A pair of local photographers have literally earned themselves a licence to a whole new creative platform.
Shawn Talbot and Jan Vozenilek, a well-known photographer and cinematographer respectively, have secured a Special Flight Operation Certificate from Transport Canada to launch their latest photographic venture, an eight-blade “octocopter” they are calling the Rubicon Aerial Cinema.
Capable of delivering images from just above ground level, residents of Kelowna, not to mention tourists the world over, are going to be seeing this city from a whole new perspective—through the lens of an unmanned, remote-control chopper.
“Tourism Kelowna has hired us to do a video shoot from 56-feet up, running down Bernard Avenue. In the entire history of Kelowna that shot has never been done before. It couldn’t happen before,” said Vozenilek in interview this week.
Both the cinematographer and photographer have worked in aerial photography for years, which meant flying over their subjects at an average of 1000 feet in the air to capture a bird’s eye view of what was happening below.
But with this new German-engineered flying contraption, they will be able to air-lift equipment on a customized ride with every top-of-the-line component available to stabilize and optimize the high-definition images they are producing.
To the untrained masses, what’s really critical about this technology is that it means they can swoop down into spaces as low as ground level and up to 400-feet in the air providing an intimate, very high-quality image of the vineyards, hills and lakes that make the Okanagan so beautiful.
“The GPS typically locks to between eight and 14 signals so it’s not moving. It’s staying right there,” said Talbot, who explained how the contraption can be manipulated to provide exactly the image either photographer wants.
The Rubicon comes with a black box from which flight data can be downloaded into Google Earth to check exactly how a each venture plays out. Every 10 missions, or so, Talbot does a double check to ensure there’s nothing wrong with a component or engine. He is the pilot—trained first on toys, as a kid, then on quadcopters with four blades and finally on a simulator.
In 150 flights, nothing has gone wrong, other than the crowds. Over the weekend they were filming in City Park and had onlookers tracking the multi-bladed beast from many kilometres away to watch the action.
“We were literally hats on, sunglasses down, otherwise we couldn’t have gotten anything done,” said Vozenilek.
Their new-found notoriety will likely be worth it in short order, however. Originally designed for the military, Vozenilek said they had been watching the technology develop for some time before making purchasing their equipment and are booking up clients very quickly.
From Ex Nihilo Winery to Sparkling Hill Resort to Botegga Farm Inn and Studio, the shoots they’ve done so far have secured some of the most unique advertising imagery seen in some time. And when it comes to their own work, their passion projects, the sky will literally be the limit.
“We both have a real interest in conservation efforts and conservation photography,” explained Talbot, who is an award-winning photographer with international credits.
He has been recognized for this work in Maclean’s Magazine, the Globe and Mail and National Geographic. Among his more unique assignments of late was an open-heart surgery shoot at Kelowna General Hospital showcased on his blog and a mansion on a West Kelowna vineyard that will be auctioned off next month without a minimum bid.
Vozenilek, meanwhile, is a cinematographer and now well-known public speaker who is likely best known locally for his project on Midway Atoll, a poignant visual exploration of the destruction our wasteful society is having on thousands of beautiful albatrosses.
Vozenilek said he had hoped to use a Rubicon or other similar unmanned aerial device to shoot for the documentary, but the budget did not permit it at the time.
The pair have already booked a trip to Iceland to film next year, one of the most beautiful places on earth in their books, and are hoping to track down the Kermode spirit bear in the the Great Bear Rain Forest, as well. They have connected with local search and rescue personnel and will soon be helping with local search efforts.
But for now, they are facing one big challenge: to clear the crowds just enough to shine in their new adventure.