P38 Aerial provides fresh perspective on Farragut

Wendy SmithFarragut, The Farragut Insider

Gary Steadman has been a commercial photographer for over 30 years. When drone photography first came on the scene in the early 2000s, he sat back and watched it develop. He didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon until 1) the image quality was good enough to be used for business, and 2) federal regulations regarding drones became predictable rules.

Three years ago, he decided that those two conditions had been met. He attended a hands-on seminar for drone professionals and began studying the Federal Aviation Administration’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107). Through a test, he received certification that proves he understands the regulations, operating requirements and procedures for safely flying drones.

His career is now focused on drone work.

“For me, it became a new avenue for my photography that I didn’t have before. It became a new creative outlet.”

Much of his drone video and photography is for marketing. A video he produces for a yacht broker is available on the P38 Aerial Facebook page. He also has a contract with Visit Farragut, the town’s tourism department, and videos he created using breathtaking shots of various Farragut sites are on his Facebook page as well as Visit Farragut’s.

Switching from earthbound photography to aerial produced the same “creative jolt” that he experienced when he moved from film to digital photography. One of the interesting aspects of aerial photography is that you don’t always know what you’ll find when you are shooting, he says.

“It’s a unique point of view that you can’t get when you’re standing on the ground.”

Drone photography requires a substantial investment in equipment because tools and software are constantly being improved. He can program his latest drone to repeat a path, which allows him to shoot from an identical vantage point from day to day to show a progression. He’s currently using this technology to film construction of the plaza surrounding the Campbell Station Inn.

Investing in equipment that literally flies away calls for steady nerves – and a lot of training. Gary crashed a drone during his first training seminar and recently watched his new drone come down “gently.” If a drone propeller touches anything, it will likely crash.

“If you don’t crash them, you’re not trying hard enough,” he laughs.

Newer drones are programmed to return to where they were launched, which is helpful if a pilot loses communication. They’re also programmed to return to the launch site if their battery is low.

Such advances make it possible for drones to be utilized for a variety of commercial purposes, from building or cell tower inspections to soil analysis. Before drones became easily accessible, aerial photography required a helicopter or airplane, Gary says. He’s glad to have the opportunity to produce imagery that he never dreamed of before taking the plunge into drone photography.

“If I’m not energized and excited by what I do, I’m just treading water. I’m very happy with how it’s gone.”

Town of Farragut public relations and marketing coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut Insider.

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