Let There Be (F)light
There have been two trips that have definitively revolutionized our Juniper Prairie Wilderness project. The first was when we started bringing GPS devices to the woods. The second occurred this weekend.
But before I get to that, let me start with the reason Alex and I went to the woods in the first place. A cactus.
During last week’s trip to the Juniper Prairie Wilderness, we noticed the cacti were flowering. We decided it was a good opportunity to capture an image Alex and I have been talking about since 2016, so we devised a plan to place tiny LEDs into the cactus buds and photograph the warm glowing buds against the cool predawn light.
In theory our plan was simple: place the LEDs into the centers of the buds, feed the wires along the backside of the cactus and hide the batteries behind the leaves. The problem with theories is they neglect the realities of spiky cactus glochids, tenaciously blood-thirsty mosquitoes and the ever-present war on rapidly changing light.
Maybe it was the spikes in my fingers. Maybe it was the bites on my neck. Maybe it was the sobering realization that we likely won’t be able to attempt this shot for another year. Whatever the reason, this failure stung a little more than normal.
We eventually conceded defeat and relaxed under the cover of my favorite oak tree before heading south for our next project.
It didn’t take long to forget about the cactus. What was just a few hours earlier the entire purpose of the trip was now a mere shadow in the inevitable wake of new technology.
Alex and I have been discussing the merits of a drone for a while. We’re both believers that dedicated tools should be used sparingly. But after realizing that the implications of a drone far outweigh the media it directly produces (we have backlogs of projects that involve using the combination of a drone and LEDs as a lighting tool), Alex took the plunge and purchased the perfect drone for our applications: a DJI Spark.
We hiked out to a prairie we call “Gorilla” for the inaugural flight.
This blog post’s name is a nod to the irony that a trip designed entirely around a lighting project will now only be remembered as the first time we sent a drone into the sky. For the first time ever, Alex and I were able to see in real time a high definition view of everything around us. It’s hard to overstate the implications.
If you’re curious about the media captured from the air, be sure to check out Alex’s blog post.