The Zenith Nature project was born from my fascination with nature and technology. It all began when I bought a drone, a couple of years ago, but I really got a kick out of it during the pandemic, when people were forbidden to cross city limits, not to mention go on trips, for long periods of time. Hovering above the natural parks and marshes that surround the lakes encircling my hometown was, and still is, a way to escape from the ordinary.
I used the healing power of photography and my subjective view of nature to counterbalance the loss of control that the pandemic cast upon my life. Upon all lives.
I like surprises. That’s why I concentrate on producing an image that is not immediately recognizable for what it is. Zenith perspective surely helps in that, as we usually look at nature from below or from aside.
The editing focuses on bright moments of the radiant light, on clouds reflected on water, on gems sprouting in spring time, on the lines drawn by branches and leaves; basically on differences of colors and forms, on time passing.
I tried to highlight the features that make nature so incredibly plural, even in a city park.
Flying a drone is no big deal. In fact it is probably easier than playing a videogame where wizards or Rambo-like characters nastily throw spells or stuff at you. If you can move your thumbs independently, here you go, you can fly a drone. Two mini joysticks: up and down, turn clock or anticlockwise; forward and backward, fast or slow. A wheel moves the camera along the vertical ax, a button shoots photographs or videos. That’s all you really need to master on the remote. Oh, I almost forgot, the RTH Return-to-Home button, my big friend. Not that I get frequently lost in the air, nobody should, it’s the law, but sometimes I get so deeply focused on composition that when the low battery warning beeps, I prefer to rely on automation than manually bring my buddy home.
I mentioned the law. Well, this is a big part of flying on object that could potentially fall from the sky on somebody’s head, peep on private property, endanger bigger flying vehicles, fly through prohibited airspace, and so on. Almost every country where I’ve been in Europe and the Americas requires a specific permit, the respect of limits and more often than not an insurance. Some others, mostly in Africa and Asia, do not allow drones at all. Which means: do your homework before deciding on your next destination.
That said, all the bureaucracy in the world shouldn’t stop you from having fun and operate your quadcopter legally. So, have your batteries fully charged, check the wind and the weather, you don’t want to fly in gusts or rain, flush the memory card, and lift off.
For Zenith Nature I went back to the same areas in different times of the year or hours of the day, and every time it looked different. Finding the right subject is like scouting for the best location: I move slowly above the canopy, hovering at different height in order to frame the image with a fixed focal lens. Tripod mode reduces the reactiveness of commands and can be of use in composing if you tend to have pushy thumbs. When I’m happy with what I see I take the picture, actually I take 3 or 5, depending on the bracketing I set up. Light conditions, from above, can be tricky when you are used to photographing on the ground.
The top-down angle is a whole different world, almost better than a window seat on a plane, you can enjoy the view as long as you like. At least till the battery lasts.
If you’re curious about the featured image, the very top one, here’s the caption: – Water chestnuts in summertime. The sinuous lines on the surface are probably decaying organic materials. –
All images © Michele Molinari.