Pern's Ponderings

Check here periodically for my musings on photography. In this space, we'll explore how I achieved particular photographs, tips and tricks to get the most out of your camera or even just my thoughts on the world at large. 

Getting High

The sun drops to the horizon over the fishing village of Galilee, Rhode Island. This panorama is a composite image comprised of four separate images stitched together in the photo editing application Lightroom. 

Mind-altering drugs have inspired many artists and visionaries - from H.R. Giger to Steve Jobs. For these creative talents, getting high was all about altering one's perspective to open his or her mind. For me, getting high has nothing at all to do with drugs (I've never done them), but rather my new addiction to drone photography. 

If there's one thing I've always concentrated on in my photography, it's been an effort to find a new angle. The recent addition of a DJI Phantom 3 4K drone to my photography arsenal has given me the ability to do just that, opening my mind to all sorts of new ways to see the world that has looked so familiar around me. 

Some of my favorite places to shoot, such as the Point Judith Lighthouse or The Towers in Narragansett, R.I., are revered landmarks of the state, captured a million times by many thousands of photographers. To make my work stand out, I've always searched out new and different ways to view these Rhode Island icons, and the many other subjects I have photographed. 

Usually, it's as simple as not shooting at at eye level. Most people have a sense of what something should look like at from a standing position. So if I take a shot of a boat or a fountain while standing at my full 6-foot-1, it's going to look ... familiar. 

To avoid that familiarity, I constantly change my eye level - crouching or using a tripod to get a low angle, or flipping out the LCD screen on my Canon 70D, raising it above my head and shooting down at my subject from a higher perspective. 

The Phantom has, of course, vastly increased my ability to seek out those higher perspectives. Whether I'm shooting at the FAA restricted ceiling of 400 feet, or just 20 feet off the deck, capturing images through the drone is allows me to explore my world more fully.

Drone photography is obviously more complicated that shooting handheld or on a tripod. Not only do I need to be mindful of my composition, camera settings and light, I also have to contend with piloting the drone, worrying about battery life, wind speed and avoiding obstacles. 

But in the end, drone photography is still just photography - the capture and manipulation of light to create a stunning image (or video). And best of all, it doesn't require any mind-altering drugs to expand my horizons.