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Drone Photographer Gavin Pickford, Taming South Africa’s Wild Coast

High Flyers

Aerial photography is a niche skillset that requires a combination of UAV piloting skills, a creative photographic eye and technical editing ability. All DroneBelow High Flyers are selected on the basis of their professionalism, talent and creativity. We invite these drone photographers to interview with us to find out more about what flies their kite.

Drone Photographer Gavin Pickford, Taming South Africa’s Wild Coast


On the wild southwestern coasts of South Africa, you will find the man known as @gavman.18 – Gavin Pickford. Based just outside of Capetown, Gavin works on a horsebreeding farm and in his spare time, creates beautiful images of that coastline using his drone pilot and photography skills. His dedication to his hobby shows, and the results are impressive – as we’re sure you’ll agree – so we interviewed him as one of our High Flyers.

Thanks for taking the time to interview with us, Gavin. How did you get into drone photography?

I have always been interested in different perspectives in photography and when I flew my friends drone I knew I had to get one. I started with the Phantom 2 with a GoPro attached.

You capture South Africa’s stunning coastlines so beautifully. What draws you to capture these kinds of scenes from the air?

I have always loved the beach and ocean, so I find myself drawn to capture its beauty, and the top down view of people on the beach or even just the coastline makes for interesting patterns. We have an amazing coastline here in SA and I love travelling up and down it to find new spots and views that people haven’t seen and get a fresh angle.

What conditions do you look for when on a photography mission? What challenges do you face for a successful shot?

Typically I try plan my shots before I capture them, but obviously that’s not always possible and sometimes I end up with some interesting images. So I’m always on the lookout for clear conditions so I can get the colours of the ocean and patterns in the sand if possible. I love the shapes of waves and how it changes all the time, you will never capture a wave the same in any shot. The main challenge about flying on the coast is the wind, it can change in a second. Secondly I don’t like to disturb people who are enjoying time on the beach or watching the sunset on a rock, so I will often not fly if it’s too populated, I would rather go somewhere else.

Please talk us through some of your most successful drone images – what made them work?

I can only think of 3 shots off the top of my head, one was actually a video I was shooting up the Eastern Coast of SA called the Wildcoast. I was filming some horses running up the beach but the wind was blowing around 50km/h and I had to capture them galloping in a line. I thought I was going to lose my drone that day, hahaha.

Then my most successful images were when I was flying off the coast and found my first tidal pool, since then I have been fascinated with them. I need to travel to Australia to capture all those pools they have there. The second shot was a planned flight over a forest which I had been eyeing for months, I was so happy with the outcome because of the different colours of the trees after a fire burned through the forest, nothing like I thought it would come out!

Do you have any more bucket list locations you’d like to photograph, and why? Any plans to travel?

Umm, yes I have a few places high up on my list, first is Norway, I am dying to go and fly over the Lofoten Islands. Then would be Greenland, Faroe Islands, Scotland and then New Zealand, which I will be going to in a year or so. I actually lived in NZ for 8 years but I wasn’t that into photography at that time so I never saw the sights while there. So I have much to see when I head back.

What other aerial photographers are you inspired by? Why?

My biggest inspiration is Tobias Hagg ( @airpixels ) he is an amazing photographer and captures aerial shots like no other, and he is such a genuine guy. Then there is Gab Scanu ( @gabscanu ) he inspires my ocean/beach shots, one of the best on Instagram.

What do you fly and what do you love about it?

I started out with the Phantom 2 with a GoPro on it and learned how to fly with that. Most of the time my screen was broken so I learned to fly “blind”, hahaha. I now have the Phantom 3 Pro which I love because it’s not too big and I have a great backpack that allows me to travel with it and all my camera gear.

What drone would you like to fly next?

I would love the Mavic Pro, purely because it’s small and takes up no space.

How do you see the drone technology expanding or changing in the next 5 years?

Drone tech is rapidly growing and moving forward, so I see them getting smaller with better cameras and much quieter which makes them less intrusive.

Where can readers find out more about what you do?

I have 2 accounts on Instagram, my drone account is @gavman.18 and my main account is @gavman18, I post regularly on both accounts.

Gavin Pickford

About Gavin Pickford

I’m a self-taught landscape photographer who always had the passion for photography but never had the means/platform to express myself, until Instagram came along. Since then it has opened up a world of exploration and seeing it in a new light. I work on a horse breeding farm in the winelands of Cape Town which I moved to 6 years ago when I moved back home from New Zealand. Since moving here it has sparked my interest in photography again as I am surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes.

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Cite this article as: Sarah Whittaker, "Drone Photographer Gavin Pickford, Taming South Africa’s Wild Coast," in, November 28, 2017,

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