We talked to Renee Lusano about what it’s like being a pioneer of ‘drone photography’ in this fast-changing world.
Hi Renee! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do
Hi Leena! I am a Los Angeles based creative person who designs, draws and takes photograph, but most recently I invest all of my energy (and funds!) into traveling and seeking out interesting places to photograph and also often shoot short videos with my drone.
Your collection of drone photos and videos are so lively and dreamy. How long have you been taking photos with a drone and where did the idea come from?
Why thank you, I have been using drones for the last two years, and initially I started flying one simply as a geeky hobby which eventually became a creative tool when I realized the drone wasn’t just an RC toy, but also could be a flying camera. It brought together two hobbies of mine – tinkering and photography.
Where did the name ‘Furby’ for your drone come from?
At the time when I got my first drone, Furbies, those cute and creepy robotic toys from the 90s were having a comeback. I saw my
drone as an equally cute/creepy robot so the name was perfect.
You recently got back from Antarctica, that must’ve been an exciting experience, what was it like taking photos there and what was your day-to-day like?
Oh my goodness, Antarctica was amazing! Antarctica has been at the very top of my travel bucket list, and honestly I still can’t believe I made it there. It was overwhelming in the best of ways. I wanted to take in and capture every moment, photograph every iceberg
and every penguin. I traveled there on a small expedition cruise, so my day-to-day was like staying in a floating hotel with all sorts of interesting and well-traveled people and we would go out twice a day on excursions. We visited three scientific research stations; saw tens of thousands of penguins, thousands of icebergs, hundreds of seals, a few dozen whales, one active volcano. It was like literally living Nat Geo for a week. It was a trip that will inspire me and influence my decisions for the rest of my life.
You must have packed many times with all your travels, what pieces can you not leave without?
I can’t live without several pairs of sunglasses when I travel. My clothing is often practical and comfortable and in plain colors
like black so I can wear the same thing over and over again, but then I’ll dress up what I’m wearing with colorful and unique sunglasses, hats or bags. I love CRAP Eyewear and Quay Sunglasses.
The style of your “drone selfies” where you reveal your surroundings is so fantastic. What has been some of your favourite places to film so far?
Most recently I visited Iceland and I found that to be my favourite drone destination so far. Iceland has so many jaw-dropping landscapes, and in many places you’ll be isolated with nobody else in sight, nobody to be bothered if you fly a drone. Another place that stands out is in Ukraine when I visited the Chernobyl nuclear
exclusion zone. It was a haunting and surreal place, which was really powerful to be able to see from hundreds of feet in the air.
What are some of your personal inspirations for your art?
I am inspired by colors, symmetry and geometry in the built and natural world. I am also constantly inspired by my friends, many of whom are very talented photographers, artists, musicians and comedians.
You’ve highlighted the nuclear devastation of the city Chernobyl in Ukraine with your drone photography and also the effects of global warming in Antarctica. Do you have plans for any more trips like this in the future?
Chernobyl and Antarctica were such meaningful places to visit, being there answered so many questions that I didn’t even know to ask, then left me with more questions. I want to see the whole world, but I know there has to be more to it than simply going to destination after destination to show off and share a picture that says, “here I am in …”.
I feel that I have an obligation as someone who has the privilege of going to so many places to try to dig a little deeper and share the stories that the world has to tell.
There are more and more privacy issues and even danger concerns when it comes to the more frequent use of drones, what are your thoughts on this and have you come across any problems?
I think that the concerns are valid, and I hope that reasonable guidelines for drone use are established soon. Drones should be
treated like driving a car or getting certified to scuba dive and people should need to be educated on the rules and require training in order to get an operators license. Insurance should also be mandatory and easy to acquire. The current rules are so unclear in many countries, so figuring out how and where you can use a drone is impossible, it’s frustrating for those of us who want to use them creatively without breaking any laws. I am cautious and try to be courteous when I use my drone, but some people are dead against them and get angry about what a nuisance or privacy violation drones are.
I believe that people need to be reminded that nearly all forms of technology were at one point seen as a nuisance and threat, that is until reasonable rules were established, and people eventually accepted them. Drones are our generation’s automobile, television, video camera or cell phone and of course there are people from the past generations that have had all sorts of complaints about these “annoying” new machines violating their privacy and being potentially dangerous.
And lastly where is the next place you will be going with your drone?
My goal is to make it to Australia by the end of the year, which will be my 7th and final continent where I hope to dive the Great Barrier Reef. I am also hoping to make it back to Africa this year, if I make it there and to Australia will have me in all 7 continents just in 2016!