Back in 2013, Craig met with Fred Pawl from The Australian to discus his innovative aerial techniques for surf photography and how the whole artistic process evolved. Read on below to hear how it all started…
For most operators, small unmanned drones and helicopters offer an opportunity to break into the commercial photography and video business, shooting mines, real estate and construction sites.
But few see these machines through an artist’s eye.
Craig Parry, of Lennox Head NSW, got into surf photography 10 years ago, but quickly branched out after realising it was not lucrative enough. Five years ago he started to wonder about photography’s final frontier. “I was lying in bed dreaming about the angles and perspectives you can get from above,” he says.
He started out with a small helicopter, and a year ago moved up to a $15,000 drone capable of carrying cinema-quality movie camera. He uses a Canon 5D MkIII, capable of both stills and video.
Rather than shooting mining sites and construction jobs, he is using them to reveal new angles of everyday images.
Among his favourites to date is a shot he took recently of two surfers walking along Main Beach, Byron Bay. He’d taken a commissioned shot the previous day of a beachside yoga class, and noticed how the long shadows played on the sand. When he saw the two surfers, he immediately launched the drone and, navigating through the 25cm screen on his remote, positioned his drone long enough to take the only shot he wanted.
“I didn’t need to take any others – the body language is just right,” he says. “They didn’t even know the drone was there.” The shot took only a few minutes.
On another occasion, he was tipped off by marine parks that a whale placenta had been found off Cape Byron. The next day, out on his dad’s 18ft catamaran, he saw a whale moving conspicuously slowly near the cape. He launched the drone and, through the live video feedback, saw what he thought was a shark swimming beside a rare southern right whale.
When the smaller creature swam beneath the whale and reappeared, he knew he’d just recorded a rare sequence of a day-old southern right feeding off its mum. “I actually high-fived dad when I got those shots,” he said.
Use of drones and remote helicopters for photography and other commercial purposes is burgeoning in Australia, which was the first country in the world to introduce laws regulating their use, in 2002.
In the past two years, the number of registered commercial operators has grown from about a dozen to 50-60, says Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson. Their uses range from security and surveying to crop spraying.
All operators need to stay three nautical miles away from airports, not fly above 400ft and stay 30m away from buildings and people. Commercial operators need to obtain a licence that includes the theoretical test passed by pilots of private, manned aircraft.
Parry’s next ambition is to shoot wildlife in Africa and volcanoes in Hawaii, where he hopes to also capture new angles of Pipeline, the most photographed wave in surfing history.
“I want to get a shot from 45 degrees looking into the barrel,” he says.”I’m creating my own art. I don’t go out there for the fun of it. I get my buzz out of getting the shot.”