A photo series to me was always just another project in school; whether it was for my digital photography class or film photography class, there was always something that had to be done in a series. Being done with school and not having any projects assigned eliminated the need to think about creating a series of work, but now I realize that a series of photos can be a pretty cool personal project. So one year out of college, I challenged myself to start working on a personal aerial series. This time there was no project that needed to be done, no deadline, no rules, I was free to do whatever I wanted to do. The only hard part was actually doing it, but I do believe that this is something that can help any photographer out.
What is a Series?
In my terms, a series of work is simply a grouping of photos that work together. They can be photos that are similar to one another or even tell a story. Basically a collection of work that works together in a way. Whatever it is, a series is made for a reason and can always be added to if needed.
For the Aerial Series I have been working on and look to continue, I decided to use my drone to shoot directly downward photos of things that I think are interesting. A lot of the time they are roadways, water, or railroads but it always varies depending on what I can find. A lot of people ask me why I shoot this way with my drone and honestly, I shoot the way I do because I like to and I like the images I create from shooting that way. So what makes this a series for me is the fact that I will go back to the same location and take the same photo during a different time of the year. It is cool to see the change in color and really allows you appreciate the beauty of the world we live in. I am very excited to shoot in the winter but I do expect plenty of challenges with snow and driving conditions on some of these roads.
Why I Started
Over the summer when I had some free time, I would always go through Instagram and see these amazing, out of this world drone photos on the big drone accounts. This was really inspiring to me and it is great to see the drone community share their awesome work online for others to view. Some of my favorite ones were the roadways between these crazy trees and long windy roads that you would never imagine seeing from above. Owning a drone myself, I knew I was capable of creating images that I thought were absolutely amazing on Instagram. For me this began an obsession, something clicked in my mind and I told myself that I need to start using my drone to create images like the ones I see online. This is where the true aerial photography phase started and because of it, I am more into my drone than ever before if that isn't obvious enough already.
To the typical person, I just own a drone and take cool pictures with it. I mean that's nice and all but I can assure you there is a lot more to it than just that. When it comes to photography, I am very specific in how I want my photos to look as any photographer probably is. A lot of people don't really think about what goes ino the process of creating a photo, they just look at it. For us photographers, we need to put the time into our work to create images that we ourselves can appreciate and this is where we are able to challenge/better ourselves with a personal series of work. Our work has meaning to us which gives us a reason to share it with the world.
This is one of the most important things for me when I create my aerial photos. Where can I go to create an awesome image? I spend hours on Google maps searching for places I think would look cool just for a photograph. Why? Because I want to make an image that I can appreciate; sure I can go anywhere else and take a picture, but what makes that so special? Finding a location with an interesting composition makes all the difference in the world to me, not to mention I like to go out and explore. I do have to say the one downside here is definitely finding a place to park my car and launch the drone to get some of the photos I do.
Time of Day:
Another thing that many people don't think about when viewing a photo is when the photo was taken, unless it is obvious. Time of day is huge for me when it comes to light and shadows. Sometimes I like seeing the shadows from above and I know I can get some pretty cool work with those shadows, but for most of the work I have been doing, that softer light is something I look for. I am always aware of time of day and how fast the natural light can change.
Most of these photos are taken after sunset during the twilight hour which for me is the best time to be out there shooting. When it starts getting dark the camera becomes a magical thing with the ability to take longer exposures. A majority of my photos look like they were shot during the daytime because they are decently bright, again, this is more of an illusion that is created by shooting for longer periods of time. In the photo above you can see the light trails from cars driving along the bend, these photos were taken just as the sun had set as it was starting to get dark. This could be a tricky thing to master, but you do your best to get there while it is still light so you can see and understand your location before that light goes away. I normally get there about an hour to an hour and a half before I know it is going to get dark.
Taking the Photo:
This may seem like the easiest part but it never really is "easy." When flying my drone, I need to make sure it is legal to fly where I do, especially with all the newer rules and regulations out there. I also like to make sure my drone is working completely fine before taking it up and just flying it. I'm afraid to lose another one so I always run through a basic little checklist to make sure everything is running smoothly before I get it out to where I will be shooting. I check my batteries for any damage, make sure they are charged, then prep the drone and get it set to fly. Once I launch the drone I usually let it hover in front of me for about two minutes to make sure it is flying right and holding GPS signal and from there I am able to go take my photo. I know I may prep a bit much, but definitely better safe than sorry.
Depending on my location and the time I arrive to the spot, I may take a test flight and see how I want to set up my photo. Once I have an idea of how I want to shoot, I throw in a new battery and go out there to get what I set out there to get. When everything is all shot and done, I pack it up and head home to upload my photos and touch them up. If I am unhappy with what I got, then usually I find another time to go out and redo that photo so I can get it how I want it to look.
A skill that all of us photographers do in our own way, editing plays a big role in a lot of our work but the typical person does not always understand the process. Sometimes editing is as simple as fixing up the colors in a photo and other times it can be something as advanced as patching up a house with trees so it looks like there was never a house there. Of course this depends on what you are editing and for personal work, you can really edit however you want and test new techniques and styles. When I edit, I usually do a few lens corrections, play with the color and then fine tune the photo if I need to. I have the option to add things to my photos or remove things from them, however it is not something I tend to do a lot of. My goal for this series was to keep the photos clean and consistent.
After writing about my series, I hope I have encouraged some to go out and work on their own. Photography is a great thing and definitely a great way to be creative so why not give yourself a little extra bit to do? I honestly had a great time recreating these photos and when I look back at them, I am happy I made the time to travel back to these places and photograph them in the fall.