All images by Chris Schmid. Used with permission
Chris Schmid is a special type of adventure photographer. Lots of shooters se their gear from the comfort and security of the ground. And while Chris used to do this, he is part of a growing trend of photographers that are adding the use of drones to their skill set. Chris has also gone on to win many awards for his creativity and the types of photos that he captures. Not only does Chris look to immortalize the spirit of adventure in his photos, but he also photographs many wild animals.
Phoblographer: Tell us about how you got into photography to begin with.
Chris: I’m a self-taught photographer and visual storyteller. I believe hard work and persistence will get a photographer where he or she wants to go. I’ve been always fascinated about capturing the moment and I started to really take photographs during a six month trip in Australia in 2005. It was such an awesome experience for me that I wanted to capture every moment.
Phoblographer: You’ve done a lot of action photos which have won you awards, but how did you transition this isn’t shooting with drones?
Chris: I’ve been always searching for innovative and unusual points of view in my photographic process. So in early 2013 I started to make some research about drones. I wanted to be sure that it was working great because when you spend $3,500, you want to be sure that you’ll get results. It’s also a huge investment when you’re buying a drone with a stabilized gimbal. I first started with a small phantom and then quickly upgraded to a DJI S800 because I wanted to control everything by myself: the roll, the pitch and the yaw. I wanted also to have the possibility to fire the camera directly via my remote or switch to video mode without landing. Drones give you very unique images, I specially love the bird’s eye view images, because it’s so unusual for people. You must play with the shadow and movement to give some « volume » to your images. And it gives you also the availability to access to unique and difficult location without risking your life.
Phoblographer: How do you think that drone photography opens up creative possibilities to please clients?
Chris: Thanks to the drone, our clients can have a very high quality footage or images at a very low price compared to renting a helicopter. You can also access location where helicopter can even fly such canyon, dam, etc. So that’s very very interesting for the clients. We’ve got 15 minutes flight per battery which gives plenty of opportunity for different points of view. We’ve also got a live view on a screen so we can show our client what we’re recording live.
Phoblographer: What do you prefer shooting more: outdoor sports or wildlife? Why?
Chris: I love both because they’re very different. My job is around 50% Sports and Outdoor photography and 50% Nature and Wildlife. I have always been fascinated by wildlife photography. It requires more time on site. You need to take the time to know the animal, its environment and more than anything, you need to respect them. When you’re doing wildlife photography you need to be patient, really patient. This is the opposite of sport and outdoor where you are always in action. So shooting sports and outdoor helps me catch the action of the wildlife, and shooting animals and nature helps me to control the stress and pressure during a sports or outdoor shooting. They merge really well together.
Phoblographer: Tell us about the gear that you use.
Chris: I’m currently using Sony and Nikon gear. I love the new Sony Alpha 7r and their mirrorless cameras which allow me to travel light without compromising the image quality. They’re exceptional body with very good lens such as the Zeiss 35mm and the Sony 70-200mm f4. It’s also perfect to plug on the drone because it’s light.
Next to my Sony stuff I’m using a Nikon D4s and D810 for action and wildlife photography. I use to work with a Nikon 500mm and 70-200mm lens which are my go-to kit for wildlife and action photography. But next to that I have lenses ranging from 14mm to 500mm. Gear gets upgraded when the need arises so this list changes periodically but the core elements remain the same. It’s taken me many years to fine-tune the gear I carry.
Phoblographer: Much of your wildlife work seems to be done in Canada while your outdoor sports work is done in Europe. Is there a reason for this? Do the environments lend themselves to better opportunities?
Chris: I think you’re speaking about the wild brown bears 😉 The shooting has been made in Finland. I love to work in dark and peaceful ambiance. I’m always trying to include the subject in their environment because for me the environment is as important as the main subject. If you’re always focusing on the main subject and closing the frame it doesn’t show to your viewer the beautiful place you were shooting. And that’s still more important in wildlife photography I think.
Phoblographer: Tell us about some of the scariest shooting situations that you’ve been in that made your heart drop.
Chris: The scariest time was shooting aerial photography over a canyon and we knew the battery was almost finished but we wanted to take just a few more shots. So we took off and after flying to the canyon, the signal of the battery was getting red and the drone was starting to go down. I stopped breathing a few minutes before we could take back the drone. My friend just grabbed it before it could fall in the canyon. If there were five more seconds, the drone won’t be here today.
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