I have a reoccurring nightmare of malevolent invaders, their drones hovering at my windows with lights shining inside, searching for me.
Though infrequent, they’ve invaded my dreams for years. They turned to real time as drone hobbyists and commercial drone pilots began taking to the air space. In the early days of the drone trend, I found these buzzing, unmanned fliers quite disturbing and intrusive.
That sharp edge in my attitude was smoothed as I watched a teenager fly his drone over a river where I was fly fishing. He let me peer over his shoulder as he remotely maneuvered above the river, a nearby dam and the adjacent tree line. I was fascinated. It was calming to float along the landscape from a bird’s eye view.
Now, I understand why drones are becoming the latest must-have for many photographers. It allows them to capture unique angles and perspectives and get into hard-to-reach places. They can use it for everything from land surveying and mapping to police and fire investigations, or they can use it just for its creative value. It opens a new world for photographers.
“What makes drone photography so cool is that you get to see the world around you from a whole new perspective that you control from your fingertips,” says local drone photographer Jake Deer of JK Aerial Photography. “Sunsets, sunrises, your town all look different from the air.”
Deer has been using drones in photography for over five years, capturing bird’s-eye views of buildings and land for realtors and insurance adjustors. Following the fire at Joplin’s historic Olivia Apartment Building in December, he flew his drone for an overview, capturing photos that revealed the damage like no street shots could while the building remained hot.
Aside from his commercial aerial photography, he sells his photographs for creative purposes — the Joplin city manager has a couple of Deer’s cityscapes in his office — and he has exhibited them in such places as Club 609, Joplin Avenue Coffee Co. and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce offices. Currently, he has an exhibit, “Come Fly with Me” at Urban Art Gallery, 511 S. Main St. It will be on view through Sunday, Jan. 31.
Deer’s aerial photos focus on sunrises, sunsets, and Joplin cityscapes, both daytime and nighttime. But his most captivating photographs, ones he enjoys taking the most, are images of lightning strikes against a stormy night sky.
“They can be very challenging,” he says of the lightning shots. “It can take anywhere from 50 to 500 photos to get that one perfect shot. Timing is everything and the lightning doesn’t always cooperate.”
He notes that the drone allows him to shoot from several miles away, so his equipment is never in danger of being struck by the lightning.
Deer got into drone photography after flying radio-controlled helicopters for 11 years. Transitioning into drones provided him with more than the thrill of flying remotely. It also gave him a view of the world from above. He taught himself photography, so he could share the world that his drone camera was capturing.
He flies a drone with four fixed blades on top.
“Drones are extremely stable in the air,” he says. “They can lock on to up to 20 satellites at once and can stay stationary for a long time, allowing you to get amazing shots of weather, sunsets or anything you want.”
Deer is registered with the Federal Aviation Administration to use his drone recreationally as well as commercially. Under recreational regulations, drones may be used only in uncontrolled airspace where there is no manned air traffic, and they can only be used for hobby purposes. Deer has a separate remote pilot designation that allows him to use his drone commercially. He also holds a daytime waiver, allowing him to fly at night, and a Joplin air space waiver, which exempts him from having to contact the Joplin Regional Airport any time he flies in its air space, which covers a five-mile radius of the airport.
His drone opened a new photography passion and side business for him. He works full time at Blue Water Pools and uses his aerial photography business as his creative outlet. It is his escape from all things troubling in the world.
“Flying takes a lot of concentration,” he says. “It allows you to forget about viruses, politics, hatred, racism, and everyday problems and lets you see the beauty that surrounds us all, and you get to share it with others.”
If you can’t make it to Urban Art Gallery to view Deer’s exhibit, you can see a selection of his aerial photographs on his business Facebook page, JK Aerial Photography.