After he submitted a convincing essay on why I should have him on my crew, I thought it might not hurt to have an adventuresome techie (besides myself) along on the shoot so I invited him to join us. Dylan spent weeks assisting me with taking inventory, making sure all of the equipment was in good working condition then prepping and packing the gear for the long journey to Uganda.
Shortly before we left, benefactor Louis Jackson generously donated a drone and Go Pro camera for us to use. Sweeeeeet!!!!! Dylan was more excited than I was about our acquisition (and I was really excited). He quickly went to work to train himself to operate the drone. He took it apart, put it back together, made some tweaks to it and it was good to go.
Once on location, Dylan had the critical job of taking care of the equipment. He was solely responsible for making sure the gear was in order for our shoots, batteries charged, lenses cleaned among other things, which meant he was up early and almost always the last one to go to bed. With Dylan's experience as a hiker and mountaineer, he was well prepared for the other dreaded and demanding duty of carrying the bulk of our gear to our assignments (yes we walked everywhere!). I think our kit weighed more than he did. He never complained once about carrying his load up and down the hills of the district or the long hours he put in, even when he got sick. Dylan also helped out with boom and reflector duty in addition to being our drone pilot for the aerial unit he named “Princess”.
Unless you have operated a drone, you cannot fathom the anxiety you feel as you see it fly off. Thoughts go through your mind: “I hope it comes back!” “I hope I don’t crash it!” “Holy crap! I don’t want it to hit anyone!” and of course you always worry about the shot.
Although equipped with a gimbal, Dylan was flying blind. “Princess” is an early edition model, which meant he could not see the shot from the camera’s perspective while he was flying it. Newer models offer this feature. (hint hint to our benefactors)
It took some practice and much encouragement from me and DP Jan Kohler for him to trust "Princess" to do what she is suppose to do. If she crashes, she crashes. If we lose her, we lose her. I am sure the pressure I placed on him to nail the critical Enengo Valley shot did not help. Needless to say, Jan and Dylan worked on the flight choreography for weeks and in the end Dylan pulled it off and captured beautiful aerials.
Dylan also spent time at the Nyaka Vocational Secondary School teaching the students and instructors how to operate the drone. This really inspired the students to perhaps study engineering and aeronautics.
I am glad Dylan was on our team and I hope that his experience on this assignment sets the course for his career. He tells me he is working on designing his own drone and I can't wait to see what he comes up with and I am certain it will be (as he says) epic.
Next week: Anna Ashford “The left side of my brain”