Winning the 2015 Sony World Photo Awards for Professional Travel was the culmination of a five-year labor of love for Munich-based photographer Bernhard Lang, whose stunning aerials of beachgoers sunning themselves along the Adriatic Sea in Italy were selected from 87,000 entries.

Since 2010 Lang has been hovering via a small aircraft over the ice blue waters of the Adriatic coastline between Ravenna and Rimini, Italy, photographing beach scenarios from above.

Much of Lang’s previous aerial work had focused on showing the impact of human beings on our environment, looking down from 450 to 7,500 feet in the air. In a 2014 interview with CNN, Lang reflected on an aerial photo of the Hambach mine pit, the largest open mine pit in Germany, saying “You don’t get to see this place this way — the way they explore the soil or the earth, the resources. It can be revealing.”

But after years of photographing industrial and agricultural sites in Germany, Lang opted for a lighter approach, and one that would allow him to explore a location purely for aesthetic purposes. A jaunt to the coast of Italy presented a change in scenery and mood, allowing Lang to inject a touch of whimsy into his work. Lang’s more recent aerials conjure prolific Italian photographer Massimo Vitali‘s series on clusters of beachgoers in Italy and America — but with less focus on capturing a candid scene and more focus on symmetry, geometry and spatial alignment.

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