Stunning drone-snapped photos get high honors

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A caravan of camels casting long shadows across Cable Beach in Western Australia, the second-place winner in the Travel category(Credit: Todd Kennedy)

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It used to be that if you wanted to take a photo from up high, you either had to come up with clever ways to harness and hoist your camera, or you had to climb to knee-wobbling heights yourself. Thanks to the marriage of drones and cameras, it's now possible to get astounding high-flying shots with a few jiggles of a joystick. Drone photography site Dronestagram provides a forum for his particular form of photo making and it's just announced the eye-popping winners of its third International Drone Photography Contest. Gizmag has a look at the shots that soared into the highest spots.

More than 6,000 images were entered into the contest (which is about 1,000 more than last year's contest) and a judging panel consisting of individuals from National Geographic magazine and Dronestagram whittled them down into the top three champs in three categories: Nature/Wildlife, Sports/Adventure and Travel.

"For each photo reviewed, we always tried to keep in mind: What makes a great drone photo? said Guillaume Jarret, co-founder of Dronestagram, about the judging process. "A good drone photo is a picture that you immediately identify as a drone photo; it is taken at a low altitude, near the target of the picture, and you must see on the picture that it is impossible it has been taken with any other device than a drone."

The winning image from the "Travel" category seen here is certainly a stunner. It shows the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Umbria Italy.

"It was the day after Christmas and my girlfriend and I, after a lovely lunch at my parents' home which is in beautiful Umbria, decided to go for a walk in Assisi," says Dronestagram user Francesco Cattuto, who captured the image. "It was a foggy day. Nonetheless I decided to go up in the sky to see more from above, and after the drone came out from the clouds the view was spectacular and got me completely astonished and, without breathing, I had the time to take some shots before the sun went down and the clouds got higher hiding everything."

The winner in the Sport and Adventure category is a bit swoon inducing as it shows a climber high up in a crevice in Moab, a city in the US state of Utah near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

"I spent the day filming a couple friends of mine who were trying to put up a first ascent on some epic offwidth climbing routes in the desert," says maxseigal, the Dronestagram user who snapped the shot. "We hiked for miles looking for the perfect line, and then spotted this amazing crack that was about 400 ft (about 122 m) off the ground. Using the drone, I was able to capture images that would have never been possible before."

Dronestagram user mbernholdt captured this shot of the Kalbyris Forest in Denmark that's an exercise in color and contrast as a stand of pine trees is set off by a field of snow and bare deciduous trees.

"That was the very first dedicated photo trip I planned with my drone, after three months of owning it and only having the chance to fly it seven times due to the terrible weather we have in Denmark during the winter months," says the photographer. "I had been spending hours on Google maps, in satellite mode, trying to locate interesting patterns and places. I already had a pretty good idea about what I should expect when I arrived at the location. To my luck it had snowed all day so that the pine wood really stood out."

While these are the first place winners in the competition, you can check out the other top spots in our gallery or over on Dronestagram.

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