Substance Through Capture

Anyone can take a photo. But many don’t have the knowledge to create a photo with depth and meaning and which brings emotion every time you look at it. Having the tools to create substance is essential. But having the eye to look further than what’s in front of you is why I chose to do photography.


Photographers or content creators look for many different ways to combine subject matter into substance.  It’s like preparing a meal for friends and yourself to enjoy. That first taste is what creates a flutter of emotion. It’s what drives you to get more.


I am a professional freelance photographer; self taught artist in my field.  Clicking away for nine years coming. I’ve recently returned  from Siena in Italy where I received a runner up award for the category – Urban drone held by SIPA.  A non- profit organization for worldwide content creators to enter where one is surrounded by others who have captured nothing more than substance.  And if one is humble enough and willing to learn, one allows the sponge to absorb the goodness.


Italy is a passionate place.  They love their food.  And it goes down very well with photography. People who enjoy the company of others in creating emotion through substance, seeing more than just an image.


You might be thinking, why is he repeating himself?  Well, if you want to dig really deep into how to capture beauty, let go and look at what’s in front, what’s in the middle and what’s in the background.  Layers of life in one image isolated by the push of a button.


The drone image for which I became runner up winner, had quite a story behind it. We were coming back from the South Coast, and had reached the brow of Athlone Park from which the national road descends towards to the old Durban Airport, when we were confronted by this billowing mushroom cloud of smoke.  It literally looked as though Durban had been bombed.


So my friend, Rynhardt said, you have to get the drone up overhead and shoot some pictures. But conditions for drone flight were adverse because of a 60kmh south westerly wind. Although doubtful, I thought, OK, sure why not….


I drove to the Hulett Tongaat sugar terminal which lies about a kilometre to the south of the burning warehouse. As a location, it wasn’t out of reach of line of sight or signal strength or interference, both issues which subsequently proved challenging.


The drone was a  DJI Phantom 3 Pro model, very versatile and sophisticated for its class. After launching, I succeeded in obtaining some distance shots from just above where I had parked. The smoke was billowing madly across the Durban coast and ash was falling as far as Umhlanga on the North Coast. Achieving context proved fairly easy.  I angled a side profile with enough of the front to show the extreme intensity of the inferno and the vast plume of pitch black smoke billowing forth.


Although in awe of what was filling my screen, I was concerned at the drone’s diminishing battery strength. With only 40% reserve, I wondered if I had snapped a sufficient assortment of images.


At that point a different challenge arose. The DJI Phantom 3 pro doesn’t have sport mode to cope with strong wind, as a result there was the real possibility that it might fall out of the sky. Suddenly my mission was to save the images. With battery power down to 15% battery, I had to get it down low enough and fly it southwards, into the gale, where I was parked. Traffic presented a new problem as I decided to drive towards the drone’s flight path as its power lapsed to just 7%. So, with my car’s hazard lights flashing, I steered towards it, leaping out of the car as it lurched towards me. Thanks to pure adrenaline, I managed to grab it and get back to my car much to the consternation of fellow motorists.


However, the fruits of my initiative have surpassed my wildest dreams.  The image I submitted of Durban’s biggest fire which raged for five days, is one that cannot be recreated.  Perhaps that is why it has racked up over a million views world wide.


Drones really have opened up new avenues in not only photography but in other areas of commercial, private and personal use. The only advice I can give is, respect the space you fly in and don’t crash.



Byron Du Bois

db photography

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *