The downside of having a great little photography business is that you have to work harder to make time for experimentation and purely personal stuff. That’s certainly been true of me and my drone. In fact, until the last day of 2015, I hadn’t used it for anything other than work projects. That explains why in every picture it’s got of me, rather than the happy, confident creative look I’d like to project, I tend to resemble a grumpy road engineer, thinking about the next kink in the road that needs straightening.
With the Xmas holiday coming up though, I had a little personal shoot in mind that the drone was perfect for. Just a couple of klicks from my house, there’s the Otago Peninsula Fallen Soldiers Memorial, perched on Cadzow rock, atop a little peak known as Arthur’s seat. The monument features a marble plaque dedicated to the men of the Peninsula who fell in the Great War and atop it sits a cement statue of a soldier, gazing up the harbour. It offers spectacular views of Dunedin’s beaches, city and harbour and is well worth a visit.
But the monument is so tall and the approach to it so steep that you just don’t get to appreciate it close up. Most of the good pictures I’ve seen, it’s a compositional object in a landscape, seldom a subject in its own right. You just can’t get your camera in a good position to shoot it otherwise. Unless you use a drone.
So for a few days around Xmas, I’d been waiting for conditions to align: Early morning low light to rake across the statue and low wind. The monument is in a very exposed position where the harbour and high Peninsula breezes can easily overpower the drone and send it in the general direction of Antarctica. After three or four false starts, I finally managed to be up there around 6:30 on the last day of 2015, no wind, clear skies and the ever vigilant soldier awash in the light of sunrise. Time to get the camera in the air, position it to give some interesting angles, make some pictures with meaning, tell a story.
I finally got to see – and share the unseen soldier’s face and point of view.
I also learned that even if I’m shooting something for myself, I still look like some kind of engineer, thinking about the next challenge. I s’pose I am in many ways.
To cap it off, I thought I’d throw together a little video of some of my aerial work from the year. Enjoy.