Break out the towels and flip-flops and bring on the sun, surf and sand; beach season is officially here. And few people capture the scene like L.A.-based photographer Gray Malin, known for his aerial shots of idle summer days. Here, the artist shares his favorite beaches, most memorable shoots and the curious backstory behind his signature bird’s eye view.

The photography bug first bit when…
I discovered the dark room in high school. It was a totally addicting experience watching my images slowly come to life in the developing trays.

My very first photo obsession…
André Kertész was the first photographer whose work really moved me. I got to see an exhibition of his in Paris a few years later and I remember thinking I just had to be a professional photographer one day.

The first time I held a camera…
My grandfather had a beautiful collection of cameras and his photographic hobby definitely influenced my father, who always had a camera in tow. I can’t remember the first time but I was definitely a youngster.

My photography influences…
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the incredible guidance of my high school photography teacher, Janis Hefley, and my post-college mentor and photographer friend, Aline Smithson.

Favorite beach in the world and why…
Okay, this is an impossible question but I will answer it in a few ways… Most Alive and Vivacious Beach: Copacabana in Rio de Janiero. Most Fabulous: La Fontelina Beach Club in Capri. Most Gorgeous from Above: Bondi Beach in Sydney. Most Underrated: Cascais in Lisbon.

My most memorable shoot…
They are all different but Antarctica was, by far, the most difficult series I have ever shot but Far Far Away in the Salt Flats of Bolivia was one of the most intriguing.

The story behind my aerial angles…
It all started in a top-floor hotel room that had a bird’s eye view of the giant resort swimming pool below, filled with people. I snapped an image that became my computer screensaver and after months of staring at this sparkling aqua-colored pool, the idea hit me. After calling a few different hotels during a trip to Art Basel in Miami, I was not allowed access to the rooftops to take pictures so I decided to do the next best thing: rent a helicopter. I remember the pilot removed the door before we took off and said, “Just be careful not to lean out too far.” The pools from above were lovely but it wasn’t until we swung out over South Beach while circling one of the pools that I first saw the beauty of beach umbrellas from above. I immediately turned my lens towards the beach and haven’t looked back. I love the geometric composition of octagonal umbrellas, rectangular loungers and swirly colorful sunbathers dotting the crisp white sand — it’s my universal canvas.

My camera of choice…
My iPhone — it’s so much fun on the go!

My advice for would-be photographers…
It’s all about the internet — spread your wings and surf your heart out! Having a website is key. Get your images and your name out there because you never know where the internet will take you.

Favorite photography books…
Buying photography books is a bit of an addiction, but I currently have my eyes set on purchasing the book On the Beach by Richard Misrach — it would complete my coffee table!

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