Endless rows of balconies and windows dot the Manhattan cityscape. In this detail of a photograph, the camera’s telephoto lens compresses the distance between the towers of a high-rise.
This Earthscapes issue offers an opportunity to see the world in a new way. This stamp pane presents examples of three categories of earthscapes: natural, agricultural, and urban. The photographs were all created high above the planet’s surface, either snapped by “eyes in the sky” — satellites orbiting the Earth — or carefully composed by photographers in aircraft.
In the top row, we fly over America’s stunning wilderness. While a volcanic eruption scars the forests of Washington State, fog drifts over the timeless sandstone towers of Utah’s Monument Valley. In Alaska, a wide stripe that looks like a highway is actually a glacier, an immense conveyer belt of ice. At its base, jagged white shards resembling broken glass are really icebergs, bobbing in a lake.
The stamps in the center row may look like abstract art, but they show five products being gathered, grown, or harvested: salt, timber, grain, cherries, and cranberries. Center-pivot irrigation systems create the beguiling play of geometric shapes in the middle stamp — although bystanders on the ground might see only sprinklers in fields of wheat, alfalfa, corn, and soybeans.
In the bottom row, urban life takes center stage. Highways corkscrew around themselves and neat subdivisions sport tiny blue pools. It’s our familiar world, shrunken into miniature — and seen with the new eyes that a fresh perspective can bring.
From the power and glory of nature to the interaction of people with the land — in both agricultural and urban settings — each stamp, within its limited amount of space, represents only a fragment of a geographical area, which may or may not be typical of a particular region.