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Drone journalism

As this industry evolves, we’re having to constantly adapt and learn new skills. Sometimes those turn out to be frustrations. Other times they’re an absolute joy.

At the end of 2018, I studied and passed my my Part 107 remote pilot certificate exam and took to the skies for The Villages Daily Sun.

At first, we used the drone for basic aerial imagery. We were providing a new perspective for common sights, as well as seeking things that looked interesting from above.

My first drone assignment was to photograph a new golf course that would be opening in a few weeks.

Max Gersh / Daily Sun – Longleaf golf course (right) is set to open Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. Loblolly golf course (left) is anticipated to open at the end of October. Photographed Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018.

Shortly after that, I was sidelined with an injury. While pulling desk duty, I penned an extensive instruction manual and training program to help four of my colleagues get and maintain their drone pilot licenses.

When I got back to it, I started planning a big project on endurance sports. One of the events I wanted to cover was the Cross-Florida Bike Ride. I meticulously planned out areas that would make good drone opportunities.

Max Gersh / Daily Sun – Cyclists cross the Hubert Humphrey Bridge as the set out on the 38th Annual Cross-Florida Bike Ride on Sunday, April 7, 2019, in Cocoa.

The first shot I tried was at the Hubert Humphrey Bridge. It was a tricky shot, as the sun was rising behind the riders, and the area I was flying in was a small pocket of legal airspace.

I was more excited about an open stretch of roadway down the course a bit.

Max Gersh / Daily Sun – Cyclists ride along Nova Road during the 38th Annual Cross-Florida Bike Ride on Sunday, April 7, 2019, as they pass through St. Cloud.
Max Gersh / Daily Sun – A cyclist rides along Nova Road during the 38th Annual Cross-Florida Bike Ride on Sunday, April 7, 2019, as they pass through St. Cloud.

You never know what you’ll see from the air. While photographing dragon boats on a lake, I tilted my camera and saw something swimming toward me. As it got closer, I realized it was a curious alligator. I fought the urge to get much closer, as I wanted to bring our drone back to the office in one piece!

Max Gersh / Daily Sun – An alligator swims through Lake Sumter on Thursday, July 18, 2019, in The Villages.

The more I used a drone, the more I thought about how and when it could be used without feeling gimmicky. I started thinking about patterns, shapes and colors. In essence, it brought photography back to its fundamentals for me.

When I was assigned to photograph a softball diamond being resurfaced, I knew that was the perfect opportunity to check it out from above.

Max Gersh / Daily Sun – Bob Schacter, of Belleview, loosens the dirt on the softball fields Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, at Buffalo Glen Softball Complex.
Max Gersh / Daily Sun – Bob Schacter, of Belleview, loosens the dirt on the softball fields Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, at Buffalo Glen Softball Complex.
Max Gersh / Daily Sun – Bob Schacter, of Belleview, loosens the dirt on the softball fields Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, at Buffalo Glen Softball Complex.

I look forward to seeing how drones and other new technologies will continue to open up the visual spectrum to photojournalists.

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