So let me invite you into this blog about my latest shoot in the Badlands of southern Utah. Our consummate guide and professional photographer Joseph Rossbach ran a workshop that I attended in an area that included Capital Reef National Park and the BLM ( Bureau of Land Management ) areas that surround the park. The HIGHs pertain to the use of my drone, a DJI Air 2s, to take aerial shots of the surrounding area. I can honestly say, that as a photographer, this added the element of seeing and creating from the air. It was both eye opening and nerve wracking. Having a trained guide, in both landscape and drone photography, helped immensely, as Joe took us to places off the grid… to put it mildly. He helped bring out my confidence and eased my anxiety when launching my drone off cliffs and far out in the badlands, something that flying in south jersey did not prepare me for.
The HIGHs, as in aerial photography, brought into view a site not normally seen or experienced in the middle of nowhere. Flying in this open space was very “freeing” which enabled me to concentrate on composition and how the light effected the rippling land forms seen below. The part that I quickly picked up on was that time and distance became integral to the view on my screen. Distance is very deceiving, when viewed from a cliff or desert launch point. Out in the badlands, reaching a butte or ridge takes a while to achieve, and unlike regular camera photography the time, as in battery life, comes into play. I quickly realized that the time it took to reach these beautiful abstract vistas was also relative to battery life and the time it took to get safely back. Once my battery life anxiety passed, composing by flying low and high brought my vision full circle. This is nothing I have experienced before in creating photographs and something that will resonate with me for the foreseeable future.
The LOWs would take us to the places easily reached by driving, anticipating how the light would illuminate a hidden slot canyon, an overlook, or just wandering through the brush to capture a better view. Our base was a small town called Torrey Utah. From there we traveled through Capital Reef NP, parts of the Dixie national forest, the edge of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and as far as Hanksville UT… not to mention all the hidden treasures along the way. Transitioning from drone to traditional camera became second hand while capturing different locations from sunrise to sunset.
The abstract vibe, that came about while shooting, made its presence early on when composing from the air. What I as a photographer did not plan on was how the early morning brilliance and the last light in the evening affected my compositions. Adding warming or cool tones, it enhanced the overall feeling I got, especially when the ridges and valleys seemed to take on a life of their own. The moniker “Badlands” insinuates a place that is very inhospitable and while out in the middle of this environment, sure does make one think just how people got from one place to another. For me the views from above, this aerial perspective, filled me with awe and provided a real connection to a land that felt like the birthing place of what we have come to call… Mother Earth.