I have avoided purchasing a drone for quite some time.  In all honesty, I found their noises to be deeply distracting when you are trying to immerse yourself in the mountains or forest.  However, over the past year or so, I have begun imagining photographs that would really only be possible to capture with a drone.

Despite these creative ideas bubbling to the surface of my mind, I shut them down, justifying the denial of these ideas with the ethics of my work.  I have always prided my work on the basis that I frequently have to work quite hard to be in the right spot at the right moment.  I felt like using a drone was cheating a bit.  Once I finally caved and got my hands on a DJI Mavic Air 2S (a very lightweight and portable drone with a surprisingly powerful camera), I knew I wanted to keep my perspective about working hard for my shots, and simply use the drone to take my access to the next level.

One of my first outings with the drone was an overnight ski tour to Sparks Lake.  This mellow approach followed the Cascade Lakes highway (still under multiple feet of snow) for about 6 miles.  I set up camp on a beautiful afternoon with incredible views of South Sister and Broken Top.  I had the entire place to myself, with only the occasional snowmobiler buzzing by about a mile away.

Natures Canvas #3

Sparks Lake, Deschutes National Forest, Oregon

Once camp was established, I launched my drone several times that evening.  My first observation from this new perspective was how subtle changes in the angle of the sun affected the shadows on the landscape.  From ground level, these changes seem routine and predictable.  From above, the shadows appear to be their own subjects, independent from the forms that cast them.  

My goal was to craft the photograph that I had envisioned for over a year, with the creek beginning to melt out in Sparks Lake being the winding, abstract form that absorbed your attention.  Upon getting the drone in the sky for the second time that evening, I started to think how I could incorporate the shadows from the landscape, cast upon the blank canvas of the snow-covered lake.  

Since mountains are my favorite subject to photograph, I found this lovely composition where the shadow of a nearby ridge line created this mountain form to balance the creek as a secondary subject.  While still abstract, the creek is a tangible and stable subject, while the shadow is transient and without form.  One winds gracefully through the frame, while the other tears through it in dramatic fashion.  While they cross each others paths, they do not interrupt each others purpose.  This dance between natural elements is delicate and nuanced. 

My goal is to continue using the drone as a powerful tool for creativity, rather than a crutch for access to places I can reach with effort.  This is certainly a learning process, and one I am excited to grow from.

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