I flew my first drone in 2015 when I borrowed Ben Von Wong’s drone for my trip to Iceland. At the time the sensor in the drone wasn’t equipped to take great still photos, so I spent most of the trip recording video. When I flew to Norway in 2017 for some backcountry skiing, and a small drone could fit in our ski-jacket pocket I knew I was hooked. As typically happens, technology gets better and new doors open up. I’ve seen some amazing drone photos from people recently but none more inspiring than the photos my friend David Thompson has been taking. In November I decided to take advantage of the Black Friday sales and grab myself a drone: the DJI Mavic Pro 2.
I’ve been flying the drone a lot recently, mostly with Willie. It’s taken the same scenes that we’ve photographed for nearly 9 years and added a new spin. We can see them from a new light. From the air they take on different shapes, most notably you get to see a greater sense of scale and how they interact and engage with the landscape. Rivers and hills stand out the most as you can see how they meander over the earth, grabbing your eye.
On this particular evening Willie and I planned to meet the infamous Miles Morgan, a photographer and pilot from the Pacific Northwest who I’ve been Flickr friends with for years but had never met in person. We met at a Mexican restaurant nearby, caught up over dinner, peed in the women’s bathroom (someone was taking too long in the mens!) and then left to go fly the drones. High clouds had excited us for a colorful sunset that would be reflected back in the streams of the salt flats, but Jeff had predicted the fog would roll in and he was absolutely correct. Although the sunset never got colorful, we did get a few patches where the golden hour light cast a beautiful glow to the salt flats.
This particular set of “fingers” had captured me the first time we came to this spot. In just a few weeks it was interesting to see how the landscape had changed: water had retreated, some of the fingers were fainter, some more distinct, and new tendrils of mud and salt had come out. From this angle I loved how it looked like everything was creeping into the fingers, eager to reach out and grab it. The stream that flows just above the fingers helps to draw the eye through the photo.
DJI Mavic Pro 2 w/Hasselblad L1D-20c:
10.26mm, f/5, 1/50 sec, ISO 100