When an artist finds a medium for creative expression that fulfills their life’s dreams, their art is most certainly imbued with a special sparkle of vivacity. For photographer Charles Martinez, it was a lifelong dream to create aerial images. Through perseverance and determination, he eventually actualized his ambition and is now able to photograph stunning images that are generally reserved only for a bird’s eye view.

Like many photographers who started before the digital age of photography, Martinez began by taking portraits of his schoolmates with his sister’s Polaroid 600. His chosen tools of the trade have certainly progressed since then, and while he still enjoys portraiture, his real love of photography comes from above.

Charles Martinez

Serving as a Civil Engineer in the United States Air Force, Martinez is able to take his drone photography to new heights by channeling his unique opportunities into dazzling images taken from high in the sky. One of the “perks” of his distant deployment is the opportunity to shoot photography around the world, an advantage Martinez enjoys in his free time while travelling for work. Most creative endeavors serve a personal purpose, and for Martinez, it is no different; his photography is a visual diary, chronicling his stories from time spent in areas like Afghanistan. “Aerial photography was a dream of mine since I started photography, but it was never a possibility until now. My military-themed images are practically a journal of my experiences while deployed in hostile environments,” he explains.

Working with his iPhone and drone during the daytime and his GoPro at night, the challenge lies in finding the right light. “I use natural light for my work, especially portraits, and I have to be really careful in order to make it work for me,” Martinez explains, “The way I overcome this challenge is by planning the shot the previous day and seeing what can be done at different times.” In his creative photography on the ground, Martinez works with props to enhance and enchant, incorporating crystal balls, feathers and even smoke bombs.

Charles Martinez

When launching his creative process, Martinez will sit down and brainstorm ideas for images. “I incorporate drawing to my photography by sketching potential photos, kind of like creating a blueprint for my final product,” he shares. He also researches locations with Google Earth well in advance of takeoff, looking for noteworthy shapes and areas that could make interesting compositions, which he then uses to create his flight plan.

While all of Martinez’ concepts result from careful planning and consideration, his editing process is comparatively fast, taking only between ten to twenty minutes to edit an image. Starting with the Adobe Lightroom app, he then transfers the image to Snapseed for sharpening–using the ‘structure’ feature—and concludes with final touches through VSCO. Sometimes during the editing process, Martinez will use fiber optic lights or a pixel stick to paint light into his images.

Charles Martinez

The inspiration for Martinez’ work ranges from movies to video games, and of course, Instagram. He started flying drones with a GoPro attached to his Phantom 2 but has since upgraded to the DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter. As the DJI Phantom series have arguably become the benchmark for consumer drones, the Phantom 3 Professional seems to be reigning king with its refined flight ability and built-in 4K camera, leaving Martinez with no plans to upgrade until something more sophisticated comes along.

Presently, Martinez is planning a trip to the Northeastern United States to take aerial images of lighthouses along the coast. He also has plans to visit Boston for an urban-inspired project featuring rooftop perspectives and street photography.

Drone Shooting Tips from Martinez

● “Use the satellite mode of Google Maps to pre-plan your flight path. It will give you a clear view at the cityscape and you will be able to see points of interest such as unique buildings and highways.”

● “Always use the option AEB or Auto Bracketing for pictures, that way you won’t struggle with finding a perfectly exposed image. You can combine all the images together for a perfect blend.”

● “Always do a pre-operating check. Make sure your propellers are in good shape and properly fastened. Make sure to check the battery voltage and temperature prior to takeoff and always ensure that the drone is calibrated and doesn’t have any compass errors.”

● “Use your common sense but also research the rules around drone use for your area. Make sure that you are not flying or shooting anywhere you are not permitted to, such as near airports or other no-fly zones, or anywhere where you might endanger yourself or others.”

Published in INSPADES Magazine, Issue Cinque, June 2017
Read INSPADES Magazine here: inspadesmag.com
See more of this artist’s photography on Instagram at: @deftony83

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