California is a land of white sand beaches and glistening granite peaks, but also of incinerated forests and dessicated hillsides. It's this second California that has drawn the eye of the Thomas Heinser.

For five years or so, the German-born, San Francisco-based photographer has made a study of the state's scarred landscapes.

His images, shot from the open side of a helicopter, focus on the after-effects of drought, wildfire, and human profit. The works, he said, amount to a warning about our environmental future, even as they insist on beauty.

Bathed in the faint glow of sunrise and lacking any horizon, the pictures look like they could be abstract paintings in a museum. "That's the only way I feel like I can show it," Heinser said. "I am a photographer foremost."

Heinser shared a series of his photos, below, with the California Sun.

This article is from the California Sun, a newsletter that delivers must-read stories to your inbox each morning — for free. Sign up here.