Karl Adami beautifully captured the harvest hues of Estonia in late summer earlier this year. The clarity and creativity of these images prompted us to reach out to Karl to find out more about what flies his kite in our High Flyers series.
Thanks for joining us Karl. Can you please tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you do?
Tere (meaning hi in Estonian)! My name’s Karl and I’m a 26 year old lad based in Estonia. I’m currently a freelance nature photographer and operator-author working for Estonian Public Broadcasting. I spend nearly all my days chasing and capturing different moments and besides that I tend to write a lot, mainly about my encounters with wildlife and nature in general. The main goal of that is to enlighten and encourage people.
Your portfolios show a strong aptitude for wildlife photography. What made you take the leap into aerial photography?
I’m almost entirely focused on observing and photographing birds and time after time I find myself wondering what it would be like to see through birds’ eyes. That was the first trigger. Besides that, I’ve always wanted to see familiar places through different angles and heights. That urge got so strong that I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I bought myself a drone.
What steps did you take to become an accomplished drone pilot and photographer?
I’m quite lucky to have lots of friends with the same interests, to share my thoughts, emotions and problems with. This has helped me a lot on this journey, becoming a drone pilot and photographer. Criticism helps to develop my skills and I guess that I’m my own biggest critic. I could always take even better photos, although nature sets some limits. I’ve always shot moments that I personally care about, rather than take photos only because I would think that others would love them.
What do you fly, and what do you love about it?
One of my friends was joking that my drone isn’t better than a white plastic chair, because it looked like one. And for no good reason I now call it “the plastic chair” myself. My first drone, DJI Phantom 4 Pro is a very smart plastic chair and I don’t regret buying it. It’s fast, smart and let’s be honest, for a camera that small, it takes good pictures.
What has been your favourite aerial photo moment to date?
My friend and I spent nearly all day hiking and wandering in different bogs. Some corners of those bogs were hard to approach and we had to be careful with every step that we made, because you could easily sink in some spots. To make myself more uncomfortable I had to carry two camera bags – one for my drone and the other one for two DSLRs. We were hoping to see fog over the bogscape and noctilucent clouds, but unfortunately wind was blowing our hopes away. We made our way to another bog, a smaller one and I guess we were lucky, because the view was absolutely stunning – bog ponds and lakes covered with thick fog.
What do you look for when seeking a successful aerial shot?
I suppose that the most important thing is definitely light. Good light helps to create a certain mood in photos. It doesn’t necessarily have to be sunrise or sunset. I usually don’t shoot during the midday because of the harsh light, but sometimes it’s justified. Aside from good light, I think that the weather is as important. I love foggy mornings or retreating clouds.
I would love to capture moments that make the viewers ask questions, rather than make them yawn. Patterns, light, composition, angles – are important factors. Yet, I’ve met tons of people who still think that after purchasing a drone, they’ll become automatically aerial photographers. Everything is awesome, whatever they shoot. The same goes for purchasing a DSLR.
Do you have any goals or ambitions with regard to drone photography and your love of wildlife?
I have some goals and ambitions towards both of those topics. Of course I would love to see my work getting published in different magazines, books, newspapers, because I really value the kind of bond that’s only possible between a printed magazine and the reader. This is something else than just browsing pages on web. No doubt that getting your work published is just a tool. At least for me it is. And not just the tool to emerge as a photographer, but rather to send out a message, whether it’s about drone flying ethics or how diverse our ecosystems are.
Aside from telling stories, I would like to improve my skills and equipment.
Are there any other aerial photographers whose work you admire?
I suppose that each advanced aerial photographer has some admirable and cool shots that really pop out in the mass, so it’s kinda difficult to name just one or two photographers. But I definitely admire those aerial photographers who can do it all – shoot landscapes, wildlife, sports and aerial.
Do you have a bucket list location you’d like to shoot? Where, and why?
I don’t have an epic bucket list yet, because there’s hundreds of cool places in Estonia that I wish to visit with a drone before I head to France or Iceland. We have so much untouched places. Surely I would love to fly a drone in Sweden or Finland. But we’ll see.
How do you see the drone technology expanding or changing in the next 5 years?
I guess that most droners would love to see tons of features in a rather small drone. Better camera, larger sensor, more flight time, lower noise etc. Probably we’ll get all those things in a couple of years from now. Personally, I hope that drones will get safer and I’m not just talking about avoiding crashes, but getting alarms while flying a drone, especially when there are some birds flying nearby.
Where can readers find out more about what you do?