Gray Malin’s yearslong obsession with photographing beaches from a bird’s-eye view began with just a single photo.
He was in Las Vegas with friends in 2011, staying in a hotel room overlooking the pool. One day, he snapped a photo from his window, which he later made his desktop background. For months afterward, he looked at that photo every day, fascinated by the patterns, colors, and shapes the perspective offered. Later that year, he booked a helicopter to take him above Miami Beach in hopes of making more photos like the one that so captivated him. The experience ended up taking him in a different direction.
“As I began snapping away at the various pools, my attention quickly transfixed to the beach. From above, the people with their umbrellas and towels create patterns that are eye-catching and unique in that they are mere moments in time that can never be captured again,” he said via email.
After seeing the results of the shoot in Miami, Malin was hooked. He quickly followed up with trips to Australia, Rio de Janeiro, and Dubai, and over the past five years, he’s photographed beaches on six continents for his series, “A La Plage.” Now, photos from the series are collected in Beaches, published this month by Abrams.
For his aerial work, Malin photographs from a doorless helicopter flying at various heights, which are determined by legalities and weather conditions. Adjusting the aperture and shutter speed for each frame is a challenge, he said, with limited time and the wind lashing out at him whenever he leans out of the helicopter. But it’s worth the effort, Malin said, as beaches never cease to amaze and impress him, and the site from above is stunning no matter where his travels take him.
“Every beach has its own unique qualities, but overall I believe ‘the beach’ is universal, whether it be a rocky beach in Italy or the white sands St. Barths, the one thing that is constant is that the beach makes everyone feel relaxed and happy,” he said.