Central Park from 10,000 feet

Central Park from 10,000 Feet

Four Seasons...

As as tribute to this iconic New York City landmark, comes this colorful quadriptych. Each of those photograph have been taken at the height of each season, and display the variety of colors and changes that the park goes throughout the year.

Precision and care has been taken to position the airplane above the southern part of the park at an exact timing, so that the shadow of the buildings lines up perfectly with the surrounding avenues.

Available as separate seasons, or complete set, framed separately, those large format prints are highly detailed and beautifully printed on a fine art archival paper.


Click on above gallery to discover each season

Exhibited Works

Being Above

Being Above

Higher than You...

Obsessed with trying to capture the uncanny, this shooting style is quire challenging, and safe when performed correctly. Being safely separated by a few thousand feet, the difficulty is to synchronize my flight direction with the aircraft flying below. It takes a lot of feel and mental calculation, as there are several seconds in which the airliner is not visible under my craft. The feel of airspeed, prevailing winds and knowledge of the landscape below is key to interesting capture.

Presented in an unique ‘look down’ setting, those images – in sizes 40x60in are laid down on a pedestal so that the viewer can also put himself in the unusual attitude and therefore participate with the experience at height.

Alternatively, each of the images is available for purchase in a framed format for traditional exposition.


NY / Sky Hi

Good Morning New York...

New York City. My long-term inspiration. The theme of countless movies, songs, and backgrounds for incredible stories, both nonfictional and fictional. Take a flight with me over this wonderful place I’ve called home for over 20 years.

It’s the middle of August and Manhattan works at half pace. The unbearable heat of the concrete has not yet crept in and the air is still fresh. The day is anew.

The Staten Island Ferry arrives at its terminal in Battery Park. The City That Never Sleeps awakes, as workers slowly start filling the streets, getting on with their daily routine.

Looking north on the way uptown, the Freedom Tower stand tall and proud. The symbol of The Changed America it fails to deliver on the power that Twin Towers symbolized. As the world changes, so does this nation. Calling it “Freedom” was a sad cry, almost a trick for the past 9/11 times, in which we experience it less and less as the time passes.

Continuing north on the Hudson we pass by Midtown Manhattan. A residential neighborhood, conveniently located close to all of Midtown’s office buildings seems tranquil in its early morning haze. The feeling of stopped time is, however, only imaginary. Within an hour the streets will fill with pedestrians and automobile traffic, the waterside will host joggers and bikers partaking in their morning routine. A day, just like any other. Hard to miss is the “Big Tetrahedron” building to the left. Designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, it presents a unique structure on the island’s skyline.

Another “new” New York Icon, the IAC headquarters designed by Frank Gehry, stands in the shadow of the Empire State Building. Mr. Gehry must have taken this to heart, as he designed the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere (at the time), 8 Spruce Street. This achievement was unfortunately quite short-lived as it was overtaken by one of the boring pencil-like structures in Midtown Manhattan.

In order to continue this story, we need to fast-forward a few years to this wintry, cold New York morning. 432 Park Avenue – that unattractive tall, pencil-like building that rises above the skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan. Soon to be home to many, yet so few, as the prices started at $9 million and went all the way up to $95,000,000. Despite this, in 2018 this building was NYC’s best selling real estate ever! To add spice to the story, it’s top glory is bound to be short-lived, as coming to the market soon is Central Park Tower which will also top out at almost 200 feet higher when finished in 2020. Will 432’s apartments soon become ‘affordable’? I seriously doubt so.

But, there’s hope! Turns out that you do not have to be a trillionaire in order to enjoy the nice views. All you need is Rusty. This Million Dollar View was presented to me as I was cleared to cross over Manhattan on my way to the East River. The sweet glory of big bucks tickled me as I made this passage. To wake up to such a vista? Beyond fabulous. To experience it yourself anytime you wish from a small plane? Not too shabby, right?

Altitude is like a drug – it is addictive, it gets you high, and way too much of it will…well, never mind. Most importantly, altitude is good, as it’s the slow and low that is usually problematic for all things flying. Here, I climbed close to 10,000 feet in order to have a look at the island in all its beauty. Fresh snow covers the city, and none of the annoyances and complaints that the city folk constantly bring up during wintertime is apparent from this height. It is damn cold – about 0°F (-20°C) – and with the open windows and wind blowing past, the flight is challenging. Taken by the beauty of the scene, I quickly ignore the discomfort, safely bundled in my warmest jacket, scarf, and good gloves.

Have you seen this already? If you have been browsing my site, chances are that you did. This photo cost me frostbites on my fingers but it also won me a prestigious award a few years back. A result of meticulous planning and near-perfect execution, plus a bit of luck. I was (which is almost always the case) both the pilot and the photographer at the time. Key here is the line of shadows, and because the time was early March, their length also offers perfect proportion. This photograph has grown into a 4-season series, which I am inviting you to explore here.

Let’s stay in the park but fast forward to this beautiful spring day. It’s the end of April, the trees are blooming in its full glory and locals and tourists alike stream to the park to enjoy Sunday afternoon in Manhattan’s largest park – New York’s landmark icon.

Two years later, it’s 2020 – the year that invented the term ‘social distancing’. Large circles in Brooklyn’s Domino Park guide the sunbathers in maintaining safe spacing due to the COVID-19 pandemic that the city is battling.

Forget COVID for a moment, and let’s go back to the good ol’ days and follow the crowds as they flock south during the warm days of August. It’s the last day of ‘official’ summer and New Yorkers escape the urban frying pan to visit the city beaches. Those are the last days with full blown sun soon to be dearly missed, as September is just around the corner. Coney Island has always been THE destination, still in the shine of its 50s glory, it is still a place to be during summer. Yes, Rockaways is cool, Hamptons may be cooler, but what sets Coney apart from their hipper siblings is the culture. And there’s plenty of it; I look back with joy to the times of photographing their burlesque shows, freak festivals, strongman competitions, concerts and shows during my vivid nightlife Time Out NY collaboration period.

What makes Coney unique, in addition to its rich culture, is its amazing over 100-year old Luna Park. The Cyclone, Parachute Jump, Nathan’s Hot Dogs – those have all become landmark names made famous the entire world over. Usually busy during hot summer days, pictured here they lie dormant, waiting patiently for the influx of visitors and entertainers alike.

Not that far away to the west, Staten Island’s Ferry Terminal is the host to this community-made Black Lives Matter mural. As a bold statement to the changing times, and to the city emerging from the COVID-19 crisis with so much uncertainty ahead.

As protests against inequality and police brutality continued for weeks, they had their culminating moment on June 19, 2020. Spontaneous, yet well organized protests have been popping up everywhere around all of the boroughs, in a peaceful atmosphere, and with joy in hope and expectation of changes to come. An important date in American history, the Day of Liberation is also commonly referred to as “Juneteenth”. And as long as Google spell check still finds this word as an error, we have more work to do.

As the day ends, I find myself over one of my favorite places in New York City. The Met – one of the landmarks of the city’s cultural life – is wrapping up for the day. Oh the sweet hours that I’ve spent in its spacious and rich interiors. The art and culture that I’ve witnessed, the stories that I’ve documented. Writing from the distance of isolation, while all the museums remain closed for an undetermined time, the longing to return feels extra poignant.

Back in my Brooklyn days of early 2000s, I often visited Prospect Park during warm autumn days. As my flight training was at its highest peak, I constantly walked in my head in the clouds, dreaming. One of the joys of these evenings was visually following the airliners on their way to La Guardia and wondering how it was possible that the kites them fly so high never bother the pilots.

So, one day I have decided to catch an Embraer 175 overflying a game of cricket.

In a different part of town, another game is about to begin while we witness another late La Guardia arrival. Normally, it is not permitted to fly over an active sports event, but at that altitude, who cares. (Actually I was well above the restriction 😉

The sun had set in the west, and a beautiful calm evening poured over the city as it celebrated its 15th anniversary of September 11.

It is the time when the city’s magic comes alive.

With July 4th celebrations well underway, smoke from the nearby fireworks explosions filled Downtown Manhattan’s narrow streets. It’s the night where New York looks like a true Gotham City. See more Fireworks from the Air in the special July Feature here

Let’s enjoy the beautiful Tribute in Light once more, from this ‘classic Manhattan’ perspective, before we retire for the day.

Good night, New York. Sleep well. Tomorrow, I will see you again.

Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy

Effective date: January 01, 2020

Filip Wolak Photography (“us”, “we”, or “our”) operates the https://filipwolak.com website (hereinafter referred to as the “Service”).

This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use and disclosure of personal data when you use our Service and the choices you have associated with that data.

We use your data to provide and improve the Service. By using the Service, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this policy. Unless otherwise defined in this Privacy Policy, the terms used in this Privacy Policy have the same meanings as in our Terms and Conditions, accessible from https://filipwolak.com


  • ServiceService is the https://filipwolak.com website operated by Groobo LLC
  • Personal DataPersonal Data means data about a living individual who can be identified from those data (or from those and other information either in our possession or likely to come into our possession).
  • Usage DataUsage Data is data collected automatically either generated by the use of the Service or from the Service infrastructure itself (for example, the duration of a page visit).
  • CookiesCookies are small files stored on your device (computer or mobile device).
  • Data ControllerData Controller means the natural or legal person who (either alone or jointly or in common with other persons) determines the purposes for which and the manner in which any personal information are, or are to be, processed.For the purpose of this Privacy Policy, we are a Data Controller of your Personal Data.
  • Data Processors (or Service Providers)Data Processor (or Service Provider) means any natural or legal person who processes the data on behalf of the Data Controller.We may use the services of various Service Providers in order to process your data more effectively.
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Information Collection and use

Types of Data Collected:


While using our Service, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you (“Personal Data”). Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to:

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We may use your Personal Data to contact you with newsletters, marketing or promotional materials and other information that may be of interest to you. You may opt out of receiving any, or all, of these communications from us by following the unsubscribe link or the instructions provided in any email we send.


We may also collect information on how the Service is accessed and used (“Usage Data”). This Usage Data may include information such as your computer’s Internet Protocol address (e.g. IP address), browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.


We use cookies and similar tracking technologies to track the activity on our Service and we hold certain information.

Cookies are files with a small amount of data which may include an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies are sent to your browser from a website and stored on your device. Other tracking technologies are also used such as beacons, tags and scripts to collect and track information and to improve and analyze our Service.

You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our Service.

Examples of Cookies we use:

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Use of Data

Filip Wolak Photography uses the collected data for various purposes:

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Legal Basis for processing personal data under the general data protection regulation (GDPR)

If you are from the European Economic Area (EEA), Filip Wolak Photography legal basis for collecting and using the personal information described in this Privacy Policy depends on the Personal Data we collect and the specific context in which we collect it.

Filip Wolak Photography may process your Personal Data because:

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Retention of data

Filip Wolak Photography will retain your Personal Data only for as long as is necessary for the purposes set out in this Privacy Policy. We will retain and use your Personal Data to the extent necessary to comply with our legal obligations (for example, if we are required to retain your data to comply with applicable laws), resolve disputes and enforce our legal agreements and policies.

Filip Wolak Photography will also retain Usage Data for internal analysis purposes. Usage Data is generally retained for a shorter period of time, except when this data is used to strengthen the security or to improve the functionality of our Service, or we are legally obligated to retain this data for longer periods.

Transfer of data

Your information, including Personal Data, may be transferred to — and maintained on — computers located outside of your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ from those of your jurisdiction.

If you are located outside United States and choose to provide information to us, please note that we transfer the data, including Personal Data, to United States and process it there.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by your submission of such information represents your agreement to that transfer.

Filip Wolak Photography will take all the steps reasonably necessary to ensure that your data is treated securely and in accordance with this Privacy Policy and no transfer of your Personal Data will take place to an organization or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of your data and other personal information.

Disclosure of data

Disclosure for Law Enforcement

Under certain circumstances, Filip Wolak Photography may be required to disclose your Personal Data if required to do so by law or in response to valid requests by public authorities (e.g. a court or a government agency).

Legal Requirements

Filip Wolak Photography may disclose your Personal Data in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to:

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  • To protect against legal liability

Security of data

The security of your data is important to us but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Data, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Our Policy on “Do not Track” Signals Under the California online Protection Act (Caloppa)

We do not support Do Not Track (“DNT”). Do Not Track is a preference you can set in your web browser to inform websites that you do not want to be tracked.

You can enable or disable Do Not Track by visiting the Preferences or Settings page of your web browser.

Your data protection rights under the general datat protection regulation (GDPR)

If you are a resident of the European Economic Area (EEA), you have certain data protection rights. FIlip Wolak Photography aims to take reasonable steps to allow you to correct, amend, delete or limit the use of your Personal Data.

If you wish to be informed about what Personal Data we hold about you and if you want it to be removed from our systems, please contact us.

In certain circumstances, you have the following data protection rights:

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  • The right to withdraw consent. You also have the right to withdraw your consent at any time where Filip Wolak Photography relied on your consent to process your personal information.

Please note that we may ask you to verify your identity before responding to such requests.

You have the right to complain to a Data Protection Authority about our collection and use of your Personal Data. For more information, please contact your local data protection authority in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Service providers

We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate our Service (“Service Providers”), provide the Service on our behalf, perform Service-related services or assist us in analyzing how our Service is used.

These third parties have access to your Personal Data only to perform these tasks on our behalf and are obligated not to disclose or use it for any other purpose.


We may use third-party Service Providers to monitor and analyse the use of our Service.

  • Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google uses the data collected to track and monitor the use of our Service. This data is shared with other Google services. Google may use the collected data to contextualize and personalize the ads of its own advertising network.You can opt-out of having made your activity on the Service available to Google Analytics by installing the Google Analytics opt-out browser add-on. The add-on prevents the Google Analytics JavaScript (ga.js, analytics.js and dc.js) from sharing information with Google Analytics about visits activity.For more information on the privacy practices of Google, please visit the Google Privacy & Terms web page: https://policies.google.com/privacy?hl=en
Behavioral Remarketing

Filip Wolak Photography uses remarketing services to advertise on third party websites to you after you visited our Service. We and our third-party vendors use cookies to inform, optimise and serve ads based on your past visits to our Service.


We may provide paid products and/or services within the Service. In that case, we use third-party services for payment processing (e.g. payment processors).

We will not store or collect your payment card details. That information is provided directly to our third-party payment processors whose use of your personal information is governed by their Privacy Policy. These payment processors adhere to the standards set by PCI-DSS as managed by the PCI Security Standards Council, which is a joint effort of brands like Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover. PCI-DSS requirements help ensure the secure handling of payment information.

The payment processors we work with are:

Links to other sites

Our Service may contain links to other sites that are not operated by us. If you click a third party link, you will be directed to that third party’s site. We strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of every site you visit.

We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.

Children’s Privacy

Our Service does not address anyone under the age of 18 (“Children”).

We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from anyone under the age of 18. If you are a parent or guardian and you are aware that your Child has provided us with Personal Data, please contact us. If we become aware that we have collected Personal Data from children without verification of parental consent, we take steps to remove that information from our servers.

Changes to this Privacy policy

We may update our Privacy Policy from time to time. We will notify you of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page.

We will let you know via email and/or a prominent notice on our Service, prior to the change becoming effective and update the “effective date” at the top of this Privacy Policy.

You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

Contact us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us:

  • By email: filip@fotofilip.com

Terms and Conditions


ATTENTION: This legal notice applies to the entire contents of this website under the domain name wp-work.filipwolak.com (Website) and to the supply of services by us any correspondence by e-mail between us and you. Please read these terms carefully before using this Website. Using this Website indicates that you accept these terms regardless of whether or not you choose to register with us. If you do not accept these terms, do not use this Website. This notice is issued by Filip Wolak Photography (Company).

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Access to this Website may be suspended temporarily and without notice in the case of system failure, maintenance or repair or for reasons beyond the Company´s control.

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The Company expressly reserves the right to revoke the any rights granted in these Terms and Conditions for breach of the above terms and to take any action it deems appropriate.

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Privacy policy
Your privacy is very important to us. Users of our website should refer to our “privacy policy” at wp-work.filipwolak.com – which is incorporated into this agreement by reference, for information about how we collect and use personal information.

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Nothing in this legal notice shall exclude or limit the Company´s liability for:

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This legal notice shall be governed by and construed in accordance with English law. Disputes arising in connection with this legal notice shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.


We accept no liability for any failure to comply with this agreement where such failure is due to circumstances beyond our reasonable control.

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Lifestyle & Events

Lifestyle & Events

It Happened in New York...

A rather random selection of various happenings, festivals, parades, celebrations, openings and other events shot around New York City between 2009 and 2019.

Although my active times in this area fell around the close collaboration the the Time Out New York, you can still see me out and about, capturing the most exciting of today’s times.

New York City July 4th Fireworks

4th of July Fireworks from Above

Socially Distanced Fireworks of July 4, 2020

Highly anticipated by many, the 4th of July fireworks took a different shape in 2020.

Due to the restrictions of mass gatherings, the city decided that the fireworks would take a different form. Instead of one large after-sunset show, the fireworks would be set off at a “high elevation, unannounced.” This was to prevent people from gathering to watch them. So for several nights before July 4th, there were five minutes of explosions, with no warning and which lead up to July 4th’s televised grand finale.

I took Rusty to catch a glimpse of the promised grand finale and it turned out that the fireworks was featured on TV, and on TV only. Imagine my disappointment.

However, seems like I was not the only one feeling that way. People simply took matters into their own hands. Watch the video to see the city celebrating on its own, New York style. You will see a panorama of Brooklyn and Queens, leading to the Bronx at the end.

That alone was worth the 2 hour hover over NYC, what do you think?

Video: The City on Fire

And a Brief Look Back at 2019...

COVID-19 from Above

A Well Distanced View on the Country During the Pandemic

The idea to cross the country in a small airplane has been on our minds since we both started flying. It is, after all, the ultimate fusion of discovery, adventure and the unknown. When COVID-19 hit and the world became precarious, we decided it was finally time. We also knew it was an opportunity to document the world from above in its remarkable new and changing state.

As we flew over these amazing structures – both in nature and man-made – we were struck in awe, and reminded that as humans just how small we are compared to what stretched out below us. And now along comes a thing, a minuscule and invisible virus, which has now caused great havoc on the world we know.

Below is our photographic account of the country at the time of this unprecedented change. As the issues the country is facing are enormously more complex, we have tried to capture the essence of whatever was possible from such a unique distance.

All of those adventurously inclined, who wish to follow our “Flamping” reported on a day-by-day basis, visit our blog at http://www.flampamerica.com

Dormant JFK Airport

JFK airport during COVID-19 crisis (May 7, 2010)

Let’s start at home, New York City.

The photograph of one of the largest airports in America was taken just a few days before our departure. Usually resembling a beehive, this busiest international gateway of North America did not have a single visible operation during our 30-minute overflight. Instead there were vacated runways, empty taxiways, and deserted parkings, with the terminals most likely being used as a short-term storage for aircraft at bay.

A hub for international travel “Where America greets the World” stopped, brought to a standstill. How symbolic is this for those new, uncertain times?

Jam-Packed in the Desert

Roswell International Air Center as intermediate airplane storage during COVID-19 (May 15, 2020)

A pilgrimage to this famous ‘Airplane Graveyard’ in Roswell, New Mexico is an undeniable must-do for any pilot and aviation enthusiast. The opportunity to visit now was even of greater importance to us – in addition to serving as a last-stop for many retired aircraft – its use was recently extended as temporary storage for airliners as the interest in air travel abruptly diminished.

Roswell’s dry climate is ideal for long term parking, and with plenty of service workers on-site, this makes it an excellent place for storing and keeping the planes continuously airworthy.

At the time of our visit, as many as 30 new aircraft were arriving daily, mostly from American and United Airlines. Let’s hope it’s not their last stop.

The Tale of 2 Worlds, of 2 Cities

San Ysidro / Tijuana border crossing (May 20, 2020)

Not to be missed from the skies is the border between Tijuana and San Diego. The wall that stands separating the two nations, abruptly stops the expansion of the city of Tijuana to the north. As the world’s largest land border crossing in operation, this provides an excellent visual treat seen from above.

The opening image shows the San Ysidro border crossing at about 30% of its intended capacity. As the borders between nations closed to non-essential traffic, the influx of workers from Mexico continued on a daily basis; these were the essential workers in the food industry and healthcare services.

The flight above the border was an experience on its own. We weren’t allowed to venture a single inch into Mexican airspace, yet I desired photographing the border directly from above. Here, Sarah’s excellent piloting skills were put to the test and we complied beautifully while capturing quite a few shots from overhead, without a single violation – just as planned.

Trapped in the Seas

Celebrity Eclipse arrives to Port San Diego to drop off crew (May 20, 2020)

As we were heading north from our border rendezvous, we noticed a few cruise ships anchored in the Pacific Ocean.

San Diego has long been a major destination for leisure cruises. With this industry brought to a halt pretty much immediately after the pandemic began, the news agencies reported that there was drama on-board as US ports initially refused to allow the passengers to disembark. This, at the time of our flight had been luckily resolved, however another problem persisted. As the borders remained closed, the crew – it’s majority of international origin – had difficulties returning to their homes. Some of them remained trapped on the ships weeks after the last of the passengers disembarked.

Oceanside Beaches Reopen

Beaches of Oceanside, CA (May 19, 2020)

California’s beautiful town of Oceanside was a special destination on our route. Earlier in the year, Rusty’s (that’s our airplane’s cute name) venerable engine was shipped to one of the most reputable engine overhaul shops in the country, One Stop Aviation in Oceanside. After the new engine returned and was installed, “meeting the parents” was one of the ideas that sparked this voyage (see more on our blog).

This laid-back town is most famous for its weather, stunning coastline and the beaches that offer world class surfing. Usually year-round busy and active, the coast had just reopened a few days after our arrival albeit with strict regulations in place – with the prohibition of social gatherings, group exercises and games, to name a few. However, swimming and fishing were allowed, provided that social distancing was maintained.

To our knowledge, many disregarded those restrictions and faced penalties.

The Ultimate Social Distancing

Families enjoy Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats (May 21, 2020)

One of the highlights of our trip was the flight over the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. This truly one-of-a-kind place is actually over 30,000 acres of common table salt which, when extracted, creates fantastically colored cyan or teal pools. Since the Flats are not a part of any State or National Park system, they remained open and accessible to all traveling on Interstate I-80.

It was a place which allowed me to take this ultimate social distancing photograph, of two families enjoying themselves while keeping more than the recommended distance from one another.

As the potash extraction mines provide an excellent diversion (and a feast for the eye), I have included them in the supporting photograph pool.

Navajo Nation's Struggle

Navajo Settlement in Nazlini, AZ (May 16, 2020 )

Our voyage took us over Navajo lands, which stretches for close to 18 million acres around Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah’s border. This area has had one of the highest infection rates in the US. At the time of our trip, there were 2.3k cases per 100k people in the Navajo territory, compared to 1.8k in New York, which seems counterintuitive – vast areas of empty lands against a densely populated city – common sense should suggest otherwise.

A closer look revealed how the pandemic disproportionately targets the poor communities. Navajo families often host multiple generations under one roof, and over a third of the population does not have running water in their homes. With relatively few stores in the area, residents are forced to congregate in a single location. Combined with a healthcare network which was sparse and in poor state, the conditions were perfect for this opportunistic virus to proliferate.

We landed and refueled in the middle of this magnificent rustic colored vista, and decided to press forward. On our way, we seized the opportunity to photograph the fantastic structures of Monument Valley

The Grim Case of California's Most Affected Prison

Chuckawalla State Prison in Blythe, CA (May 18, 2020)

Flying over, or near to prisons has always put me in a contemplative state. On one hand there is this ultimate manifestation of freedom, on the other the hopeless and mundane situation of the incarcerated. Viewed from the air, prisons have their distinctive look, always built in a characteristic, particular manner emanating a sense of rigidity and restriction, regardless of their size or location.

On May 18th, our route from Arizona to California took us over the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison. We were not aware that at the time of our flight, this facility had the worst COVID-19 outbreak of any of the correctional facilities in California, counting for almost 30% of the state’s inmate infections in total.

While the rate has since steadied and reduced, prison populations remain vulnerable.

Nation's Commerce at a Standstill

Empty parking lot near Sandusky, OH (May 28, 2020)

From road tripping along the many historical and popular roadways to the day-to-day commuting of the average American, our country has a rich heritage and dependency on automobiles. There’s nothing like an empty parking lot, many of which we passed on our journey, to illustrate the lack of commercial activity on the ground.

Shopping malls, offices, cinemas, amusement parks, schools, once a destination with a constant stream of people were on a lockdown for at least a few weeks as attempts were made to contain the spread of the virus. In lieu, on-line classes, shopping, and zoom conferences while working from home became the new ‘normal’.

Will the office be passé? Will brick and mortar shopping malls no longer be desired? Are on-line schools and universities the new reality? Are all of these places a thing of the past? And more importantly, could we live in a new, online world without need for physical contact? What will remain of all the structures we have so purposely built, of the ‘necessities’ no longer needed, when all that we need can be obtained without leaving your comfortable chair?


New cars await further delivery at Port of Los Angeles (May 21, 2020)

We might have found the missing cars after all.

As the disruption in commerce continued, the demand for new automobiles also halted. As a testament to the scope of the economic pain the coronavirus was inflicting, unsold cars filled the staging space at the Port of Los Angeles, while additional vehicles remained on the ships just off of the coast.

While the necessity for a new car may be one of the frivolities that can be omitted, the disruption of the industry’s supply chain will surely have grave repercussions in the labor market for years to come.

While a Full Tank Is Always Great for Flying...

Oil Wells in Snyder, TX (May 14, 2020)

We embarked on this trip with the promise of the lowest AVGAS prices in modern history. This was only proven true in select locations – smaller airports often experience a delay in catching up to the current market’s oil pricing – we still managed to plan our trip so that we took advantage of prices well below $4 per gallon.

But what a wild ride the oil industry had! As the US consumption of petroleum fell to its lowest level in decades, the prices went negative for the first time in history. With storage at already maximum capacity, oil tankers full and unable to unload, the producers were paying the traders to take the oil off their hands. Literally.

Unfortunately, we did not meet any of those desperate souls, and we continued to pay out of pocket for every single gallon, quenching Rusty’s enormous thirst!

Impact on Agriculture

Cattle farm in Morrill, Nebraska (May 25, 2020)

The flight across America took us over extensive agricultural lands, from Pennsylvania to Arizona, and beyond, fields of different shapes and colors, differently cultivated, and livestock roaming freely or contained in massive farms in Texas or Arkansas.

The impact of the pandemic on the industry has been most visible not in the fields, but in the processing factories. Being designated as essential and critical, the food processing industry had not stopped working, even after positive cases were reported in the facility. Initially, slaughterhouses were being closed to stop the spread of the virus, however, meat companies lobbied the federal government to keep plants open. These facilities, designed for maximum efficiency, with people working in very close proximity to each other quickly became hotspots for the disease.

Tribute to the Frontline Workers

Blue Angels and Thunderbirds fly over NYC in a salute to Frontline Workers during the Coronavirus pandemic (April 28, 2020)

While this photograph was taken two weeks before our trip, it is important that we include it.

We must recognize the hard work, commitment and determination of all those who pushed and continue to push themselves to the limits, often taking risks to keep us healthy and fed. A beautiful show of support occurs daily at 7pm, with people cheering from their windows and cars during a minute-long tribute.

On April 28, the US Navy’s Blue Angels and US Airforce’s Thunderbirds flew in unison over the New York area in its own beautiful tribute to the frontline workers. The planes from the two demonstration squadrons flew in formation over New York and Newark beginning at noon. The formation was set to fly over Trenton, New Jersey, and Philadelphia that day, with other appreciation missions across the largest cities of the US.

But the Earth May Be Finally Catching a Breath...

Grand Canyon, North Rim, AZ (May 17, 2020)

The beautiful scenery of America’s National Parks from the air stunned us. Without a single visitor the parks briefly returned to its quiet state of millions of years ago.

With a full responsibility that this inclusion may be a bit of a stretch, we share with you with some of the stunning aerial images from The Grand Canyon, Bryce, Death Valley, Lake Powell and Canyonlands, for which we were the sole visitors.

Dormant LAX Airport

Los Angeles International Airport during COVID-19 (May 19, 2020)

As our goal was to fly from coast to coast, and back, we close this feature with another airport in recess. LAX. On May 19, the situation here was very similar to that of JFK’s two weeks prior.

The disruption in the aviation industry has been severe, and the end seems nowhere in sight. As some countries make rapid recovery, the US seems to be lagging behind gravely. As long as there are still issues or areas unsolved, aviation will suffer.

And for us, who have invested so much time, money and effort into being appropriately rated to make commercial aviation a career, this is rather a significant blow.

Cover Story

Graphic Packaging International (Texarcana, TX): wastewater pools (May 12, 2020)

The cover photograph does not relate to any particular COVID-19 story. This rather fascinating abstract art-like photograph depicts the fountains of wastewater that are generated during the production of food packaging.

Being a rather smelly affair even from the air (this plant must be one big polluter) Graphic Packaging International – with its large factory in Texarcana, TX – is one of the major producers of cartons, containers, cups, trays (and anything that you will most likely discard after a single use).

The destructive impact of human activity on the planet can easily be related to the story of this pandemic, a disease that has affected us so heavily. One begs the question: who is really the destructive force – us humans against the Earth, or is it that nature is simply fighting back?

Interested in More?

Who are ‘We’? Where did we go? How did we accomplish it? What else have we seen?

If you are interested in learning more about us, or look at our daily travel diary, check our Flamp Across America blog. See the trip through our eyes as it happened; there’s a lot more photography, lovely written stories (that’s Sarah!), and detailed maps of our journey.

Check it out!

About and Contact

Filip Wolak

Filip Wolak is a photographer, commercial pilot, and flight instructor. Originally from Poland, he began flight training in 2005, at first for the pure joy of the challenge. After a few years, Filip completed his training and received commercial pilot privileges.

Filip currently works as a professional photographer in New York City, flying actively for work, discovery or leisure. His experience in photography and flying allow him to merge these passions and create unique photographs of the world.

Named ‘Coolest Nightlife Photographer’ by Time Out New York and ‘Most Influential’ by Lens Magazine for a series of photographs covering nightlife in New York City.

His aerial photography work has received numerous awards (SWPA: Sony World Photography Award, 2016 // IPA: International Photography Award, 2018 // PX3: Prix de la Photographie Paris Award, 2017) and it has been part of numerous exhibitions and solo shows.

Ways to get in touch


telephone: +1 (917) 971 9323

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