(CNN) — Purple lightning, psychedelic sunsets, glowing clouds and swirling Northern Lights — in relation to crazily lovely pure phenomena, airplane pilots have a entrance row seat.

For the remainder of us wanting a glimpse of what life is like within the cockpit 30,000 ft above the planet, there are the unimaginable images taken by Dutch pilot Christiaan van Heijst.

Van Heijst has been documenting the scenes exterior his cockpit window since changing into a pilot on the age of 20.

“It is like a peaceable solitude simply flying excessive up within the sky away from the remainder of the world and the planet,” he tells CNN Journey.

Capturing the second


van Heijst takes images from the cockpit window, together with this shot of Afghanistan.

Courtesy Christiaan van Heijst

Decided to grow to be a pilot since childhood, he acquired his first job 14 years in the past, flying in Africa and Afghanistan.

The pilot introduced his digital camera alongside to doc the experiences. “I wanted to seize them as a result of I noticed that if I do not take footage of it, if I do not seize it, it will likely be gone perpetually,” he says.

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van Heijst has been flying planes for 14 years.

Courtesy Christiaan van Heijst

Van Heijst shortly realized that photographing from the airplane was simply as thrilling as photographing on the bottom.

“It began with documenting these adventures again in Africa and Afghanistan, however I broadened my images to documenting the entire feeling, the overall feeling of being excessive up within the air — and being in an atmosphere the place solely a only a few persons are in a position to benefit from the views,” van Heijst explains.

The spectacle of cockpit panoramas proved to be much more exhilarating than the view from a passenger window.

As van Heijst says: “The entire expertise is way more fascinating if in case you have these huge home windows round you and also you’re bodily controlling the airplane.”

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Pure phenomena

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The Northern Lights stay essentially the most unimaginable sight van Heijst has captured. Right here, they’re photographed over Canada.

Courtesy Christiaan van Heijst

Now a Senior First Officer on a Boeing 747-Eight freighter, van Heijst has photographed the solar rising and setting, moonlight illuminating rivers, dramatic desert landscapes, hanging cloud formations and a few of the world’s most spectacular pure shows.

He says the Northern Lights stand out as essentially the most memorable.

“The Aurora, that is simply all the time lovely irrespective of how typically I see it, it is simply all the time implausible,” he says, none extra so than the primary time he witnessed it north of Alaska.

“We have been flying, I feel, for a minimum of eight hours below an enormous dome of Northern Lights,” he recollects. “There was simply a number of Arctic ice and all of the Northern Lights have been being mirrored within the ice under. And this was simply unbelievable.”

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St Elmo’s Fireplace is an unimaginable pure phenomenon, captured by van Heijst right here.

Courtesy Christiaan van Heijst

Whereas the Aurora may be seen the world over, watching it from the cockpit seems like a personal present, he says.

“We have been spectators of an enormous non-public present of Northern Lights and that is one thing that actually makes me really feel very privileged,” van Heijst provides. “And yeah, I’ve to seize that with my digital camera.”

The photographer additionally shot a tremendous picture of St Elmo’s Fireplace — one other unimaginable pure phenomenon that happens throughout electrically-charged storms.

“The pores and skin of the airplane begins to develop purple or pink and you’ll really see it typically across the home windows,” he says. “And since we’re all the time flying within the clouds when one thing like this occurs, you see simply the entire space across the airplane is popping purple, and typically you simply see the glow across the window edges. And that is actually particular, that is actually lovely.”

The solitude of flying

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A thunderstorm captured from the cockpit.

Courtesy Christiaan van Heijst

In practically a decade and half of flying, he is been perfecting his photographic methods on the go.

“To start with, flying the airplane has high precedence,” explains van Heijst. “So I solely take footage once I can.”

His hanging photos are normally lengthy publicity pictures. The pilot props his digital camera up on the glare defend, utilizing a large angle lens to seize as a lot of the scene as potential.

“I am nonetheless studying and evolving,” he says. “As a result of there isn’t a room within the cockpit for tripods, I do not use any suction cups, so I simply maintain the digital camera there, press it into the nook and simply hope for the most effective.”

He additionally has to battle the unpredictability of turbulence.


van Heijst needs his images to precise the sensation of solitude. Pictured right here: the moon and clouds.

Courtesy Christiaan van Heijst

Usually the breathtaking views converse for themselves, however often van Heijst makes use of the inside of the cabin to enrich the spectacle of the sky exterior.

Capturing this distinction on movie is a satisfying — and revealing — expertise for the pilot.

“These footage the place you see partially the cockpit and partially the surface world, I feel this is among the few methods I can categorical in the sensation of solitude,” he says.

Unknowable world

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van Heijst usually would not embrace the cockpit in his shot, however typically he enjoys the distinction with the surface world.

Courtesy Christiaan van Heijst

“Since 9/11, passengers should not allowed to return into the cockpit anymore,” explains van Heijst. “So we as pilots we discover it actually tough to convey the fantastic thing about flying, particularly with an business that has its large downsides, particularly on household life and so on.”

The pilot’s colleagues are grateful he can seize their each day expertise: “They use these footage to inform their households what it’s like.”

Regardless of his co-pilots being so supportive, van Heijst typically avoids getting them within the shot.

“Despite the fact that most of the pilots, they really do not thoughts being within the images, I attempt to reduce the human parts within the cockpit footage as a result of typically it is simply distracting from the precise view,” he says.

Nevertheless, in some images, van Heijst chooses to seize a colleague at work — underlying the distinction between “a really technical atmosphere, the cockpit, and the world exterior.”

Social media takeover

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van Heijst took this of the runway at dawn in Curitiba in Brazil.

Courtesy Christiaan van Heijst

As he continues to share his images on his Instagram account and web site, van Heijst’s work is changing into more and more in style.

“It is partially people who find themselves pilots themselves, or who love the views we’ve got as pilots,” he says.

“However increasingly more it is also individuals who simply have a love for aviation, and even individuals who say ‘I do not even like airplanes, I do not even like aviation on the whole.'”

If the nice suggestions continues, van Heijst hopes he could make images a second profession — though he stays dedicated to flying.

“I am now organising principally my enterprise, as a result of I hope that my images will grow to be a second job or second profession, as a result of I notice that there is a lot potential and I notice that so many individuals, all around the world, are simply fascinated by these views,” he explains.

Persistence and willpower

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van Heijst hopes his twin profession will encourage others to take up a profession in aviation or images. Pictured right here: Mount Redoubt in Alaska.

Courtesy Christiaan van Heijst

For followers who would possibly need to comply with in his footsteps, both as a pilot or photographer, van Heijst has a common message:

“If you wish to obtain something in life you all the time should work onerous, it is tremendous cliché but it surely’s true,” he says.

As for images, van Heijst says you will need to keep in mind it is a studying course of — and your photos will enhance as you observe and develop your model.

“It takes a protracted breath, a number of effort, and willingness to fail fairly often […] you’ll encounter conditions the place it is irritating you could not seize it, however persistence, that is the most effective phrase to explain it.”