Water chestnuts in summertime. The sinuous lines on the surface are probably decaying organic materials
Photos & Projects

Zenith Nature – drone photography – by Michele Molinari

January 4, 2022

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.

Poplars trees and blackthorn in full bloom

Poplars trees and blackthorn in full bloom

End of winter, sprouting tree hit by wamr sunset light

End of winter, sprouting tree hit by warm sunset light

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.

Water chestnuts partially covering a lake surface. The broken lines are swans' paths

Water chestnuts partially covering a lake surface. The broken lines are swans’ paths

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.

Poplar tree in the wind

Poplar tree in the wind

Clouds reflecting in water and water chestnuts

Clouds reflecting in water and water chestnuts

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.

Recently sown field. Two pheasants are in the image: one in the lower right corner and the other one in the upper middle left

Recently sown field. Two pheasants are in the image: one in the lower right corner and the other one in the upper middle left

Late winter of still dormant trees above a bed of shrubs that are already showing some colored leaves

Late winter of still dormant trees above a bed of shrubs that are already showing some colored leaves

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.

Poplar trees in springtime, already putting out new yellowish/reddish leaves, in sunsetting light, and other shorter trees still dormant

Poplar trees in springtime, already putting out new yellowish/reddish leaves, in sunsetting light, and other shorter trees still dormant

Flooded poplar trees plantation in late Autumn, with radiant light

Flooded poplar trees plantation in late Autumn, with radiant light

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. –

You can find me on Twitter and Instagram, or you can visit my site and Zenith Nature collection on OpenSea.

All images © Michele Molinari.

Support 35mmc

For as little as $1 a month, you can help support the upkeep of 35mmc via Patreon. Alternatively, please feel free to chuck a few pennies in the tip jar via Ko-fi:

Become a Patron!

Learn about where your money goes here.
Would like to write for 35mmc? Find out how here.

6 Comments

  • Reply
    Tim Bradshaw
    January 4, 2022 at 10:31 am

    These are very much ‘not my sort of photographs’ … but they are also really beautiful I think. So, thank you for encouraging me to look at something I would not usually look at which turns out to be great.

    • Reply
      Michele Molinari
      January 4, 2022 at 10:50 am

      Hello Tim, thank you for your nice words, I’m really glad that you like my photos.
      I actually think we’ve a kind of similar way of looking at things, maybe different subjects, but basically an investigation of “common/ordinary” things and situations around us. I like very much the leaves, Kew and year zero on your site.

  • Reply
    John Fontana
    January 4, 2022 at 1:04 pm

    I have always been impressed by aerial shots of trees on TV nature programmes. Your beautiful still images allow us to linger and study, with their gorgeous colours, patterns and the architecture of the leafless trees.
    Wonderful

    • Reply
      Michele Molinari
      January 4, 2022 at 5:57 pm

      Thank you very much John, I’m glad I could transmit what also fascinates me.

  • Reply
    Kurt Ingham
    January 4, 2022 at 3:33 pm

    Lovely stuff!! I just got a drone and got sick at the same time.Treatments are draining andf it remains unboxed, but I’ll get to it eventually.This post is the nicest kind of inspiration

    • Reply
      Michele Molinari
      January 4, 2022 at 6:03 pm

      Hello Kurt, I understand what you’re saying. Flying a drone requires much more than clicking a camera: tech knowledge, permits, timing and more. The batteries of my Mavic, for instance, are never in sync with my photo sessions 🙂 But all that shouldn’t stop you from having fun and exploring a different point of view.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.