Back when he was finishing high school, Langford’s Dusty Morris got a job as a dishwasher at the Loghouse Pub on Millstream Road. Over a period of eight years, he worked his way up to first cook. These days, he’s up at Jack’s Place on Bear Mountain.
In between those kitchen gigs, however, Morris took a few side paths.
He did some masonry for a while after his time at the Loghouse, ”but that was really, really hard,” he says with a laugh. So he took off to Port Alberni to help a friend rebuild a house, he says, “and to find myself – reassess what I was doing with my life.”
It was during this reassessment that he had an idea to try and combine two of his long-time passions – photography and aviation – into a new career path.
“My dream job, when I was a kid, was to be a photographer for National Geographic,” he says. “And I’ve always been an (remote control) guy. I started with cars when I was a kid, but it developed into a love of anything you could control remotely.”
Once he found aircraft, there was no turning back. “And then I started mounting little video cameras to them – just with tape,” he says. While the image quality was terrible in the early days, there was something that fascinated him with the angles of the world he could capture remotely from up in the sky.
Once he found a love for RC helicopters and smoothed out the images he was capturing due to the additional stability, he knew it was what he needed to be doing.
He made a business plan over the course of about eight months, took out a loan from his parents, contacted Draganfly Innovations in Saskatoon about purchasing an X6 model unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for about $27,000 and opened up Vantage Point Aerial Photography & Videography.
The X6 is actually a small unmanned aircraft system, which is a different category as far as Transport Canada regulations go, but it’s not a term most recognize – yet.
Before he could start booking customers, however, he needed to take a few more steps. One was spending two weeks training on UAVs in Saskatoon with Draganfly. After all, when you’re paying that kind of money for a gizmo, you don’t exactly want to just wing it.
“Flying a $27,000 drone is a bit different than flying a $300 RC chopper that you don’t mind crashing into a building, right? Anybody can just pop up a drone they bought for $700 with a camera on it, but there’s another whole level,” he says. Wind currents, legal repercussions, insurance and liability issues need to be considered when moving into the commercial sector.
Morris says the X6 is actually easier than flying anything RC he’s ever flown, “because it’s got so many failsafes – it’s super stable.” After he became used to flying the UAV – well over 1,000 hours later – he started hiring himself out pro bono to build a resume.
“I call what I do intimate low-altitude photography,” he says, in that his shots are similar to what one might get from a helicopter, but taken from much closer to his subjects and with a wider variety of photos. The possibilities are endless, he says, and more ways for the technology to be used are being found seemingly every day.
“There are so many interesting things that people are doing with them nowadays,” Morris says. Everyone from whale researchers to real estate agents, environmental conservationists to golf course marketers and actions sports enthusiasts use of this style of photography.
Among the videos Morris has filmed are a light show that a DJ wanted to show to prospective clients, auto races at Western Speedway, and recently, Juan de Fuca soccer players having fun during their year-end wrap-up.
He’s looking to get into the housing market, but not in the way one might think at first.
“I can really get a dynamic range of unique angles that you can’t get without this kind of equipment,” he says, which is why he feels it will appeal to realtors listing properties for sale, developers marketing subdivisions or people looking to add another dimension to their sales plan when listing a home or business.
The drone offers a very efficient way of doing aerial photography and videography, Morris says.
“I can launch it right out of the back of my truck. I’m extremely mobile, fast and reliable.”
Most aerial photography in the past has been done by helicopters, he says, and those doing it would have to wait for enough orders to make it worth renting that chopper. Morris says he can go from an onsite shoot to processed photos in an hour, in most cases.