palm Jumeirah, located off the coast of Dubai.

Alexander Heilner
Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

Construction began on these residences in 2001. By 2006, the homes of Palm Jumeirah were ready to be occupied. The three separate archipelagos that were built have added 320 miles to the coast of Dubai.

Alexander Heilner
Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

Another site of interest to Heilner was Cape Coral, Florida. Developed in 1957, the land was scouted and purchased by two brothers from Baltimore, Leonard and Jack Rosen.

Alexander Heilner
Cape Coral, Florida

Prior to the 2008 recession, Cape Coral was one of the fastest growing developments in America.

Alexander Heilner
Cape Coral, Florida

When Heilner photographed Cape Coral in 2009, construction on many of the new housing developments in the area had halted.

Alexander Heilner
Cape Coral, Florida

The photographs paint a picture of a fast and slow economy. 'When you look at the pictures, you'll see that some show very densely built areas, and those are the older homes, built in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, and the images that show a lot of open spaces developed in the '90s and '00s and were stalled -- probably permanently,' says Heilner.

Alexander Heilner
Cape Coral, Florida

In 2010, Heilner made it his mission to visually pinpoint and photograph 'the end of the Mississippi River.'

Alexander Heilner
Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana

He quickly discovered that you simply can't do that, 'because a flood delta by definition just dissipates out into the ocean into nothing.' What his photos did uncover is the location of an oil company's helicopter operations, as well as other facilities. 'You've got this huge lay area of swamp with a couple oil facilities in the middle of it,' he says.

Alexander Heilner
Mississippi River Delta, Louisiana

Venice, Louisiana (pictured below), is one of the last places you can drive to in the Delta.

Alexander Heilner
Venice, Louisiana

Heilner says he's often asked about the environmental stance of his photos. His response: 'If all information is on the table, people make good decisions. Most of the bad decisions that we make are engineered by interests who alter our understanding -- that make things seem less clear.'

Alexander Heilner
Great Salt Lake, Utah

For Heilner, these images are adding information to the conversation, and into the public's collective consciousness. 'I'm much more interested in the viewers coming to their own conclusions organically rather than me just saying them outright.'

Alexander Heilner
Bingham Canyon Mine, Utah

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