My big break Ja­son Hawkes

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Aerial ci­tyscape ace Ja­son Hawkes re­veals all

Ja­son Hawkes has worked as an aerial pho­tog­ra­pher since 1991 and his clients in­clude Nike, Coca Cola, HSBC and Ford. He’s pub­lished more than 40 books and runs his own stock li­brary of over 100,000 im­ages. His work is also sold through Getty Im­ages. Visit www.ja­son­ for more. 8 may, 2008 • lon­don, Eng­land • Nikon D3

ja­son Hawkes be­gan his ca­reer as an as­sis­tant to a stu­dio pho­tog­ra­pher, but when a UK-based pho­tog­ra­phy mag­a­zine pub­lished a se­lec­tion of his im­ages taken from a mi­cro­light, he de­cided to spe­cialise in aerial pho­tog­ra­phy. That was more than 25 years ago. For a long time he was lim­ited to shoot­ing in broad day­light in or­der to get the crisply fo­cused, high-speed ex­po­sures he needed, first on film and then dig­i­tally. All that changed with the launch of the Nikon D3: “As soon as I saw its low­light ca­pa­bil­ity I or­dered one.”

When Ja­son fi­nally got his hands on his new Nikon he ar­ranged a twi­light flight over Lon­don and was im­me­di­ately im­pressed by the re­sults: “This shot was taken on my first or sec­ond flight with it. It was taken at 8.55pm at an al­ti­tude of 323 me­tres. Twi­light is the ideal time for shoot­ing at night.”

Ex­cited by the pos­si­bil­i­ties the D3 opened up for aerial night pho­tog­ra­phy, Ja­son sent a se­lec­tion of his shots to a photo blog, The Big Pic­ture, run by The

Bos­ton Globe news­pa­per. “They were do­ing news sto­ries in pic­tures, and they were the first news web­site to use pic­tures full size,” says Ja­son. “No-one else was do­ing that at the time. I sent these Lon­don im­ages to them and they went vi­ral. The guy at the web­site said they gen­er­ated the most com­ments of any pic­tures he’d seen.”

The break­through

The re­ac­tion to the night shots on The Big Pic­ture also led to a stream of emails: “I was get­ting one per minute for about a week,” says Ja­son. Those emails in­cluded re­quests for new work and pro­pos­als from pub­lish­ers that ul­ti­mately led to sev­eral best-sell­ing books, in­clud­ing Lon­don at Night and New York at

Night. “It’s funny be­cause pic­tures at night from a he­li­copter are ten a penny now.”

Ja­son now spends half of his fly­ing time at night. “Night is the best time. I love it. Fly­ing over Lon­don by day is cool, but night-time is so amaz­ing.”

To­day, much of his work is of project sites, to pro­vide the back­grounds for CGI com­pa­nies to cre­ate artis­tic im­pres­sions of new sky­scrapers. “There are around 260 sky­scrapers planned or in devel­op­ment all over Lon­don in the next five years,” he says. “This boom in sky­scrapers means I’ve flown very lit­tle out­side Lon­don in the past 12 months.” For Ja­son’s ca­reer, it seems, the sky re­ally is the limit. Keith Wil­son

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