Parrot

Interview With Jasmyn Phillips Photographer and Drone Pilot by Katherine Nielsen

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Can you tell me a little bit yourself ?

I love to travel and learn about the world around me. My favorite research topics are ornithology and microbiology (birds and bugs!). When I left my job in finance to get my health on track, I knew I needed to bring balance back into my life. I have always considered myself an artist. I realized I had to revisit my creative side, so I took up photography as a therapeutic hobby. 

What led you to drone photography?

A few years ago I was photographing birds at the Salton Sea, a shrinking desert lake in California. I saw a man flying a drone by the water. As I went about getting shots of pelicans lined up on a sandbar, I watched as the man flew his quadcopter right over them. To my amazement, the birds seemed completely undisturbed. I suddenly realised how fantastic it would be to photograph nature from a whole new perspective, a bird's eye view. From that moment on I knew I wanted a drone.

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What inspires your creative vision?

As a lifelong environmental advocate, I feel a deep appreciation for the earth and I believe in preserving places of ecological importance. Especially places that are often overlooked or misunderstood, like the Salton Sea. That sense of stewardship has compelled me to use photography as a way to communicate key issues that affect humans and the natural world. 

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Can you talk me through your editing process as well as some of your favourite editing apps?

I love to add inspirational quotes with an aerial twist on my drone photography. I use a fun and simple app called Be Funky. I feel good about the accomplishment of learning to fly. I am grateful to those who encouraged me and want to give back some of that positivity. 

Are there any places you wish you could photograph from the air?

I am absolutely enamoured with salt lakes, salterns and their beautiful rainbow colors. I want to travel the globe capturing this amazing spectacle. 

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What equipment are you currently flying and any must have accessories?

I fly the Parrot Bebop 2 and Yuneec Breeze 4K I won at InterDrone. I've also flown the Phantom 4 Pro, Parrot Disco and Mavic Air. I really love the convenience of travel size drones. Next I'd like to try the new Anafi by Parrot and purchase a Mavic Air. Must have accessories are ND filter and the ultra-bright CrystalSky monitor.


What image are you currently most proud of? 

A photo of an interesting Salton Sea phenomenon. I was amazed to see colorful water left behind in exposed fish nests. This is a very delicate area and I wouldn't have seen this without my drone!

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What has been your most memorable travel experience?

While filming a documentary about California's drying lakes, we visited Owens Lakebed in the beautiful Eastern Sierra Mountains. Prehistorically, Owens Lake was a massive body of water. But in the 1900s it was drained and desiccated. It has been a huge source of fugitive dust for many years, severely impacting people's health. Because we are facing a similar situation at the Salton Sea, I wanted to see it for myself. I was amazed at the natural beauty of Owens Valley and the surrounding desert. However, the once majestic blue lake is now a constant construction zone of various dust abatement methods. I flew my drone over a spot of particular interest to me - where the red water of the brine ponds met the smooth blue sky. It is a memorable and impactful image that is beautiful yet sobering at the same time.

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Do you have a favourite perspective you like to capture? 

As water levels fluctuate at the Salton Sea it creates beautiful patterns, colors and textures. I like to capture low altitude views and panos of the extensive shoreline, lakebed and desert.

Which drone/aerial photographers inspire you right now and why? 

I can think of two brilliant and creative fellow pilots. Eric Hanscom of DroneZone travels to Thailand with his family to do temple roof inspections. The aerial footage he captures allows Buddhist monks to find damage and helps them get a grant for repairs.

Richard Shelton of Multicopter Builders designs, builds and also flies racing drones in exciting places. His epic cinematography skills are out of this world! It give viewers the feeling of a 'magic carpet ride for the soul'. 

Do you have any epic drone failures or crashes? 

Once while flying FPV the video signal cut out completely. It was scary but thank goodness for the Return to Home button!

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Do you have an exciting projects you are currently working on? 

I continue to raise awareness and advocate for restoration of California's most endangered saline lake, the Salton Sea. Aerial photography is an effective tool to monitor and document the changing shoreline and also share its beauty. It is my hope that others realize the importance of preserving this ecological treasure to protect birds and humans that live here. Afterall, a healthy aquatic ecosystem helps to keep the dust wet and out of our air.

Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring aerial photographers?

Be courageous and just do it. It is a worthwhile endeavor to learn to fly conscientiously and have fun too. Remember that success starts with a great 'altitude'! 

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