One can’t stay immune to the magic of the City of Angels. Since the early days of Hollywood’s golden age, the world has had its eyes on the city and counted on it to transport the viewers into another dimension and to make them feel something they haven’t felt before. Even now when the photography, film, and TV industry has become more accessible, creatives have still managed to find a way to excite us and show us something new – a bird’s-eye view through flying drones above Los Angeles.
The urban jungle, the adventurous coast, the shrines of arts and culture, the lively nightlife, and summer vibes make this mammoth city a perfect destination for drone pilots to show off their drone photography skills. In fact, the thrill of flying drones above Los Angeles has lured many drone operators globally. And the ones that live there are surrounded by the beauty of it all constantly.
A drone creator, who belongs in this latter category, is Josh Fuhrman. Born and raised in LA, he is a member of the American drone community for more than five years now. Interestingly enough, drones weren’t really the start of his journey with aerial photography. Below you can find out more about the drones he has used and catch a glimpse of his creative process and thoughts on the Californian drone community and drone laws.
The Beginning of Josh’s Droning Days
“I’ve been flying drones above Los Angeles for about five or six years now. Before that, I used planes and helicopters to take aerial videos and pictures. As you can surely imagine, I was very happy when drones got to the point where they were good enough and not as expensive so I could easily get a drone and create drone content,” says Josh Fuhrman. With that, he takes us on an adventure across his droning days and how he is flying drones above Los Angeles and California.
Now, he is the drone pilot behind the massively popular Instagram profile Above Los Angeles where he showcases his city from a bird’s-eye view.
TDW: How did you come up with the name Above Los Angeles?
J.F.: A fun fact about my Instagram name (handle) – Above Los Angeles – is that it’s an inspiration from a famous photographer Robert Cameron. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, he did a bunch of ‘Above…’ books focusing on one city or state. One of these books is ‘Above Los Angeles’. He inspired me to get into aerial photography. Right now, a ton of amazing and talented drone operators are doing an amazing job and are a real inspiration.
TDW: You mentioned helicopters and planes for aerial photography. But, what about regular on-the-ground photography with your phone or camera?
J.F.: Yeah, I mean, just for fun. I’ve always liked photography yet I’ve never actually studied photography.
I taught everything myself and played around with stuff to see what works and what doesn’t.
TDW: That’s great to hear. So, how did your droning journey kick off? How did you learn to fly a drone?
J.F.: I got my first drone experience with the DJI Spark. At the time, I believe it cost around $500 and I remember I wanted a drone for years. When I saw it and read about it, I thought to myself ‘All right, well, this is affordable enough.’ Even if it failed, it wasn’t a huge loss for me.
Then, I started flying it. I taught myself how to do it. In fact, I began doing it far away from everyone and anything, so I could fly freely and not crash the drone. After a couple of months, I became hooked on it [laughs].
Since then, I wanted an upgrade and bought the Mavic 2 Pro and I just started shooting. I loved it and it was then that I decided to start my Instagram account – @abovelosangeles.
It turned out that people liked what I was putting up. The feeling is amazing when you receive a positive reaction to what you’re doing. This motivated me to just keep on shooting and always experimenting. My entire mindset shifted so I am constantly thinking about what might be a beautiful place to see from above.
TDW: It’s great that the initial investment did work out. And are you still sticking with the Mavic 2 Pro?
J.F.: No, I got the Mavic 3 now. I really like it, but the slow GPS is a little annoying. Other than that, it’s an awesome drone. Particularly, I love the extra flight time and the quality of the entire drone.
My Mavic 2 actually exploded – the battery exploded in the air and crashed down. To get it repaired, it was going to cost me about as much as a new one. So, I decided not to.
TDW: Yeah, that’s a very logical thing to do. Since you mentioned that crazy occurrence, do you have any other memorable drone-related stories?
J.F.: My first [DJI] Spark flew away from me. My oldest son and I searched for it and hiked around looking for it for months. However, we never found it.
That’s one of the less beautiful moments, for sure. There are a lot of positive experiences, which I take with me. One of my favorite things is capturing sea life, taking photos and videos of whales, especially.
Moreover, the gray whales – the mothers and the kids – migrate here just right off the coast of California. That’s why a lot of times you can catch a baby with its mother through the lens of your drone. It’s a truly amazing thing to witness.
TDW: Wonderful, indeed. So, how do you pick what to take photos and videos of? It can be a challenge to capture a winning drone shot.
J.F.: It’s mostly places I love, you know. For instance, people can see plenty of the Dodger Stadium on my Instagram. I’m a big Dodgers fan and I love the city and going to the beach and the mountains. Together with my family, we go out and explore. I take them out to the beach or downtown and I’ll fly my drone wherever we are and wherever it’s possible and allowed to.
Credits to Josh Fuhrman (@abovelosangeles)
I believe it’s because I used to go up on planes and I have an idea of what might look cool from above. A lot of times something will catch my eye and I’d say to myself that it could be pretty cool to take a drone photo. Then, I’d go out there and see what I can do with it.
TDW: Besides flying drones above Los Angeles and the state of California, are there some other locations on your bucket list that you would like to take drone photos and videos of someday?
J.F.: Yeah, I should do more research, but I’d love to shoot Italy, the south of France, Switzerland, and similar European locations. Those are dream locations to shoot – truly beyond beautiful.
Interestingly, I’ve been to Europe before, but not with my drone though.
Just keep on shooting, go out there and try new things. You never know what you’re going to get.
Josh Fuhrman, @abovelosangeles
TDW: After you’re done shooting on a location and you have the raw drone photography and the raw video materials safely stored on your computer, what is the process like for you until the drone content is published on social media or sold as a print?
J.F.: I’d say it’s perhaps the hardest part. I always try to take more than I need and try a lot of different things and angles out. So, the toughest part for me is just figuring out which one of the couple hundred shots is really the one that I love the most.
From there on, I use Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom or a couple of video editing software solutions. For the most part, I don’t do heavy editing. I’m not a fan of putting plenty of effects and objects that aren’t there in the actual drone picture.
Often, I bring the saturation up a bit and enhance the colors or brightness. However, in most cases, what I get is what I have [laughs].
Luckily, I live in a place that’s so beautiful that if you catch it at the right time you really don’t need to touch it very much at all.
His Thoughts on the Drone Community and the Regulations
TDW: I understand – it’s definitely a pleasure flying drones above Los Angeles and California. A great part of making this experience a pleasure has to be the drone community there for sure. What do you think about your fellow drone pilots? Do you meet up often?
J.F.: Everyone I’ve met has been super cool and supportive, it’s really nice that it’s not a community where flying drones above Los Angeles is considered a cutthroat thing. Everyone’s helpful and I feel that people don’t mind it. I’ve met a couple of people from the community and I like talking to a lot of the people.
Frequently, I’ll have a friend who does something with drone photography or videography and I’d ask if I can shoot it because I have a different idea. The usual answer is, “Sure, go for it. I’d love to see what you do with it.”
I like doing my aerial photos in my style. Even if it’s a shot that everyone’s doing, I try to get my perspective of it. That’s one thing I always try to do.
TDW: Of course, integral parts of flying drones above Los Angeles are the drone laws. Do you feel that the drone regulations in California and the USA, in general, are suitable as they are? What’s your opinion?
J.F.: They’re great for the most part. Sometimes it can be confusing in Los Angeles because it isn’t really one city but hundreds of cities put together. Certain places can have different regulations than others and it’s challenging to know exactly what you can do in certain places.
What do I do? I pretty much follow the apps. That way you know what to do and where to can fly.
Generally speaking, the drone rules are fair. When I fly, I try to be as respectful as possible and not fly near people where they will be bothered. A big part of not having issues with flying is just being polite and doing your best to follow the rules.
TDW: Another buzz-worthy aspect of the drone industry are the trends. What do you think about some of the most recent ones like FPV flying and NFTs?
J.F.: It’s great, yet flying drones that are really fast or very cool isn’t my thing [laughs]. I like to keep my drone flights slow (compared to first-person view flying) and smooth. Still, I’ve seen amazing footage where the drone is ducking and going through places that are so small at such a fast speed. I appreciate it.
As far as selling drone photos as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), I’m in favor of any way that artists can make money and not be taken advantage of. But, it’s sad to see that there are a lot of people selling other people’s work. NFTs are such a new thing that stuff like that will happen until it becomes more regulated and understood.
The bottom line is that any way people can do well with art, God bless them!
Credits to Josh Fuhrman (@abovelosangeles)
Drone Pilots, Listen Up: Useful Lessons and Next Steps
TDW: What can we expect next from Josh and Above Los Angeles?
J.F.: One of my goals is to get some of my work on the big screen. The bigger the screen or the canvas – the cooler it is to me. So, getting on the big screen or billboards would be amazing. I like collaborating with people, especially businesses where I can get to know the owners and where we can do lots of work together and grow together.
TDW: Finally, what do you think are some essential lessons, tips, and tricks people who are just getting into drone photography should know about?
J.F.: The first thing is to go out, explore, and try out different things. Something counterintuitive may end up being cool. For example, shooting into the sun. Sometimes, you can unexpectedly get a very cool effect that isn’t possible with regular photography.
Lighting is also important. Getting up early or getting the sunset or the blue hour presents you with amazing lighting.
Another vital tip is just to keep shooting and go out there and try things you never know what you’re going to get. Often, I realize some things I’ve seen on the ground look fantastic only when my drone is up in the air.
TDW: Before we wrap it up, do you want to tell our readers something we haven’t asked you?
J.F.: If you’re droning out there, enjoy it, be smart about it don’t do anything stupid that’s going to mess it up for the rest of us.
Credits to Josh Fuhrman (@abovelosangeles)
On that note and with this short and truthful message, we said our until next time with Josh. Talking with a talented drone pilot like Josh Fuhrman is a pleasure. We are ecstatic that his work is getting more recognized by the day, which is evident in his follower base and the engagement he nurtures with lovers of drone photography on social media. We thank Josh for his time and answers – full of details and helpful information.
To provide the best experiences, we use technologies like cookies to store and/or access device information. Consenting to these technologies will allow us to process data such as browsing behavior or unique IDs on this site. Not consenting or withdrawing consent, may adversely affect certain features and functions.
The technical storage or access is strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of enabling the use of a specific service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user, or for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network.
The technical storage or access is necessary for the legitimate purpose of storing preferences that are not requested by the subscriber or user.
The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for statistical purposes.The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for anonymous statistical purposes. Without a subpoena, voluntary compliance on the part of your Internet Service Provider, or additional records from a third party, information stored or retrieved for this purpose alone cannot usually be used to identify you.
The technical storage or access is required to create user profiles to send advertising, or to track the user on a website or across several websites for similar marketing purposes.