Drones are now used to create many different genres of aerial photography. Below drone, landscape, sunset and sunrise – capturing roads, coastlines, forests and more. There are two drone photographers however – JP and Mike of Abstract Aerial Art – who have taken the field of drone photography to the next level. Their captures of top down scenes enter the realm of fine art, which has seen them featured in the British Journal of Photography. We asked the boys to interview with us so we could dig a little deeper about what flies their kite, for our High Flyers series.
Hi guys, thanks for giving us the opportunity to interview you. Your story about getting into drone photography captures the adventurer in all of us. Share a little of that with us here?
You’re welcome! Thank you for having us!
Our drive to go on this adventure that turns out to have changed our lives was based on the end of relationships and wanting to go and experience something completely different. Not having any ties to the UK and both being self employed, it was very easy for us to set off. In March 2016, we took some savings, booked a one way ticket and with very little thought or planning, headed to the airport. Within 3 weeks of the idea to go to Australia being discussed, we found ourselves in the middle of Sydney! Little at that point did we know, the next year would take us on a 70 thousand kilometre adventure around the Australian wilderness to some of the most incredible locations we’ve ever witnessed and steer our career paths towards becoming aerial photographers! The first half of our adventure was purely travelling and seeing the incredible sights Australia has to offer. We made it just over 20 thousand kilometres before our first vehicle gave up! (more on that down the page!) It wasn’t until the end of October 2016 and our final 5 months in Australia that we purchased a drone. This is the point we set off for part two of the adventure and racked up a further 50 thousand kilometres searching for images!!
Describe to us the initial images of Australia you captured. What were the locations? What made them so interesting?
The images below are some of the first we ever took with a drone and the inspiration for what has become Abstract Aerial Art. Truthfully, it was by complete accident that it came about and not something we set out to do at all. Initially, our rough plan was to make documentary style films from the remoter parts of Australia that we had seen during the first part of our adventure. This idea changed fairly quickly once we started to see the landscape from above. As we pointed the camera directly down towards Earth and started taking photographs, we saw a perspective of the world that immediately interested us. The more bizarre it looked, the more we liked it and this style of drone photography was not something we had really seen anybody else doing. We were immediately hooked on the way that landscapes and structures looked from above. Based on our first few photographs loosely reminding us of abstract artworks, we developed the idea to compose all of our images as if they were exactly that. This is how Abstract Aerial Art was born! Of these initial shots, two were taken in South Australia and the other two in Western Australia. They show an oil pond, a section of a salt lake, a sand spit in the ocean and an abandoned zinc mine. We’ll leave you to decide if you can work out which is which!
What challenges did you face being new to drone piloting and photography?
Mike was a freelance photographer by trade so this certainly helped with the photography side of things! When it came to piloting the drone, neither of us had ever seen a drone let alone flown one before we bought ours, so there was certainly an initial learning curve! JP, being the pilot, learned as we went along. Spending a lot of our time in the outback gave him the opportunity and space to learn quickly!
Any special moments or funny stories to share from that journey?
The answer to this question could go on for pages and pages! There are so many to list from a life changing adventure such as this! The more interesting stories however, mainly come from the precarious situations we found ourselves in on an almost daily basis! From blowouts, breakdowns and floods, wildfires started by the phenomenal wet season lightning storms to being rescued by the Wyndham police after getting stuck on tidal mudflats as the rising, crocodile infested waters surrounded our 4×4, danger just seemed to follow us everywhere!
Another one of these potentially life threatening experiences happened when our first vehicle broke down 1000 miles from the nearest civilisation as our transmission failed somewhere in Western Australia. We were stuck in first gear and had no option but to attempt to drive our stricken 4×4 to safety using only first gear! It took 26 and half hours of continuous ‘driving’ but unbelievably, we made it to Perth! Sadly, that was the end of Vehicle number 1 as referenced in the first question!
What do you fly, and what do you love about it?
We initially started out with a DJI Inspire Pro 1, however, due to the amount of travelling we now find ourselves doing, we have switched to a DJI Phantom 4 Pro. The portability, flight time and overall quality for its size is what we particularly like about this drone.
What would be your next drone purchase? Why?
We are happy using the Phantom 4 Pro. We feel this particular drone offers us the best of all worlds – portability, practicality and quality for a very reasonable price. We don’t currently see any other options to make a switch. The day a full frame camera on a small, portable drone is released, will be the day we will make our next drone purchase! We think that might be a while away though!
Please talk us through some of your most popular images.
Our two most popular images on Instagram are ‘Man Vs Wild’ and ‘End of the Road’
For ‘Man Vs Wild’, we had been searching for a while to find an image that tried to sum up the changing world we live in. This particular shot, in our eyes, told a very powerful message of how modern society and nature are in constant conflict, yet with a little thought and planning, can live side by side in perfect harmony. It shows the edge of a forrest as autumn takes hold next to a collection of old military trucks. We felt the contrast of nature and man made objects provided a great visual representation of this worldwide issue.
‘End of the Road’ was another image we spent quite a lot of time trying to find. Marshlands are some of our favourite things to photograph from the air. Although the abstract patterns and textures they create are amazing to see, the problem is that it’s very difficult to appreciate the scale of what you are looking at. We wanted to find something that helped show this and a on our last European road trip, we finally found what we had been searching for near a place called Huelva. There happens to be a road crossing right through one of these wonders of nature and luckily for us, our little red hatchback helps add to this perspective!
What other places have you captured since visiting Australia? What have been your favourite captures from these places?
Since our return home from Australia, we have continued to travel and search for unusual images. As well as the UK, we have done two separate road trips into Europe spending most of our time in France, Spain and Switzerland.
Our two favourite images from the European trips would have to be the images below. Both were taken from very unusual, abandoned locations. Although more symmetrical than abstract, they certainly come under the bizarre heading!
‘The Vault’ shows a top down view from the inside of an abandoned cooling tower in Belgium. It was a lot of fun spending the day here and we don’t think we’ll ever come across another location quite like this place!
‘The Terminal’ shows the terminal at an abandoned international airport in central Spain. After getting permission from the on site security, it was extremely eerie having the opportunity to fly around an empty airport! Once again, our little red car helps give some perspective to the shot!
Do you have any bucket list locations you’d like to shoot from the air?
Antarctica and if it were possible, Chernobyl!
How do you see the drone technology expanding or changing in the next 5 years?
We imagine (and hope) that the camera systems will become far more advanced as the technology develops. It’s amazing that we even have the possibility to take aerial photographs at a reasonable cost and what these drones already do is really incredible. That being said, certainly for still photography, the camera sensors could be a lot better.
The next 20 years?
Wow, we wish we could even guess! The speed at which technology advances these days, we will probably be flying in them!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Please be careful when flying drones! The more issues that happen, the less likely it is that the 99% of people using this amazing technology to bring perspectives of the world that have rarely been seen will be able to continue doing it!
Where can readers find out more about what you do?
We are active daily on Instagram, @abstractaerialart (as long as we’re not on location with no signal!) and you can see more about us on our website, www.abstractaerialart.com.
(Editor’s tip: you can buy their framed prints there, too!)
About JP and Mike
We are two brothers and best mates from the UK. With our passion for travel, adventure, photography and not being the 9-5 types, we specialise in finding bizarre, aerial images of planet Earth. Captured using our unique style of drone photography, we aim to show you a world from a perspective not many have the opportunity to witness. We intend to continue traveling far and wide to find the abstract aerial images we have fallen in love with. Every one of our aerial photographs comes from a real location on Earth. Other than slight colour and contrast enhancements, none of the images are manipulated in any way.
‘The point is not to work out what it is but to appreciate how weird and wonderful the world can look from above’.