Stephen Wark is a man with a van – and a plan. The Newcastle-based photographer is preparing to set off on an epic road trip in his distinctive white “Drone Guy” emblazoned Winnebago, with the aim of highlighting the rich diversity and beauty of Australia from a different viewpoint – the air.
Utilising drone technology, Stephen will capture a perspective most people would never get the chance to see as he visits towns and cities across the country.
Aside from producing photographic stills, which he will use to create a spectacular stock library of aerial images from around Australia that will be available for purchase, Stephen will also share his adventures and the sights he sees via a series of videos.
These will be uploaded to his website, www.droneguy.com.au, as well as on YouTube, with plans to release a Drone Guy Aussie Road Trip DVD further down the track.
“I’ve travelled all over the world, I’ve lived in New Guinea, England, Malaysia and New Zealand but I love Australia, and I don’t want to travel anywhere else anymore,” Stephen said.
“Our country is so big, there’s a lot of hidden gems in and around places and I want to build up the largest private image bank of aerial photos of this country.
“There’s also still people who have never seen drones in places like the outback, so I think it’s time to take drone technology on the road, to the people, cities and towns throughout Australia.”
But it’s not going to be all fun and games – the trip will also be a “business adventure” in which Stephen will look to tie in a number of commercial jobs in each region he visits.
These will be vital in providing the funding that will allow him to keep travelling and taking photos. He’s also on the look-out for other like-minded people who want to share the journey.
“I know what I want to do, but it has to have a commercial basis,” Stephen said.
“Every town I go to I will hopefully have two or three commercial shoots, but it will be an entirely different lifestyle (to what I live now), in the Winnebago, following the work around.
“Once I get going I’ll take on other people who want to come along for the ride and we can fund it together.”
Stephen’s love of photography began in the late 1980s when he bought his first camera.
Years later, after undertaking a number of photography courses, his passion became his profession when he scored a job with Fairfax Media at the Port Stephens Examiner newspaper.
Stephen worked there for more than a decade while also running his own successful photography business, capturing everything from weddings and portraits to community news, commercial shoots and event coverage.
But it was the decision to add a new piece of equipment to his already extensive photography kit about five years ago that would send Stephen’s photography into a whole new direction.
“I was doing a lot of real estate photography, and I was actually looking for a mechanism to control a camera on the end of a long pole when I came across a drone,” he said.
“I bought my first drone about five years ago, it cost me about $8500 and it took me three months to put it together… I eventually worked out that you don’t need to have a big drone, you just need a small one because, to me, a drone is just like a big tripod that goes in the air – it’s the photography skills that are important.”
Having become involved in the drone industry in Australia when it was just starting to take off, Stephen said he has seen a lot of changes over the years, although one thing has remained the same – the truly amazing results you can get shooting from a new perspective.
“I’ve had 15 drones in the last five years, the technology jumps forward so quickly and I think always having the latest technology has kept me ahead of the game,” he said.
“Drone photography is about 90 percent of my business at the moment, and it really puts a lot of the creativity into the hands of the end user because often they are there with me and can see what I’m doing and what they’ll get.
“It’s a whole new ball game really, it gives you that extra perspective in an area that you weren’t able to go unless you had a really big pole or had a lot of money to get a helicopter to fly down low.
“It changes everything regarding what something looks like from the ground, even the most boring spot because you can go up and get the most spectacular shot you’ve ever seen.
“I could go up now and take a shot from a drone and come down punching the air thinking ‘You beauty’ – it’s so rewarding, and each place has something unique to offer.”
Stephen has already embarked on some mini road trips to towns throughout the Central West of NSW, as well as a more recent excursion to the Gold Coast.
Footage from some of these, as well as videos capturing whales and dolphins at play closer to home in the Hunter, can be found on his website, with Stephen promising plenty more to come in the new year as planning for his Drone Guy Aussie Road Trip gathers steam.