Nathan Pawluck has logged about 30 hours flying time over the past five months though his feet haven’t left the ground.
The Shuswap-based photographer/videographer has been capturing the region in one form or another since he started making films as a Salmon Arm Secondary student. But recently he’s taken his craft to new heights through the use of a quadcopter, a DJI Phantom. Using the technology, Pawluck has been able to view and film the Shuswap in a way he’s never done before.
“The first day I took it out, I was flying over Shuswap Lake and I was shaking because it was so exciting,” said Pawluck. “The footage coming back was so amazing. My wife was standing beside me and I was like, ‘This is amazing!’”
Pawluck has since shared that excitement with thousands of others with a four-minute, 11-second video entitled Soarin’ Over the Shuswap (available on YouTube). The video is a collection of various aerial-shot vistas throughout the area, an homage of sorts for the place Pawluck and many others proudly call home.
“I’ve heard stories – people telling me they’ve cried watching it, which is cool to hear…,” said Pawluck. “They’re just so moved that they get to live here, they get to live in the Shuswap, and that they have lived here many years.”
Currently, Pawluck is working on extending the video to a 15-minute short, complete with music scored from local talent. His hope is to get it on the big screen in Salmon Arm, like a video art exhibit, free for the public to attend.
“We’ll do maybe three to four nights where we show the video four times a night because it’s 15 minutes, and there’ll maybe be a front-end where I’m explaining how it was shot and maybe showing the drone, not flying, just showing it off and (talking about) kind of my vision and passion behind it…,” said Pawluck, thinking aloud. “And in the lobby we’ll have photos and stills from the drone too.”
Not surprisingly, the making of the film has involved a learning curve, both in terms of technical ability and legal understanding. With the former, Pawluck said one thing that’s important to understand – and accept – is the likelihood the quadcopter will crash.
“People go into it and they’re very upset when it crashes but it’s going to happen” said Pawluck. “So long as you know that and you’re wise… You’ve got to know your surroundings.”
Having a spotter, someone to keep their eyes on the copter, can help to prevent unwanted incidents.
“They would be looking to make sure I’m not going to hit something, so I can focus on what I’m capturing cinematically,” says Pawluck.
The legalities of quadcopter use are laid out by Transport Canada. They cover both recreational and commercial users. Pawluck said that initially, he hadn’t considered regulations might exist, as quadcopters are typically marketed for recreational use.
“I thought of it more as a toy, which it’s not…, It’s a tool that can be dangerous if not controlled well,” said Pawluck.
Liability insurance is one of numerous requirements to fly a quadcopter without permission from Transport Canada. A Special Flight Operations Certificate is required to legally fly a quadcopter weighing more than 35 kilograms. Many of the do’s and don’ts prescribed by Transport Canada revolve around respect and common sense.
“With anything, you need to be responsible and wise with it,” says Pawluck of piloting a quadcopter. “I think the problem with people is just because you can, doesn’t mean you necessarily should with a new toy.
“People just need to be responsible and smart, or they’re going to ruin it… for people who actually are using it in a way that it was meant to be used, not to spy on people or disturb fires or to run into things.”
Pawluck says he’s planning to seek local sponsorship for Soarin’ Over the Shuswap, with the hope the community will take ownership of it and use it to help promote the region. He knows from how it’s been shared through social media that it has already made inroads in Alberta.
“It was shared, which means people reposted it on their Facebook wall to show their friends a thousand times,” said Pawluck. “And most of them said, ‘Hey, look, this is my hometown, this is where I get to live… It’s kind of showing off – telling their Alberta friends. Like some people typed, ‘Hey, my Alberta friends, check this out!’ It’s awesome!”