This article originally appeared on The Creators Project.
This starkly surreal, vaguely apocalyptic image is obviously digitally altered—right? Wrong. Irenaeus Herok photographs what he sees. His gift: to find and capture the surreal views hiding in plain sight.
"I try to keep it real," Herok says. "I rarely add or remove objects in my images; I might occasionally get rid of a power line or something that distracts from the main focus but I never alter compositions or combine different shots or do any big Photoshop work." Rather, his editing focuses mostly on color, contrast, and mood.
Herok is based in Australia, but photographs around the world—particularly in the deserts and coastlines around the UAE. Before discovering his talent for photography, he studied fine arts, learning to compose paintings and drawings. This experience is clearly represented in his fastidious compositions.
"Observing nature and your surroundings and putting your impressions down on paper is the best way to learn about light and composition," Herok says. "You get a real feel for how things become affected by light and how colors change in different perspectives and time of the day. I think that's very important and I encourage everyone to take some time away from the screen and get out a sketchbook–it will definitely sharpen your perception. Nature itself is the best inspiration."
Herok seems most inspired by the rippling waves of desert sand and ocean blue—two highly changeable environments marked by movement and erosion. The ocean chews away at the shore, and the desert swallows highways; both are common themes. Of course, the only way he can capture these expansive views is to look down from above.
"I find this kind of elevated perspective really interesting," Herok says. "It's where you get to experience the relationships and scale between objects or people in the environment." Many of his photos are captured using DJI drones, but says, "sometimes I find myself shooting from a helicopter or a plane or I'm simply standing on a cliff or mountain."
"Taking a compelling and interesting photograph is not about the gear you're using," he says. "It's about a moment in time that your eye has seen and captured. The click of the camera button comes later and it doesn't matter what gear you've got in your hand at that particular moment […] The best equipment in the world won't help you see things. You have to train your eye and perception to see the world in your own way and hopefully it's one that is interesting to your audience."
Follow Herok on Instagram for lots of surreal eye candy, and plenty of inspiration.