SWARM 2017 – How lucky we are in 2017

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As you start the new year … here is a little video from the first day of the year that to me defines: SERENDIPITY.

On a personal, and on an artistic level, this was the best way to welcome in the New Year.

The important part here is that this slightly complex aerial shoot originated from a very similar thought process that I would generally associate with the thought process of grabbing a Leica Camera and a 35mm f2 lens on my way out the door with me – “just in case.”

Nothing more.

Years ago, a series of shots like this might have cost a small fortune and a significant amount of preparation and effort.

In this case, this video was shot somewhat haphazardly and was far from a sure thing from the start. AND FAR from a goal or necessity.

Allow me to explain…

The little drone that shot this footage can fit in a large cargo pants pocket, and costs less than $800 – and the little sucker shoots 4K footage.

Pause for a second.

That’s A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!

My main goal on the first day of 2017 was to take it easy and enjoy the lack of texts and calls – let alone a completely blank schedule for this first Sunday of the new year.

I took the drone because the sky “could” turn nice. It frankly wasn’t liklely given the low horizon layer.

My main goal – to be clear – was to go into town and to get a coffee and to see others after a relatively isolated Sunday afternoon.

Frankly – it was THE laziest afternoon I’ve enjoyed in one year or more.

The fact that this shoot happened as an afterthought is what is significant to me.

It didn’t require the packing of cases or even a backpack full of gear nor extensive travel.

If just took the “maybe I should bring this {fill in this spot} camera with me” to scratch that itch …

The resulting quality that we as artists and amateurs alike are able to draw from with many of these new technologies is simply stunning.

I used to stare at film negatives and slides, and then digital images on the screen for hours. It wasn’t necessarily the final image or effort that counted…

I love to study the grain structure, the lens qualities and FLAWS. The highlight retention and shadow fall-off. I’m passionate about “images.” I’ve never been quite sure why to be perfectly honest.

Images put me at peace. And I love to try to share that feeling with others.

In 2017, I am able to witness 24 images a second at 4K – which is an incredible resolution when compared to the bleeding-edge 2 Megapixel ($22,000+) cameras I used to use in 1999 as a young staff photographer at The New York Times.

A few days ago I was scrubbing through 8K footage shot 60 times per second!!! (More on that another time.) That’s 36 megapixel still images!!! (In case you’re not familiar with the math…)

In short, I’m in hog heaven.

I hope others aren’t missing out on how lucky we ALL are.

For sure, the competition out there and access to gear is FIERCE – and that can worry any one of us… myself included.

But how many of you REALLY slowed down to watch this video to see the young boy dancing / conducting the birds above??? Look for it!
But at the same time, you have to pause and pinch yourself.

And you have to ask:

This ability to capture your world with new, exciting tools … it makes you feel ALIVE….

Doesn’t it?

This series, while far from perfect was shot by one person (in this case me) on a lark. It was shot with a DJI Mavic Pro and I took pleasure in piloting the little drone that is slightly wider than a compact laptop while in flight and folds into one’s large pocket while folded. I was also controlling the camera movement by hand thru the helicopter’s movement.

While there are fancy automatic “tracking” moves and significant safety features in today’s drones, I found myself losing myself for 20 minutes of so in pure bliss by trying to “dance” within my enviroment.

And then something magical happened…

Out of nowhere a swarm of birds took off from the pier.

A swarm I had studied for years when I lived on “the Strand” in Manhattan Beach a little while ago. I still live there – but no longer on the coast.

Salt water while amazing to the human body and psyche is not so kind on all types of hardware – notably metal….

To me the rest is magical.

THIS is the very definition of serendipity and why I fell in love with photography almost 3 decades ago.

There are 3 big surprises in this video in fact – should you take the time out of your or “our” hectic pace that we all seem to be driven by. Mindlessly I should add.

It should be noted that while all of this happened in a series of 3 separate shots over 20 minutes – the Fireworks did NOT happen on the same night.

Those had been shot a month or less earlier but had never quite found a home.

When you see the “connector” = the Christmas tree on the end of the piece – those shots seemed to edit in JUST right.

I hope you enjoy this video, and the cheesy little message at the end of it.

It’s something I deeply believe in.

I always try to do a little video at the end of each year. Not for any particular reason other than the fact that it’s one of the few times I have some “quiet.”

Regardless, if you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading and hopefully watching this video.

And please, don’t for one second take your fortune for granted.

We are in an incredible period of time in history as creatives.

Sure – it’s VERY challenging.

But it’s also absolutely incredible in terms of potential.

Carpe Diem!

– Vincent Laforet

Shot with the DJI Mavic Pro and edited and graded in DaVinci Resolve. (I still have much to learn!)