29 June 2022


upload in progress, 0

I'm in Barnstaple part way through a day shoot. It's mid-afternoon and the weather has been playing up. I'm photographing the museum extension at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. Earlier the curator told me that if I see a gap of blue over to the west, then the sun will be here in half an hour.

For the first time in a few hours, I spot a gap of blue. I've a long list of shot angles to work with, but one of them is for an aerial shot from across the river Taw. I've already carried out my safety procedures and checked the Flysafe Database for restrictions or notices.

Earlier that day, I take my drone out of its bag and place it on a coping next to the river. Instantly, I hear a screech and caw, and within a few seconds, the drone is being swooped upon by a cohort of herring gulls.

I pick the drone up from the coping and head to the safety of my van about ten metres away. All the time I'm being dive-bombed by the gulls. It seems the drone profile is now imprinted in the gulls memory. It's not a good augur.

upload in progress, 0
Don't blame me...

I change my plans and choose to start the drone off across the river (as planned) but in a more isolated location, moving the craft to its permissible height and then dropping it down into location across the river in front of the museum.

As soon as the patch of blue appears, I check for birds and then manoeuvre the drone to my planned spot and take a few photos. Then I start to bring it back over the river and take a few more shots. Once again I hear an ear piercing screech, so I start to bring the drone back over towards its landing spot. Before it reaches its location an Oyster Catcher angles in from the west and nudges the bottom of the drone. Instantly it starts to tumble. The drone has a failsafe auto-correct built into it - so it normally spins around and starts to hover - but before it can do this - it hits the outstretched branch of a tree over the river and lodges itself within a tangle of leaves.

"Before it reaches its location an Oyster Catcher angles in from the west and nudges the bottom of the drone. Instantly it starts to tumble."

I'm shocked but comforted by the fact that my risk assessment came into fruition and that the Oyster Catcher was unhurt.

The patch of blue has almost gone, so I untangle my tripod and run across the bridge to get some more shots from the list on my camera. All the time I'm processing several strands of thought: the movement of the light, the busy traffic on the bridge, my camera settings, the view of the extension, the trip hazards from the tripod and the gnarly problem of my drone up a tree several hundred yards away.

I get the shots and move on to the drone. I search for "man and a cherry picker" on my google maps and am surprised that there's a business a few hundred yards away. I make contact and, for the princely sum of £360, he is willing to come out and attempt to get the drone.

Before he comes, he asks me if there are any complications. I tell him that there are none other than the tangled branches. I put the phone down, walk over to the tree that holds my drone, and am instantly buzzed by a swarm of wasps nesting in the tree.

upload in progress, 0

The cherry picker man is a little nervous of the wasps when he arrives and I offer to go up in the bucket myself. He perseveres and eventually manages to grab the drone laden branch with a metal hook.

"It would be great if you could get the drone intact!", I shout.

As I do, the branch snaps and the drone hurtles towards the Taw. Luckily it hits another branch and bounces into the soft undergrowth, unharmed.

I'm at square one - £360 lighter, but I feel relieved - the unplanned was planned for, and not only do I still have my flying camera, but also the aerial photographs taken over the last few days that hold priceless memories of a morning spent at an Anglo-Saxon church in Hampshire.

upload in progress, 0

View next entry:

A Year in the life: 12 July 2022
Emerging from beyond the lime wash is a ghost angel. The faint outline of a face and wings. I’m told that the eye emerged first and then the face and that, as the wash wears away, more might be revealed.

More about this Digest:

From Breakdown to New Vocation: My Genius Loci Digest Journey
In the late 1990’s I had a breakdown that ultimately led me, through a journey that took me away from depression, to a new career in photography. But what was the spark that ignited my journey?

Can you help support me on my journey by becoming a Member?

Help keep Woody on the road and support the Genius Loci Digest.

Explore th Benefits