Up in the Air: Vincent Laforet Finds Common Ground From the Skies

By // May 29, 2015 // Posted in Gear & Equipment, Photography, Sponsored Post

Sponsored by G-Technology

Sometimes it takes a new perspective on life to see the ways in which we’re all connected. Photographer and filmmaker Vincent Laforet has been working at his craft for the past 25 years, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan post 9/11 and capturing the human spirit through acclaimed journalistic and commercial assignments. But it’s only recently that he’s had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of his: taking to the sky at night to capture the intricate manmade patterns resembling “brain synapses” and “computer chips” of some of the most dense metropolises in the world.


Los Angeles / © Vincent Laforet – AIR

His project, Laforet AIR—named as such because air is an element “that we all share,” he says—began in New York City. The aerial images spread like wildfire online. “I think these images struck a chord,” Laforet says, “because when you look up at buildings in a big city, you feel pretty insignificant, alone and somewhat powerless—but from the air you feel much more connected.”

G-Technology was the first company to see something special in his project, he says, jumping on board with his idea and helping him get it off the ground. Armed with what Laforet terms the “perfect storm of technology”—including some of the most “well-built, reliable, and fast” hard drives ever made—he was able to finally make his childhood dream a reality. He’s already photographed San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and he’s just completed a whirlwind trip through Europe, capturing nighttime aerial shots of London, Barcelona and Berlin, among others. Laforet couldn’t be more excited about the project, even though, he admits, he hasn’t slept much over the past year.

London / © Vincent Laforet – AIR

New York City / © Vincent Laforet – AIR

Making technically sound images from a helicopter at night was something that was not possible a couple of years ago, he says. But now with the improvement of digital camera sensors, and the ability to shoot clean and sharp images at a high ISO, he’s able to successfully shoot close to 10,000 high-resolution images of a city within a single day. Shooting from a helicopter is no easy task with all of the vibration and the added difficulty of shooting at night, he explains—let alone the sheer expense of air time—so it’s essential he uses the best and fastest technology to back up his work. With fast drives, photographers are less likely to skip out on making that second or third copy, and when so much is on the line, “you can’t afford to have mistakes,” he says. “You can’t afford to lose data.” Before he even leaves the helicopter, he explains, he already has three copies of his images: one on a G-DRIVE ev SSD (“the fastest and most stable hard drive you can get,” he says, “you can drop it and it’s fine—there’s no moving pieces”) mounted to a G-DOCK ev® with Thunderbolt; and two G-DRIVE® ev ATC with Thunderbolt copied to a G-RAID® with Thunderbolt 2, RAID 1.


Laforet photographing from a helicopter.


Laforet’s G-Technology storage in its case.

This “cutting-edge workflow” ensures that when he gets to his hotel room to do his first round of edits (selecting approximately 500 images from the shoot), he isn’t ever concerned with loss of data, because of the redundancy in his image storage. Waiting for data to copy over is one thing the photographer doesn’t have patience for, but he says the G-Technology drives make the process as painless as possible. Once he’s made his initial selection of shots in his hotel room, he then copies them to the Cloud and syncs them to two 64TB G-SPEED Studio Xls (one in Los Angeles and one in New York City) for safekeeping until he returns home. The process of protecting his data is allowing this high-stakes project to be possible, he says. “It’s pretty bulletproof at this point.”

This secure transfer of files is what also makes it possible for Laforet to translate his bird’s-eye view of cityscapes to the rest of the world. Lights not only ignite the landscape from above, but they serve to tie one culture to the next through distinct color patterns. Daylight-balanced LED lights, for example, (which, he says, are becoming more and more common) allow other surreal hues created by older sodium vapor and fluorescent lighting to be revealed. In Los Angeles, “you have one street that’s all green, followed by one street that’s all blue, and five streets that are all yellow,” he explains. “There are many more commonalities throughout the world and distances are much shorter than we assume. From up there, it’s clear there are a lot of stories to tell.”

Laforet plans to photograph as many iconic cities in as many countries as possible. His hope is to continue growing his audience through his website, laforetAIR.com, and also through social media meet-ups, lithographs and fine-art prints, a book of the images, and eventually, exhibitions.

“This is the most organic and pleasurable assignment I’ve ever done,” he says. “The act of photographing these cities and the joy that people seem to exude when they see their city is really special.”

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