You’ve got to admire, perhaps even envy, Chase Guttman.
Now 20, he’s received numerous accolades for his outstanding photography, including being a three-time winner of the international Young Travel Photographer of the Year competition (the first American to receive the award). His work has been exhibited, multiple times, at the Royal Geographical Society in London, and he has even won a grand prize in an international National Geographic competition.
“I was extremely fortunate,” he says from Strasbourg France, where he’s taking one term of his Syracuse University photojournalism program. “My dad is a travel journalist, so growing up I was exposed to a lot of the world, and fortunate enough to see a lot of the world.”
His father, Peter Guttman, also has an incredible bio. He’s an internationally recognized and award-winning travel photographer with multiple awards, books, and even iPad and iPhone apps to his credit – so Chase comes by it honestly. In fact, he says it was his father’s annual slide shows highlighting places he’d traveled that year, an annual New York City event that elicited “oohs and aahs” from the crowd, that truly got Chase excited and interested in what has now become his passion.
But the drone part of the equation was a discovery Chase made on his own, a little more than two years ago.
“One thing I was really fixated on was perspective,” he tells TDC. “I think perspective, literally and figuratively, is how you elevate your photography because everyone seems to photograph the world from the standing default position – and thus, a lot of the photos that you see are very alike. Perspective is what allows you to make a different image.
“And that’s why I think drones are so incredible. They allow you to contextualize the environment around you, and see things that you can’t see otherwise.”
For Chase, this journey began with the original DJI Phantom, though his favorite go-to machine is the DJI Inspire 1 Pro. As he continued his travels, his drones began to accompany him. Over time, he amassed enough aerial images to create a book. And that’s how his newly-released The Handbook of Drone Photography: A Complete Guide to the New Art of Aerial Do-It-Yourself Photography came to be.
“This book is a mixture of a coffee table book, showing the beautiful possibilities of aerial photography, and a handbook that teaches you how you can use drone technology most effectively to tell visual stories,” he says.
The images come from about 20 of the 50 US states he has visited, as well as from 10 countries. There’s a diversity of landscapes and cityscapes, as well as a lot of information to help make you a better aerial photographer. As you likely already know, there’s much more to a good drone photograph than simply putting your camera into the sky.
“I think a lot of drone photography, and photography in general, comes down to research and planning,” he says. “And so a lot of it goes into envisioning where I am and what kind of stories I want to tell about where I am.”
Like other pros, Chase uses tools like Google Earth or takes inspiration from Instagram, to help scout locations prior to a shoot. Once he’s settled on a location and story he hopes to convey, he takes his time. After getting in the air he surveys around, looking for the both best light and composition before actually settling in for a shot.
“I think a lot of photography comes down to intention,” he says. “Intention is a very encompassing term because it means you should be doing research and planning before you get your drone up into the sky. Intention means you should be using manual mode to decide whether you want a quick shutter speed or a slow shutter speed, and what degree of motion you want to convey in the frame, whether you want a wide depth-of-field or a shallow depth-of-field.”
Intention, plus a bit of experimentation.
“Besides that, a lot of it is just about getting out there and trying things, as long as you’re following FAA regulations or local rules.”
Primarily, Chase uses the Inspire 1 Pro with the X5 camera, as well as the DJI Phantom 3 Professional. But he also on occasion uses the Karma – the drone GoPro had to recall last fall due to a battery connection issue that caused some machines to fall out of the sky. The issue has been rectified, and the Karma is now back on the market.
“It’s obviously a very different product from the Inspire, which is a much larger (machine) intended to create professional end result,” says Chase. “I think the Karma thrives because of its size. It collapses, fits in a small backpack, and you can really explore with it. I love that it has made a lot of hard-to-access places more accessible to drone technology.”
He has not yet picked up a DJI Mavic Pro, “but I hope to do that soon.”
For someone so young, with the bulk of their life yet to come, Chase has a surprisingly mature life philosophy. It is both crystal-clear, yet remarkably fluid.
“I want to lead a life based off of experiences, doing as much as I can in the finite lifetime I’ve been given,” he says.
“I think photography, in particular, travel photography, allows me to do that. It gives me a literal path to experience so many different things. In particular, I want to tell stories about amazing foreign destinations, whether it’s Papua New Guinea or Antarctica or India.”
But this accomplished young man, already imbued with such a deep perspective, also has other plans on the long and winding road ahead.
“In the long term, I think I want to do a lot with drone technology. Not just the photographic and visual side of things, but I want to continue lecturing about how drone technology can ultimately change the world.”
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