The best drone photos of 2021

Consider this list as the best drone photos of 2021. SkyPixel, the online aerial photo community affiliated with DJI, today announced the winners of its SkyPixel Aerial Photo & Video Contest. This is the 7th anniversary of the annual contest, which promotes aerial photos that most likely were shot on a drone — but don’t necessarily have to be.

This year’s competition had six video categories and four photography categories, for a total of 10 categories overall. The contest organizers said this year’s contest attracted nearly 30,000 submissions from professional photographers, videographers, aerial enthusiasts and content creators from 124 countries and regions..

And with that, here are the best drone photo of 2021, according to SkyPixel:

The best drone photos of 2021

This year’s Grand Prize winner in the Photo Category was Zhu Jianxin for his otherworldly photo of a frozen lake in Northwest China’s Taklamakan Desert, which was shot just after a heavy snow fall.

“Photography as an art form always comes from life,” Jianxin said in a prepared statement after his win. “It is born from nature. I am amazed by how a drone changes my perspective and helps me capture the beauty of our world.”

Photo by Zhu Jianxin. Courtesy of SkyPixel.

In the photo, cracks on the frozen lake appear via aerial view like an elegant orchid. Viewers might have to do a double take to understand what the photo actually is.

“The real art in photography is to capture a photograph people have to analyze longer than a few seconds to see what the picture really shows,” said judge Stephen Foster.

Here were the other four images that won first prize in each category:

Photo courtesy of SkyPixel.
Photo courtesy of SkyPixel.
Photo courtesy of SkyPixel.
Photo courtesy of SkyPixel.

For even more of the best drone photos of 2021, see the complete 2021 SkyPixel winner’s list (including second and third prize winners) here.

The best drone videos of 2021

The Video Category Grand Prize winner was Wenrui Ye, who shows a visual exploration of urban Asian villages from the perspective of a dancer.

“Urban villages show a unique way of urban inclusion,” said Wenrui in a prepared statement. “I revisited Guangzhou, a city where I have lived for nearly thirty years, and explored it with my interpretations, memories, and a brand-new perspective. The dramatic contrast between the city and the villages looked almost surreal, and I can’t help thinking about the countless possibilities of Guangzhou in the

The relatively short video still manages to tell a real story, while incorporating a stunning aesthetic, especially in terms of lighting.

Guangzhou is a port city in China, located just northwest of Hong Kong along the Pearl River. Watch the entire video here.

Here are the cover photos of the other videos that won first prize in the contest. You can watch them all here.

A special Mavic-only category

New to this year’s contest was a “Mavic 3 Limited Award,” which was awarded to one photography winner and one video winner who shot their pieces on a DJI Mavic 3. The award category follows the launch of DJI’s newest prosumer-grade, photography drone, the DJI Mavic 3, which launched toward the end of 2021.

Here was the winning image in that category:

And you can watch the winning Mavic 3 video here.

About SkyPixel and its annual aerial art contest

SkyPixel began accepting entries for potential winners in its SkyPixel 7th Anniversary drone art contest at the beginning of January 2022 and into February. This year’s judges included Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Alex Mellis, Pieter de Vries, Stefan Foster, Karim Iliya, and Yunshan Yu.

Since SkyPixel’s launch as an online community back in 2014, it has attracted more than 30 million aerial photographers, videographers and content creators, spread across more than 140 countries. SkyPixel says some individual photo and videos on its site have received over 1 million views.

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