Christiaan van Heijst is an airline pilot with over a decade's experience flying everything from small turboprops to massive Boeing 747s. Van Heijst is also an accomplished photographer and his ability to capture spectacular images from his privileged perspective while criss-crossing the globe offers us some truly sublime images of the planet from angles not many of us have a chance to see.

St. Elmo's Fire, a strange electrical phenomenon, covering the nose of the airplane

In 2014, van Heijst captured international headlines after he photographed some bizarre light patterns over an isolated patch of the Pacific Ocean. The lights appeared somewhere southeast of the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula and to this day remain a mystery. Various hypotheses have been put forward to explain the lights, from suggesting it could be bioluminescent plankton or algae to the more mysterious phenomenon of earthquake lights. Van Heijst himself leans towards the idea that the lights were part of a secret Russian military test.

The unexplained red lights over the Pacific, taken in mid 2014

To capture his stunning shots van Heijst currently uses a Nikon D850. Most of his longer exposure night images utilize a 10.5mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. It was only recently, in late 2017, that van Heijst upgraded from an older Nikon D800 to the D850, but it's his fundamental ability to be able to shoot through the higher quality cockpit windows that allows him to generate better images than an average passenger through a cabin window.

Perhaps some of his most mind-bending images are the glimpses of massive weather patterns seen from above. The amazing ability to looking down on these volatile cloud systems offers a perspective on these magnificent natural phenomena unlike anything we have ever seen.

A remarkable weather shot

Van Heijst released a book chronicling some of his journeys back in 2016. Called Cargopilot, the book is still available to buy, but you can follow him on his more recent adventures through his website or Instagram account.

Take a look through our gallery highlighting some of van Heijst's most amazing photographs.