In 2016, I visited Iceland for the first time. A week before that, I purchased my first drone. I justified the Iceland trip by telling myself that I "needed" to go somewhere really cool to test my new toy out. Off I went.
Fast forward three years and I've gone through multiple drones and visited Iceland four more times. Out of all the moments captured in Iceland, I still think about the photo I'm sharing in this post. It's a cool picture, but the story behind it means more to me. I was going to use the photo for the previous blog post about loneliness, but couldn't find it on my computer. I remembered I uploaded it to Unsplash a couple years ago so I went to my account to download it from there.
I saw that the photo was viewed over 2 millions times and downloaded over 16,000 times. Imagine if I received $1 for every download?! After pulling out my calculator and doing the math, I came to about $16,000. Anyhow, that's not the point of my post. There are plenty of blog posts about how sites like Unsplash negatively impact photographers if you do a quick search. I didn't look at the stats and think about the money. I was more interested about the stories people were telling with the photo. What did they think I was doing and what did the image mean to them?
The real story
My friends and I wanted to walk on a glacier since there weren't too many options to do so in Chicago. Locals advised us not to since we were going without a guide and it was too warm. I'm going to advise the same because it can be dangerous and wouldn't be a fun way to die. Of course, we still went.
Where I went, the drone went. So, I decided to send it up while chilling on the glacier. There I was flying a drone, giggling and in pure awe of the views from above. And then, the low battery notification started to chime. No big deal. I was just going to circle around, capture one more shot and land the thing. Since I was new to flying drones, I was unaware that the drone was set to land on its own once it reached a certain battery level. The notification went from "low battery" to "landing now."
The giggles and awe inspiring facial expressions turned to pure panic and possibly pre mature tears. I stood there helplessly as I saw a spec of white technological goodness land in the distance. My luck wasn't strong that day and the drone landed somewhere near the top of the mountain. I had a decision to make. Attempt to find the drone by climbing the mountain or head back to the car and swallow my pride?
Search and rescue
A couple hours of climbing and searching resulted in a fairytale ending. The first camera that fueled my passion for filmmaking was found undamaged and just waiting to be rescued. Think about the happiest moment in your life and then multiply it by at least one. That's how I felt.
Once the adrenaline and pure joy calmed down I sat down and simply enjoyed the moment. I was in Iceland for the first time with my best friend, walked on a glacier, almost lost my first drone, spent hours climbing a mountain to find it, found it and now I'm sitting on top of said mountain experiencing one of the most beautiful views I've seen. Happiness. It's not always easy to achieve the feeling, but when you do, take a moment and truly enjoy it.
Funny side story. Three years later, my buddy Damien lost his drone to the wind and we ended up tracking it down a mile away in the middle of a field. Even funnier? It was on the opposite side of the glacier where I almost lost mine. Until next time Iceland.