Stuck in Botswana for several days after finishing a corporate assignment, photographer Zack Seckler decided that he couldn’t waste the opportunity to see the majesty of Africa.
Without any way to get around, Seckler hired a retired pilot to take him in an “ultralight,” a lightweight two-seater plane that can take off and land almost anywhere. The pilot took Seckler over the salt pans and countryside of Botswana, where he found himself exhilarated by the flight and the scenes below.
“Being above the ground at such low elevations, and having the ability to precisely manoeuvre, was like gliding over an enormous painting and being able to create brushstrokes at will,” said Seckler.
Seckler began photographing the incredible landscapes and the animals that wandered into them, creating a body of work that he calls “Aerial Abstracts.”
Seckler shared some photos with us here, but you can see the entire project at the Robin Rice Gallery in Manhattan until Feb. 23, or on his website where he shares all of his current work.
During his time in Botswana, Seckler took several flights over the salt pans. He says that when he saw this zebra herd, he told the pilot to follow them.
The plane usually flew at an elevation of between 50 and 500 feet, though occasionally they went lower. That's how he got this amazing shot of these frightened zebra.
The salt pans are essentially a salty desert that used to be the prehistoric Lake Makgadikgadi, which covered an area larger than Switzerland.
It is a harsh environment. Very few animals live here during the dry season, but, during the wet season, the pans become an important habitat for migrating animals like these African cattle.
A lone tswana cow wanders into milk-green water. The only plant life on the pans is a thin layer of blue-green algae, shown here, and a few baobab trees.
The 'ultralight' requires only 100 feet to land or to take off allowing Seckler and his pilot to cover lots of ground in little time.
Occasionally, Seckler could only see where the wildlife had been. While more exotic types of wildlife like lions and leopards can be found preying on zebras in the region, Seckler didn't see any. Large predators are rare in the wild.
There were often traces of human life, as seen here in the truck tracks. In recent years, tourists have begun visiting the pans via off-road vehicles and quad bikes, which has disturbed some wildlife.
The salt pans often become flood areas during the wet season from January to March. When this happens, flamingos arrive to nest and huge herds of zebra and wildebeest migrate through.
After visiting the desolate salt pans, Seckler decided to fly over the lush Okavango River delta, approximately 200 miles away to the northwest.
The delta is one of the largest inland deltas in the world. The area is saturated with plant life, because all water reaching the delta is either evaporated or consumed by plants.
For his visit to the delta, Seckler flew in a small four-seat Cessna. The pilot took the doors off the plane so that Seckler could photograph the ground below without having to stretch through a window.
But that also meant Seckler was essentially hanging out of the plane. When there was something he wanted to photograph, the pilot would circle with the open door facing down. His daring allowed him to capture some incredible photos.
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