“Get off the ground with Falcon View Aerials.”
Drones are the next big things in art. Aerial photography is on the frontier of a whole new expedition of art being explored across the world. The sky is no longer the limit. Artists now have the chance to survey new heights in their work. In the past, an artist had to be lucky and have enough money to book a plane or helicopter tour for a quick photo shoot. That was the extent of their access. Now, with the introduction of drones that can be purchased by the everyday consumer, aerial photography is readily available for those who want an adventure in the skies. One of the small yet innovative companies out there on the forefront of this artistic endeavor is Falcon View Aerial Photography.
A great friend and amazing artist, Sean Falconer, founded this company and has been taking viewers on breathtaking journeys. A partnership with his sister, Kelly, has made this venture one to marvel at. “I first discovered aerial drones about a year and a half ago before the drone buzz really began. I was astounded when I first saw a drone. I have always been amazed by technology’s ability to alter the human perspective of the world. This [venture] allowed me to have one of these unprecedented perspectives,” remarks Sean, “on the business side, I identified a noticeable hole in the Upstate [New York] aerial photography marketplace, with a high demand for drone photography. So, I decided to build my business with the purchase of a drone and an LLC. [It’s] kind of just taken off from there, pun intended.”
Thanks to Sean’s ambitions, he has shown us sights of architecture, manmade landmarks and beautiful panoramas that are astounding. Currently an architectural designer, Sean’s side project has now become a meaningful passion. “Its so cool seeing something I love, architecture, in ways its never been seen before. When you photograph a building with a drone you are seeing a perspective that has never been seen before, by anyone. Ever. It’s amazing. It would be really fun to film [large-scale] mural, graffiti, or land art from the level of a drone. Its a cheap way to see art in a pulled back fashion.” Urban artists already use such drone efforts to capture their work. In fact, the Wynwood Art District in Miami, FL, was just doing some aerial drone photography this past month at Wynwood Walls. Difficult cranes are no longer needed with the assistance of drones in the space. As the urban art world grows, so will drones.
I was fortunate enough to witness the man in action this past summer in California. Mr. Falconer and I took the ocean drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles for a long weekend. Probably one of the best parts of the trip was the fact that Sean had brought his drone along with him. I had only heard about drone phenomenon on the news, however, I had never seen a drone in person. It was amazing to watch how the device works. At our first stop, he took the drone out of the backseat of our rental car and began setting it up on the street. First, he took the drone carefully out of its luggage and placed it on the ground. He attached four propellers to the rotors and gave them a spin to lock in place. The most complicated part of it all, is the synchronization of the camera, iPhone app and satellite connection that all need to communicate together for the drone to fly. What I learned is that without that syncing, the drone can just drift away! What a terrifying thought. Once all those things are in place, the drone bursts into life, loudly, and takes off by the controls commandeered by Sean. He can view and take shots in real time via his iPhone attached to the controller. Since the drone is white, once it gets to a certain height, it becomes almost impossible to spot. Luckily, that does not faze Mr. Falconer in the least. He calmly makes adjustments all the while and successfully gets his shots completed.
California offered Sean some opportunities that he had always wanted to attempt. We stopped along the coast to take a shot of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Supported by the ocean breeze and morning sunshine added onto the experience. Sean took photo and video of the lighthouse along the ocean and it was spectacular. Viewers can see the crashing of the waves, the colors of the sun still rising with every movement of the drone. At that point, the jetlag and exhaustion did not even matter anymore. The exhilarating feeling of watching that drone drift off to take some incredible moments was all we needed. Just take a look below and be blown away.
Another exciting shoot was when we finally hit Big Sur. We came along several bridges and the elation on Sean’s face was enough for us the screech the car to a halt. For this bridge shoot we were still extremely close to the coast via some dangerous cliffs. As the drone took off, Sean realized that the satellite signal was weak at our location. A moment of panic arose as we looked at each other. With a quick snap and video clip he quickly yet cautiously brought the drone back to us on the cliff face, much to the admiration of the Indian onlookers who had crowded around us.
Amazingly enough that was not Sean’s most difficult shoot. He recalls one that was memorable: “The craziest shoot to date was for a real estate company with lake front property. They were interested in a full aerial loop around the lake with some dive shots into their property. This was during a windy late-fall/winter week in Syracuse. I thought I lost the drone a few times with it being blown out of range by the wind. [There] are a few hair-raising moments when you have your entire business a few hundred feet up being dragged away by the wind. We got the shots we needed, the client was very satisfied, and we learned a lot about our limits.” Sean’s determination is one that always tests the boundaries and has proven to be a trait in his work that remains unique. It also helps to keep the drone in one piece too!
Sean also shared his most enjoyable drone moment: “… One of my favorite shots was a video of a train hurdling through the outside of the city. I was able to position the drone and look directly down at the locomotive with the cars in tow. As the train passed out of sight I panned the camera up to track the locomotive. It had just rained so the earth glinted below as the sun set in the distance with the train disappearing into the landscape. It was a beautiful mix of elements and lucky timing.”
Despite the FAA regulations on drones, Sean points out the positives to it all: “Believe it or not I welcome FAA regulations on drones. The last thing I want is someone ruining the whole industry for the rest of us. Last I heard, the FAA was proposing a drone operators license for a few hundred dollars and a test similar to a [driver’s] license… Considering we already operate within the FAA guidelines, I’m pretty excited to get the license and add another level of legitimacy to our business.” I wonder what the ID card would look like?
Sean’s aspirations continue to grow as his project reaches even more impactful altitudes. “We are currently researching the creation of a thermal camera drone. The thing to keep your eye on is not only drones, but the innovative ways drones will be used in the future.” With Amazon and other companies testing out these pieces of technology, I am sure amazing things will happen. The customer base is another one that will change. For example, the sports market for that matter could be a great spot for drone use. As Sean is ahead of the curve that would be something he would love to do next: “I want to try out some extreme sport drone photography. Whether its skiing, car racing, or skateboarding I think it would be very cool to film an athlete/machine from just above… it would be fun to branch into filming moving a moving target.” People would pay good money for that kind of action. It would be amazing to see a skate park from above while the skaters do their thing.
Falcon View is currently based out of Syracuse, NY. However, Sean has thought of branching out someday with perhaps the dream of a full team of Falcon View drone photographers. “[It] would be awesome. We are always welcome to creating partnerships and look forward to expanding the Falcon View reputation. We already collaborate with film editors and other creative business developers. The natural step would be to employ and expand. First! We need the blessing of the FAA through some concrete rules.” Safety first is a good idea. “Aerial drones are still in their infancy and I’m looking forward to the advancements to come. I think safety redundancies will become the norm like motor failure parachutes and eight prop drones that can run on four in case of failure. People are and always have been fearful of new technology. I think the drone industry just needs some time to shake out the quirks, regulate, standardized features, and drones will be normalized an accepted by the masses.” Let us hope so; drones are useful tools that can really help so many aspects of life both in entertainment and business.
For those people who want a glimpse into the high elevation of art, follow Falcon View’s work. Sean Falconer as well as several other pioneers of the craft are sure to be names to remember. For artists who are curious of the space, save up some money, do your research and get a drone! Better yet, go out and chat with people like Sean who are pushing the boundaries on what aerial photography can do. Take off and explore!
Edward Hopper (Painter)
Drone Dudes (Prominent LA Based Drone collective)
Specifications of Falcon View Drone:
- 25 min. flight battery
- 1300 ft. range (400 ft. vertical range limit)
- 1080p HD video
- 14 MP RAW stills