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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Ready, Set, Capture

Photographer Zach Straw put years of practice into a three-minute shoot

Photographer Zach Straw, whose work regularly appears in Evansville Living and Evansville Business, viewed the August 2017 total solar eclipse from Cave-In-Rock, Illinois. He had plenty of time to imagine how to shoot the eclipse passing over Evansville this spring, and it paid off.

“(There was) so much brainstorming and planning in the lead-up,” says Straw, who operates Tri-State Aerial Services and Straw Photography & Media with his wife, Audra. “It’s all about getting a wide variety of shots.”

During Evansville’s three minutes in totality on April 8, his DJI drone captured a spherical panoramic view of the northwest and southeast corridors of Riverside Drive with twilight in every direction. Straw photographed the crowd Downtown alongside Tucker Publishing Group Creative Director Laura Mathis as the moon moved closer to eclipsing the sun.

“The color of everything was changing, and that’s how we knew, here it is, here we go. We both were awestruck, really,” Mathis says.

Safety was among their biggest concerns when sending up Straw’s drone, especially with an estimated 8,000-plus people expected on the riverfront. Choosing a takeoff point where the drone’s camera could depict spectators without flying overhead was essential, and the boat ramp at Dress Plaza, though partially submerged by high water, was ideal. Straw’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability permit also allowed him to fly in Evansville Regional Airport airspace. In pictures throughout the day, viewers’ necks were craned toward the sky, and many waved at his winged camera.

Once darkness crept in, a night strobe on the drone lit up so it more easily could be spotted by anything else in the sky, including life flights to and from the nearby Deaconess Midtown Hospital. Straw spent between 20 and 30 seconds shooting the spherical panoramic image, precious time when there were only three minutes to execute the planned shot. Previous experience underscored the enhanced effect of a wide view, as well as the importance of packing light to move quickly during a short time frame.

“It’s wild to have all that lead-up for such a small duration of time,” Straw says.

To complete a spherical shot, the drone rotated in each direction — up, down, and every side — snapping 36 shots that later were digitally stitched together to create one image.

“It captures what Evansville was like during that moment … and the only shot I’ll get of a sunset in Evansville from all sides,” he says.

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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