By PETER MARTINEZ
Stunning. Arresting. Captivating. Surreal. Just a few words that barely describe the magnificence of Vincent Laforet's latest project that took him thousands of feet above the iconic New York City skyline to capture some astonishing images.
Men's Health magazine commissioned the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer with the unique opportunity to snap pictures of Manhattan aboard a helicopter for an upcoming article.
"When you think about it ... it's a combination of wonder and fear," Laforet told AOL News. "You're literally hanging off the side of a helicopter above an incredible expanse. Even with a full body harness and several anchors, you still think about that fall."
As you can see in the gallery above, the results have culminated in a breathtaking collection of work that captures scenes of Gotham from an altitude of 7,500 feet. The helicopter actually hovered above the air traffic heading to the city's local airports.
It took about a week's time to get clearance from the FAA and air traffic control towers for his most recent flight, Laforet said.
Thanks to the use techniques such as tilt-shift photography, some of the New York skyscrapers look like tiny illuminated Lego blocks. In other images, busy city streets appear as an electrifying array of arteries that make up the street grid within Manhattan.
"Aerial photography is one of those tools that makes you feel much more connected because you have a much broader understanding of how everything is interconnected than you do on the ground," Laforet said of the shoot. "When you take that bird's eye view you really end up with some profound work."
The daring feat required to capture that bird's eye view is far from a chore for Laforet after two decades in the industry. The tasks required to pull off an assignment like "Night Over New York," is second nature to him today, but it hasn't always been easy to snag such gorgeous photography.
"The technology has reached a level in the past year where you can finally shoot a frame that's really clean," Laforet said.
It was nearly impossible up until recently to fly at the height Laforet did without taking blurry images, but with today's camera equipment and a skilled artist behind the lens, photography can now produce pictures far more glorious than what the naked eye comprehends.
"The reaction has been phenomenal," Laforet said. "You try and take pictures of things people want to see or haven't seen and you try and make the every day extraordinary."
In a behind-the-scenes video shown below, produced by David Geffin, you can experience first-hand the conditions Laforet faced earlier this month.
Other aerial photography projects on Laforet's website include shots of: the Pipeline Masters in Oahu, Hawaii; Mono Lake, Calif.; Frazier Park, Calif.; and the beach community of Coney Island, New York.
"It's a very guilty pleasure," Laforet admitted. "You learn all the time and I've been fortunate to have clients invest and hundreds of helicopter hours. I'm glad to have made these images."
"I've had one person online tell me he's taken better pictures with a cellphone from an airplane above LaGuardia -- which I found comical," Laforet mentioned.
The initial surge in interest for "Night Above New York" has inspired Laforet to hit other major cities across the nation.
"Being able to capture New York City the way I did -- and to see the reaction it's had worldwide -- you really can't buy this," he said.
Laforet, who celebrates his 40th birthday this month, hopes to inspire his two young children to follow his footsteps.
"There's always one picture that hasn't been taken yet and that's the one you should be chasing," he said.
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