Known in the world of drone photography as @zekedrone, Martin Sanchez is a 33 year old graphic interface designer from New Jersey USA – lover of coffee who enjoys having a cup before every flight. When not working or playing tennis, he’s experimenting with new aerial perspectives. We interviewed Martin to discover the stories behind his award winning still and video aerial photography. All photos and video used by permission.
You describe yourself as an aerial explorer. Where has drone videography taken you around the globe? Where have you considered the most outstanding location?
Aerial Explorer is something I tagged myself with because of the pure fact that once you are flying above things it feels like you are exploring new perspectives. Everything is new for the first time. I also call my captures “Mining for Captures” just like gold miners are looking for Gold, aerial explorers are finding beauty from above for the world to see maybe for the first time.
I must admit this whole drone thing has made me travel more than ever. In 2016 I went to Arizona, Brazil and Argentina. In 2017 I travelled to Spain, Iceland and Italy which were all incredible experiences respectively. But in general I was able to get out more and explore places that I wouldn’t see if I had gone as just a regular trip.
Every location is different. For me so far the one place that has left that “I need to go back feeling” is Iceland. In the first hour of being there I went through the overwhelming phase of wanting to capture everything and not having enough batteries. The inside of my car was like a Christmas tree lighting. Battery charging everywhere. I was there during the summer season so most of the day was daylight. After a long flight you would consider a quick nap right? Wrong I was way passed that. I was pushing plus 48hours of no sleep since I arrived. The landscape there is just endless.
What conditions do you look for to capture a great aerial sequence?
The golden hour is definitely a great condition to capture on certain places like nature shots. But I prefer cloudy days. Sometimes I want to capture the true colors or not having to deal with shadows. I was really satisfied on how some of my best shots came out during cloudy days.
When I shoot my visual drone art it is key to shoot on cloudy days. I don’t want to have any shadows. When you lay down on the ground and capture a performance you want to completely eliminate the shadow from the composition. This helps the viewer emerge into the perspective you are trying to capture.
What steps did you take to become a skilled drone pilot and photographer?
As a drone pilot it is very important to consider safety and being responsible. Making sure that your drone is always well kept. Having a routine pre-flight check is crucial to every flight.
As a photographer I think experimenting is important. The creative part is something I really enjoy and trying to capture something different is always exciting. When shooting video I try to practice new piloting maneouvres all the time, which also helps my piloting skills and gets me more familiar with the controllers. At the end of the day we are still piloting an aircraft and should maximize on control.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far as an aerial photographer?
One thing that I would like to include as one of my accomplishments was having the ability to hike and climb one of the most dangerous and highest mountain rocks in Rio de Janeiro Brazil (Pedra da Gavea) My push to get to the top which is not easy at all and every time you think it will get easier it gets harder, was fuelled by what I carried in my backpack which was the drone. It took 3.5 hours to make it to the top. In my head before I even got to the top I had planned out how I would shoot and film. I guess that just kept my mind focused on reaching the top.
But one of my greatest accomplishments so far which I am very thankful is having two of my captures selected by National Geographic as the best photos of the year. The photo “End of the Line” which is a visual drone art photo was awarded 1st place in the PEOPLES CATEGORY of the 2017 International Drone Photography Contest held by Dronestagram and National Geographic. It was later printed on their main issue of National Geographic Magazine. The photo “Spanish Maze” was also selected by National Geographic as one of the best drone photographs of the year and it was also selected as finalists in the URBAN CATEGORY of the 2017 International Drone Photography Contest.
Can you tell us anything about your next aerial project?
I am always mining for captures but experimenting is definitely my key ingredient. I don’t have anything set in stone yet but I’ve been really interested in getting my Visual Drone Art captures evolved into motion and see how that turns out.
What do you fly, and what do you love about it?
I started with a Phantom 3 Pro but now I am full on the Mavic Pro. Super convenient and I take it everywhere I go and just fits inside a small backpack.
How do you see the drone technology expanding or changing in the next 5 years?
I would imagine drones will get better for photos and videos since that is the hot thing right now. So battery life and better integrated cameras should get better. Also anything in the avoidance system should get better since that is also key in the reputation of drones.
The next 20 years?
Wow now I am getting into Nostradamus status. In 20 years I think the shift begins. So delivery will probably be the major focus. You might see more people licensed to operate drones like people are licensed to operate cars. I definitely see a Drone Traffic Control system that can help drones communicate with one another.
Where would be your next bucket list location to shoot? Why?
I have a few places that I would like to explore and capture but I think one that has been on my mind lately is Patagonia. It is located in the Southern end of Argentina and Chile. It offers some of the best landscapes in the world. One specific point of interest is located further down south which is called Tierra del Fuego – Land of Fire or also known as “The end of the world” since it is located at the tip of South America it offers incredible views of Snowy Mountains and huge amounts of Glaciers.
Where can readers find out more about what you do?
About Martin Sanchez
Hi my name is Martin Sanchez 33 year old graphic interface designer from New Jersey USA. I’m a coffee lover and enjoy having a cup before every flight. Whenever I get the chance I’ll enjoy a tennis match which is great way to stay active. Since experimenting with drones I found myself travelling more than ever and this new and exciting hobby has led me to places I would of never gone. I was always fascinated with airplanes and the whole concept of flight. But throughout my life I always found creating and experimenting a crucial ingredient to the things I do.