Perth-based aerial imaging studio Salty Wings is Michael Goetze and Jampal Williamson's fusion of Western Australian surfing lifestyle, visual arts and entrepreneurship. With a passion for photography that had first emerged during childhood, Michael and Jampal both went on to study Economics at university where they soon spied an opportunity to merge these interests with the rapidly developing drone photography industry. Mixing the enviable lifestyle that comes from being an independent creative on Perth’s beach-filled shorelines, the two friends have since managed to sustain a comfortable work-life balance from their homegrown business.
It was the younger of the two, Jampal, who at 25 is four years Michael's junior, who first caught the drone bug when he bought a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+, after seeing breathtaking videos captured with one online. First drawn by the new perspective the flying camera offered, the ease of use of the ready to fly Phantom then sealed the deal. When his soon to be business partner let him take the aircraft for a spin, Michael instantly got hooked and bought his own Phantom 3 Professional.
With these revolutionary tools, they set out to become that rare combination of business men and visual artists. So far so good, then, as both have scaled new heights of both creative and commercial success with Salty Wings.
If you’ve ever wondered why drones are proving to be transformational tools for photographers and film makers the world over, look no further than Salty Wings - they have the answer:
“For example, we have the opportunity to be more intimate whilst photographing landscapes. We can fly earlier, stay longer in the air and be patient whilst framing each photograph. We are also able to fly lower to bodies of water without disturbing the water, unlike helicopters. Drones also provide us with low altitude photography (10m - 50m), airspace that is not easily accessible with planes or helicopters. This is an aspect of drone photography that we are very interested in. These points of difference are allowing us to capture unique imagery, and we are excited to continue to push this medium in new directions with our photos.”
Salty Wings turn their eye to more unusual parts of their native landscape. Says the duo, “We are fascinated with photographing remote and unique landscapes. It is within these types of landscapes that we search for psychedelic, abstract and alluring imagery. Specifically, we are drawn to coastal landscapes, with a mixture of vibrant water, pristine sand and rugged rocks. For us, its about finding landscapes that are unlike anything we have ever seen before, and capturing them in a dream-like way, usually just before sunrise or just after the sun is set when the light is soft. Shooting in RAW, we add subtle contrast, sharpness and saturation back into our images, staying true to the color and initial exposure of the image.”
While their photography seems free spirited and otherworldly, a lot of planning goes into executing a project and capturing an image or video. After all, they do have half a continent to explore.“We spend a lot of time surfing Google Maps and exploring social media images. Once we have decided on a region or area to shoot, we keep an eye on the weather to find the perfect conditions. Generally the weather will determine where we choose to shoot on a given day. Coming from a surfing background and checking the weather daily is a big part of our process. Patience and planning allow us to capture photographs in a very short window, where the conditions are just right.” they tell of their creative process.
Since starting out with the Phantom 3 in 2015, the Australian team has since acquired Inspire 1 Pros, equipped with the Zenmuse X5 camera gimbal and their large Micro Four Thirds sensor that bring unparalleled image quality in an integrated package. It also allows for flying fast lenses with larger apertures, enabling another characteristic of Salty Wings' creative output: low light imagery. Currently pondering stepping up their low light capabilities, the small company is looking into getting a DJI Matrice 600 which, when paired with the Ronin-MX, allows for flying larger cameras like the RED Epic.
Looking back on their journey to becoming aerial photographers and setting up their own business, Michael and Jampal have sage advice to share with beginner pilots who perhaps dream of making aerial photography their own life's work:
“Get out of the city. Start planning and searching for unique landscapes to photograph. Go for a weekend, camp at a location, and get up before the sun comes up to shoot. This will help you to stand out with your photographs, and most importantly, have fun while doing it!”