Dallas Altitude A New perspective

by Andy Luten, Owner of Luten Creative and Andy's Travel Blog. Questions? Contact andy@lutencreative.comFor usage inquires please contact licensing@dallasaltitude.com. Prints are available for sale here.

Dallas, Texas, is the quintessential American city and a beacon of economic revival. An eclectic blend of culture, food, nightlife, and sporting events greet visitors and residents alike. A great city is punctuated by great architecture, and the skyline of Dallas stands almost without equal.

The Trinity River frames the distinctive elements of the Dallas skyline

The incredible Dallas skyline

Dallas has a thriving photographic community who celebrate each other's work on hundreds of social media accounts, each one trying to find a new perspective of a city we know so well. As for me, I'm an aerial and landscape photographer. Every chance I get I take to the skies with my friends from Epic Helicopters. Setting aside how cool it is to fly in a helicopter I find that, as an artist, flight takes me away from my typical street-level view of Dallas.

Dallas skyline, 800 feet altitude

I've spent countless hours plying the skies of Dallas for unique views, both daytime and night. Eventually I decided the typical helicopter flight was no longer enough. I wanted to attempt something which had never been done before over Dallas. I wanted a new perspective.

Dallas is a collection of many parts and downtown reflects that, specific iconic buildings dot the cityscape and frame the rest of the commercial district. I wanted to see Dallas differently. I wanted to see Dallas as one. To do that, I needed one thing: altitude.

A new perspective

Before my new perspective came to life I had to overcome numerous obstacles.

Flying a helicopter at high altitude is challenging, a task for only the most skilled of pilots. The air is thinner at altitude, meaning the blades must work harder to generate the lift necessary to keep the helicopter stable. Doing this at night complicates things significantly.

The airspace above Dallas is highly regulated by the FAA and regional Air Traffic Control. Flight plans must be submitted and approved before attempting a flight like this. Surely enough, the morning of our first attempt we were notified that we would not be able to proceed, with little warning. We went back to the drawing board and waited for another weather front to come through and take with it the atmospheric haze of springtime. Eventually we had our clearance and were ready to fly.

The night and the altitude pose massive barriers for all but the most advanced camera sensors and lenses. We had our clearance, we had our weather window, and I came equipped with two of the finest cameras available today: the Sony a7rII (with the Sony Zeiss 35mm/f1.4 lens attached) and the Sony a6500 (with the Sony 85mm/f1.4 G Master lens attached).

Problems solved. It was time for altitude.

Downtown Fort Worth, Texas, 2200 feet altitude

Our flight began 30 miles from Dallas in its sister city of Fort Worth. As we took off just before sunset, we flew over downtown and ascended to our initial altitude of 2500 feet. This was already 1000 feet higher than a typical flight, and already I saw a new world.

As we made our way east over the city of Arlington, I started spotting things happening around and beneath us. First was the Singapore Airlines Cargo 747 coming in for final approach just above AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Then we heard a radio call to ATC from a US Army helicopter. I looked down and saw a Chinook on initial ascent.

As we ascended higher the city and sprawl of Dallas came into view.

Altitude: 3500 feet

Excitedly I prepared for the photography experience of a lifetime. As we approached Dallas we were given clearance to ascend to 5000 feet. I nervously brought the viewfinder to my eye. What greeted my left eye was the new perspective I had so eagerly sought. I had found it. Altitude.

Altitude: 5000 feet

With altitude I was forced to look at Dallas as a whole instead of its parts. With daytime rapidly fading my pilot and I began an elaborate dance across the sky of Dallas, capturing iconic structures from this new perspective.

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, altitude: 5000 feet

We continued our journey east to one of Dallas's most visited landmarks: Fair Park, home to the State Fair of Texas.

The iconic Cotton Bowl, home of some of the greatest athletic contests in the country

The entirety of Fair Park in one picture. Only possible with altitude.

We turned back toward downtown Dallas and were greeted with the last fiery bit of a spring sunset.

Altitude: 5000 feet

We began our photographic mission over downtown. Careful coordination between the pilot, Wesley, and I was essential. He was a masterful pilot and put me in the right spot every single time. The icons of the new Dallas cityscape came into view.

One Arts Plaza, altitude: 5000 feet

To help you realize just how high 5000 feet over Dallas is, note the Southwest Airlines 737 on final approach to Love Field...underneath us by thousands of feet.

The legendary architecture of I.M. Pei's Fountain Place was the next to pass underneath my watchful eye.

Fountain Place, altitude: 5000 feet

We made a wide turn to the left and leaned to the side, one of the only ways to get a top-down perspective. The effort was worth it.

Downtown Dallas, altitude: 5000 feet

Dallas surrendered views of more icons: the American Airlines Center (home of the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars) and the two new Calatrava bridges: the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and the Margaret McDermott Bridge.

Altitude: 5000 feet

As nighttime took over from dusk, the colors of Dallas shone brightly from my new perspective.

Looking west, altitude: 5000 feet

Looking east, altitude: 5000 feet

Dallas gave me even more views of iconic structures.

Altitude: 5000 feet

The views that stick with me, however, force me to take a step back and not look at any single building, rather to consider downtown, and Dallas itself, as a whole.

Dusk turned to darkness. The skill of my pilot, the coordination of Air Traffic Control, and the technology of my Sony cameras all combined for an unimaginable look at this new perspective.

From this new perspective Dallas told me stories with color. The orange lights are mostly old tungsten bulbs while the brighter lights are modern LED lights, which are more energy efficient. Looking around downtown you can see progress from this new perspective as Dallas does its part to be an example of sustainability.

Klyde Warren Park, sitting above Woodall Rodgers Freeway. Once separated by a canyon, this park joins downtown and the Uptown neighborhoods, bringing renewed investment into the critical downtown/uptown core of the great city. It truly is amazing how one small piece of land over a freeway can have such impact.

Altitude: 5000 feet

It was time. I turned to Wesley and excitedly asked, "Can we go higher?" A quick call to ATC and the sky yielded to our Robinson R44. I put my eye to my Sony's viewfinder and gasped. This was it. The picture of which I dreamed. It was all I could do to keep the camera still. 6000 feet yielded and completed our project. I had found my new perspective.

Dallas, altitude: 6000 feet

Dallas was no longer an assembly of individual parts. From this altitude it took on almost an organic quality, the bridges across the vast darkness of the Trinity River bed resembling veins and arteries to the heart of the city. As we made one final circle, Dallas yielded some of its most amazing views.

Altitude: 6000 feet

Altitude: 6000 feet

I was left breathless by the view. Hoping my camera had captured the incredible sight, we had to begin our return to Meacham Airport in Fort Worth. I was confident I had what I needed but we decided for a small detour on the way home.

Love Field Airport, altitude: 4500 feet

Love Field Airport sits just north of downtown Dallas and was on our flight path home so we decided to stop overhead. As we entered into a holding pattern over the airport at the request of ATC I had one final view of Dallas. It was a view that tied this new perspective together for me.

With altitude I could no longer see where certain neighborhoods began and others ended. I could not see crime statistics or skin color. Altitude forced me to consider Dallas a single, living, breathing entity. One that must be cared for by all of us. None of us stands greater than the other. It took altitude for me to realize this. I leave you with a panoramic view of the quintessential American city: Dallas, Texas.

Dallas. Altitude: 4500 feet


Our photographic journey was not quite over. Love Field Airport serves downtown Dallas while DFW International Airport serves, well, the world. Both were on our flight plan and ATC granted us access to fly over these incredible centers of logistics and infrastructure. First was Love Field, where I managed to capture a Southwest Airlines 737 as it landed on the runway.

Love Field Terminal, altitude: 4500 feet

Love Field Airport in one picture. Only possible with altitude.

We continued our journey west, where the last sight greeted us. DFW International Airport is the 11th-largest airport in the world, providing facilities for over 65 million passengers in 2016. Its five terminals are familiar to many who have passed through this gateway to the world. As we approached the terminals I was able to capture detailed images of planes either awaiting passengers or resting from a hard day's work.

DFW Terminal C, altitude: 4500 feet

DFW Terminal D, altitude 4500 feet (notice the Qantas A380 about to board on the right)


91 minutes. The helicopter's skids were off the ground for 91 minutes. Time has a way of going by too quickly. The effort and challenge of high-altitude aerial photography at night made the passing of time even more rapid. The memories of this incredible flight are captured in the images you saw in this story. For me, though, my favorite memories were when the cameras were down at my hip. As I gazed over my brilliant new perspective, I was grateful for altitude. It let me see what I had long hoped for.

Altitude is a challenge. What will I do with this new perspective? What will you do? My hope is that Dallas Altitude would challenge you to be a greater part of your community. To be involved. To love each other greatly whether you agree with them or not. To care for those who need it. To make your voice heard. And to never settle for that which attempts to divide us. We are one city. One Dallas.

Created By
Andy Luten


All photos copyright Andy Luten. Images cannot be used without written consent from copyright holder. For licensing inquiries please contact licensing@dallasaltitude.com

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