Drone photography in the Lake District

Ernie, the drone, being used on a beach

Ernie, the drone, being used on a beach - Credit: Archant

Photographic drones have been in the news for the wrong reasons but two Lancashire lensmen have taken the art to new heights. Mike Glover reports

Russell and Tom at their Windermere base

Russell and Tom at their Windermere base - Credit: Archant

Two Lancastrians are using cutting-edge technology to give a new perspective to photography and film-making with a little help from their drone, nicknamed Ernie. From their base by Windermere, they combine their skills to give a narrative story treatment to everything from weddings to family archives.

They are already attracting world-wide interest in their training courses and are pioneering the use of drones. They have even played their part in documenting the rise of an England football star.

It has all been a bit of a whirlwind start to the business set up only months ago by Lancaster-educated Russell Colman, now 48, and Tom LLoyd, aged 47, from Whitworth, near Rochdale.

Thomas Capsticks fell ponies frolic in the snow near Kirkby Stephen

Thomas Capsticks fell ponies frolic in the snow near Kirkby Stephen - Credit: Archant

The partnership grew out of a friendship and shared artistic view of their crafts - Russell the photographer and Tom the video-maker.

After leaving Ripley St Thomas School, Russell trained as a chef and travelled all over the country before arriving in the Lake District to manage the Brewery Arts Centre bar in Kendal in the 1980s. He developed an interest in photography and decided that was the career for him.

He took a degree at Blackpool College and set up his own commercial studio eight years ago in a complex of barns at Rayrigg Farm, Bowness-on-Windermere. Tom took a degree in audio-visual communications and became an editor’s assistant at studios in London’s Soho just as film was giving way to digital. His work included making music videos.

He moved to the Lake District to help his farmer father, Walter, look after a herd of ponies while dad revived charcoal burning as a trade. But Tom never lost his interest in film-making, taking a master’s degree in creative technology at Leeds Metropolitan University.

At the end of last year the partners pooled their expertise and resources in a new business in a larger studio on the complex owned by Dianne and David Matthews at Rayrigg Farm.

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As well as the studios, they have access to the landscaped gardens down to the Lake, and the fields and mountains beyond.

Russell said: ‘I had known Tom for around ten years and we just got chatting about collaborating, with a view to a fusion of photography and film.’

Their first project was on the wedding of New York banker Bryn Gostin, whose family were originally from the Lake District, to his bride Jen.

‘The way we go about it is telling a story. At most weddings only half a dozen guests will know how the couple met, so we start with brief interviews with the bride and groom about how the relationship started, which sets the context for the day,’ added Russell. ‘It’s very personal. It is not just about the day itself, it is putting the background to the story using stills and moving images.

The couple are left with a film and DVD of still images as well as a wedding album.’

Their next venture was with Cassius Sports, a worldwide agency specialising in developing stars of the future. The bosses Becky Whitehead and Phil Ercolano recently bought a rural home over the lake from Russell and Tom’s business, at Far Sawrey.

Part of Cassius’s service is to provide three day camps in the Lakes for League club youth squads. LLoyd & Colman produced films of the camps and three profiles of Calum Chambers, then of Southampton, Josh Brownhill, of Preston, and Frankie Sutherland, of Queens park Rangers.

A week later Calum moved to Arsenal for £19 million and then was called up for England. His image is now proudly shown on LLoyd & Colman’s reception wall. ‘It was a fortuitous start,’ said Russell.

Next on the agenda was the new drone technology. Many hobbyists use drones and make videos that they put up online. It is not generally appreciated that if drones are used as part of a commercial concern, the operators have to be trained by the Civil Aviation Authority, gain a licence, insurance and register each flight.

The CAA is currently cracking down on illicit use, so Tom and Russell consider themselves fortunate to have studied for months and gained all the certification.

‘The drone adds a level to everything we do, providing an extra perspective to music videos, weddings, corporate films and films for estate agents.

‘A drone can get much closer to the subject than a helicopter and can go places a helicopter cannot go. It is not just about overhead shots. It provides moving shots that can be creatively blended in to the whole way we look at things,’ said Russell.

Every drone session involves two people, one to operate the drone and the other to provide look-out for obstacles, human and otherwise.

‘We might be based in a barn in the Lake District, but we are using cutting edge technology to provide a world-class business,” added Tom LLoyd.



Shutter skills

LLoyd & Colman are also promoting and hosting training courses in the arts of photography and film. Their business launch featured Philip Bloom, a world renowned film maker. It brought aspiring camera artists from as far as France and Argentina to the creative studios by the shores of Windermere. It went so well, Mr Bloom has promised to come back later this year.

Six similar courses, featuring world-leaders in their field, are planned for 2015 including a GroPro Workshop on August 15 and a

Quadcopter Pilot training day on the 16th


Windermere rushes shot on GoPro Hero3 from LLoyd & Colman on Vimeo.



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