As drones and drone photography become more accessible, we have witnessed a rise in the number of drone content creators worldwide. With that in mind, sometimes it can be challenging to break through and make your mark in the world of drone photography. This is the case in Canada, as well. According to our analysis of the Canadian drone industry, the country is home to more than 340,000 drones. So, we’re talking about a vibrant drone community dispersed across all corners of the country. One of the members of the Canadian drone community is Kurt Jurgen – a 28-year-old drone pilot who is a fan of top-down photos.
Kurt is famous in the industry as one of the pioneers of selling drone photos as NFTs, too. Besides that, he is memorable thanks to his style of capturing and publishing (almost always) top-down photos, oftentimes infusing them with a personal story or an underlying joke. He is present on the most popular social media platforms where tens of thousands of people follow and support his work.
These were enough reasons for us to reach out to him to talk about his experiences and opinions about his work.
About Kurt Jurgen
Kurt told us that when he isn’t flying his drone, he is actually working as a manufacturing engineer around the greater Toronto area. His passion and interest in tech and drones are more than evident and we were amazed to find out he enjoys all things drones, 3D printing, and photography, too.
But, Kurt didn’t get into photography through drones. In fact, he started as a regular photographer. “Then, I got bored and got my first drone. The world opened up to new possibilities and it formed my now known photography style – top-down photography.”
Furthermore, he took up drone photography when it was all very new and just breaking ground. Reminiscing, he mentioned that there wasn’t a license requirement back then. However, now he proudly has one – a basic license – just in case he runs into issues, as he says. Also, we asked him how he learned to fly a drone in the first place. His answer – “I kind of just winged it.”
“My first photo was not very good compared to what I take now. I was more excited to fly for the first time rather than actually trying to capture anything noteworthy,” Kurt adds.
And his immense progress is note-worthy and inspirational!
Besides just a drone pilot, Kurt is an NFT artist/collector and creator, too. When we reached out to some of The Drones World’s friends, who recently got into selling drone photos as NFTs, one of the common answers was “Kurt got me into it.” So, he was one of the first drone creators who saw this new opportunity and trend. With his growing followers base on Instagram and Twitter, he truly is an influencing voice in contemporary drone photography.
TDW: Which drone did you start with and which one are you using now? Do you use other equipment?
K.J.: I started with a [DJI] Phantom 4. However, I recently made the switch to Air 2. I also have an FPV drone but obviously that is not for photography.
TDW: Good choice! What’s some memorable occasion or story you had with it?
K.J.: When I go out and fly I try to avoid people because of this incident. I pulled over on the side of the road one time and launched my drone up to take some photos of a beautiful sunset.
Out of nowhere, this man runs up to me with his phone out filming me, screaming at me, thinking that I was spying on him. I tried to convince him that I was taking sunset photos but he was not convinced. So, I landed and tried to leave. Then, he took a couple of pictures of me, my car, and my license plate and said he was going to call the cops.
At this point, I just left. Now I avoid everyone while flying because that was one of the most frustrating experiences in my life as a pilot.
TDW: Sorry to hear that. Speaking of it, though, what’s your experience like flying a drone in Canada? Are Canadians, generally speaking, fans of drones?
K.J.: Laws are extremely tough here. Legally you can barely fly anywhere. Most people I run into are curious about the drone, but there are the ones that are immediately offensive. So, it’s better to just avoid the public while flying.
TDW: With your extensive experience and work, which 5 locations in Canada would you recommend for people to visit and fly a drone? Also, which 5 locations from anywhere in the world are on your bucket list?
K.J.: All the nice locations are no-fly zones. So, I cannot really recommend anything specific. You just need to fly where you can. As for where I’d like to go I’d say Iceland, Germany, Utah, Singapore, and Madeira.
TDW: Interesting! You’re one of the experts in top-down photos. Your social media profiles focus on these types of photos, too. Why top-down photography?
K.J.: First, I wanted to be a landscape photographer, but where I live is predominantly a flat land. To be able to do that, I’d have to travel to capture actual landscapes. On the other hand, I figured that without excess money I can form my own photography style – top-down photos – utilizing my local area to the maximum. This is what I did.
I remember every single flight as if I was still there holding my controller right now. The amount of joy and excitement capturing these moments brought me will never be forgotten. In these moments I can say I was 100% truly happy.
Kurt Jurgen about one of his collection of drone shots titled ‘Cloud Surfer’
TDW: So, what is the thought process behind your top-down photos? How do you get your ideas for the concept for some of your most prominent series of shots?
K.J.: I have to say my main tool is Google Maps. I search all over the place for geometry that stands out from satellite view. If I can see it from there, I can capture it with a drone.
For instance, one of the collections is called ‘Lost Planes‘. Lots of searching on the internet go into preparing for them. Interestingly enough, every plane is documented online and you just need to know where to look. I was inspired after seeing a post on Instagram of a crash-landed plane. I decided I had to find some of my own.
TDW: Once you have your raw drone shots, what’s next? What does your editing process look like and which software solutions do you use?
K.J.: Adobe Lightroom – if I was able to capture it the way I envisioned. If not, I do a bit of tweaking the environment in Adobe Photoshop.
I rather find the subjects in the proper environment rather than create a composite piece.
Drone Photography as NFTs
TDW: As we mentioned before, your work is sold as NFTs. Can you give us a virtual walk through your ONCYBER gallery of NFTs? Which drone shots have you chosen and why?
K.J.: My gallery is constantly changing, I have a few set pieces that are always going to remain in place.
However, as I introduce new work into the NFT space I like to shuffle in some new content. My favorite pieces are definitely the planes because they took so much more effort to find than any other piece.
TDW: What’s your take on NFTs, in general, and how can drone artists and creators use this trend to their benefit?
K.J.: It’s time-consuming, I can spend 24 hours in the space and accomplish nothing or everything.
It all comes down to effort, consistency, and being on Twitter 24/7. So, if you have the time, it is a crazy opportunity.
Unfortunately, life gets in the way a lot and it’s hard to always be online.
TDW: What’s your experience with selling drone photos as NFTs?
K.J.: I love selling NFTs! I’ve always had some crypto, but never that much.
Being on here [platforms for NFTs] for 8 months now has been insane to sell as many pieces as I have. I believe in 2022 alone I’ve sold 60 pieces so far. My goal for the year is 100. So, I’m close and it’s only just begun.
Tips for Drone Creators
TDW: It’s time for some tips. What advice would you give to our readers that you wish you’d read somewhere or someone had told you?
K.J.: Learn anything and everything and use your time wisely. There’s never enough time to do everything you want, so make time for the things you actually want to achieve.
TDW: What’s next for Kurt?
K.J.: More FPV practice and hopefully content soon. I’m also starting to explore additional 3D software like blender to try and take advantage of the Metaverse and create some 3D NFTs for the space.
TDW: Would you like to share something with our readers that maybe we haven’t asked you about?
K.J.: Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite.
With his captivating style and humor which translates into his top-down photos and videos, Kurt is one of Canada’s most inspiring voices in drone photography. Moreover, he tries to stay on top of the newest trends in the drone industry. This is why we can’t wait to see what he does next. We’ll make sure to keep an eye on his future work. Find out more about him and his work on his Instagram, Twitter, and OpenSea platforms.
Do you know a drone pilot or a drone creator you want to find out more about? Feel free to get in touch with us!
We, at The Drones World, whole-heartedly thank Kurt for his dedicated time and answers to all of our questions. The next time we meet will hopefully be near one of Ontario’s most picturesque sights over chocolate chip cookies so that we can continue our conversation.
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