The surest way to take something familiar and make it new again is to look at it from a new point of view. This is true of anything in life, whether it be a TV show that we've seen that we suddenly watch with a different point of view, a social or political issue we never considered except from our own perspective, but now look at in light of someone else's concerns, or simply considering a new use for a room that you've always used another way. For a landscape photographer such as myself, familiar locations can get often get stale when I repeatedly view it from the same point of view. A literal change in perspective makes a familiar location new again.
A Change in Perspective
That's the biggest reason I decided to add a drone to my photography kit. While I'd been considering one for several years now, I never got to where I pulled the trigger on one. Then at the end of September, I assisted Christopher Michel in teaching a workshop here on the coast of Maine. Christopher is an incredible portrait photographer, but also does quite a bit of work with a drone. As we talked during down time, the drone bug bit me again. Hard. Chris had brought his DJI Mini 3 Pro with him to capture some images while teaching, and I got to see that in action first hand, and find out what's involved in controlling it and making images with it.
Before the workshop had even ended, I ordered a DJI Mini 4 Pro, which had just been released. The reason I chose the Mini 4 Pro was its small size, primarily. I wanted something that I could carry easily along with my regular camera gear, but would still take high quality photographs. The drone folds up small enough that I can actually fit it in the top of my camera pack if I'm going hiking or someplace that I want both my regular camera and the ability to take aerial images. And the Mini 4 Pro takes 48 megapixel RAW files, which gives me a file that not only can be edited to my liking, but can make large prints as well.
I was hesitant about adding a drone to my arsenal of camera gear for several reasons, the biggest being that I was afraid it would somehow make me feel a bit disconnected from the location I was photographing. When I'm using my camera, I tend to find ways to be up close and personal with the location I'm photographing, using wide angle lenses to really make the viewer feel like they can step into the scene. With the drone, I can be a little more distant from the area I'm photographing, and I have to worry about the drone's controls, while also composing my photo on the screen of the controller. While it's different from using my camera on a tripod in the middle of the scene, I find I am enjoying seeing things from the air.
And that's the coolest part to me. That elevated perspective really shows the familiar in a new way. So far, all but one flight with my drone have been at the same location, Popham Beach. Popham Beach is close to my home, but also offers a variety of interesting things to see from the air. In addition, at this time of year, the beach is relatively empty, so I don't have to worry that I'm annoying anyone or that I might hit anyone when I'm taking off and landing. All but one image in this entry were taken at Popham Beach. Pond Island, in the lead image, sits just offshore, and Fort Popham in the third photo is just down the road. You can see the beach in the background.
The aerial perspective also allows me to create interesting abstract images. At low tide on Popham Beach, the receding waters leave behind rippled sand that from the air, becomes these incredibly beautiful patterns. You can see what I mean in the second image in this entry, "Shifting Sands". The Sand Bar was taken the same morning. At low tide on Popham, the water recedes to reveal a sandbar that allows you to walk out to Fox Island, which is a short ways offshore. This land bridge is bracketed by two bodies of water- the Morse River and the Atlantic Ocean. From the air looking straight down, it created an interesting, abstract scene.
Deciding to add a drone to my mix of gear was not an easy decision, both for the reasons I already mentioned, as well as the legalities involved here in the USA. One of the advantages of the Mini 4 Pro is that it only weighs 249 grams, meaning that for recreational flight, it does not need to be registered with the FAA. However, once you begin using it for commercial purposes, whether that be real estate photography, surveying, or even fine art landscapes, the drone needs to be registered, and the person flying it needs to have Part 107 certification from the FAA, which involves learning regulations and passing an exam. I took a class from Pilot Institute that took me about a week to complete, and then passed my Part 107 exam the following week.
I'm really excited to continue exploring the landscape from the air with my drone and adding a different perspective to my work. I've created a new gallery here on my website called Elevated Perspectives to showcase my aerial work. Enjoy!