Just recently after moving back home for the summer, I decided to begin a new aerial series. Up here in Bergen County, New Jersey, there is not much to shoot, or at least that is something I tell myself. One day after skimming Google Maps for spots to fly, I came upon a few islands on a lake, each with their own individual house. Intrigued by what I saw, I knew that I had to find a way to capture these homes in a way that makes them more interesting to me. So right here, my series began and I will explain why I think it is important to keep every photo consistent.
Before I get too involved with this article, I'd like to state that these photos are not quite final, I am still working on a few of them to make sure everything is where it needs to be before I go ahead and finalize the series. Anyway, it all started here with this first island (below). I was up flying my drone over the lake trying to find the best way to frame this island to make it seem as if it sits on this body of water alone. I tried shooting from a few different angles but did not like the look as much as I liked the whole idea of shooting straight down. I am really into the straight down shots and that may have an influence on why I shot this way as well, but aside from that I shot this way because I wanted all of my images to be in a portrait-style layout. If I shot the images on an angle, I would then have to crop them in post to be in a portrait layout because my camera on the drone does not go into portrait mode when I am flying — unless I shoot straight down and rotate the image. This was a really important decision to make because I knew once I shot it a certain way, I had to shoot the rest that way too. I also took a few photos the other way to crop and test but I still think the series will just consist of straight down images, giving a larger resolution which is better if I plan on printing them at any point.
Now, jumping into the technical aspects of everything, I wanted to be sure my whole series was shot at the same time of day, on the same lens, with the same filter and very similar camera settings. Now I don't know how important this part truly is, but I do know that if I want my pictures to all be very similar, I should shoot with similar settings so they all have a fair amount of space to be fixed up in post. I get to my location around 7:45 p.m. and stay until around 9:15 p.m. when the sun is pretty much down. This gives me the full duration of twilight/sunset to shoot, meaning that the sky sometimes gives me some really nice color that reflects in the water. I also don't have to worry about hard shadows being casted anywhere because by this time the lighting is so soft and balanced. Every photo in this series was shot with a 15mm DJI lens with a PolarPro CP filter. My ISO varies from 100–200, my shutter speed from 1/25–1/60 s and my aperture from f/2.2–f/2.8. If my settings were out of whack and I shot at ISO 400–800 because it was a bit dark at the location, my files would be a little harder to edit and match the previous photos from the series. From what I have seen so far, this method of shooting has been working very well and I will continue to shoot this way. I will also continue to experiment a bit more and see what other ideas I can come up with for future projects.
Lastly, and it may just have to do with me being super picky, I wanted every island I shot to have a house on it. Not only is this extremely difficult to find, but these places are by no means close to where I live. I have put in a lot of time and dedication to get out to some of these islands and shoot them. If I am not able to capture them the way I want, I go back until I get them right. Since I have been shooting this series, I have found a few islands that are interesting that do not have houses on them but still photograph well. In a way, I feel like it will throw off the series a bit but then again I think it is up to me to decide whether or not I want ot incorporate these into my series or not. For something like this, I plan on printing all of the images fairly large and hopefully showing them in some sort of gallery which is why consistency is key.
My idea for this series came with the feeling of loneliness. Over the past few months working on my business and pushing myself to get somewhere with my work, I have gone through a lot. Friends, family, and other relationships have played a big role in this series, but most importantly this series relates something I am going through. So far I really love the way these images are coming out and I find it so interesting that people actually have their own islands! Imagine having that as a getaway? This personal project has brought me all over the state of New Jersey to different lakes that are so beautiful. It has become something I look forward to, going out and finding a place to fly and shoot these islands. There is something peaceful about lakes I have realized and spending many nights at them photographing this series has done nothing but take me away from the busy world I feel like I live in.
I've talked about making a series before and I would 100 percent recommend it to anyone who thinks they can do it. For me it is a challenge, but at the same time it is really rewarding to see everything come together and it motivates me to shoot more. I have to thank Instagram and all of the awesome drone photographers out there who constantly put out more and more amazing work. Every day I am inspired by these artists and big accounts featuring them; it gives me so many ideas and so much inspiration to get out there and keep at it. For anyone out there doing any sort of photography, think about shooting something that has value to you and find the best way to show it, you may really like where this type of project can take you and not only you, but your work as well.