Multi-talented Arash Moallemi is combining his love of flying and photography in a brand new AERIAL series, exploring the lines between landscape and the built environment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Arash is a seasoned sky-diver (certified in ’97!) and has a great deal of experience around planes. Although he comes from a big family of architects and engineers, Arash fell in love with photography in high school and has never looked back since.
Q: Tell me about aerial photography.
AM: I prefer traditional aerial photography to drone photography. The former provides the ability to shoot with longer lenses which compresses the image, and typically renders a much more flattering image of the subject (i.e a house). It is also far more stable than even the best drones Drones typically use a super wide angle lens, which makes everything we shoot with them look a bit warped, and cropping the image will degrade it. As for the best time of day to shoot, counter to general outdoor photography, early and late light are not always best as we have to be very aware of long shadows from structures and buildings nearby.
Q: There is a perception that traditional aerial is far more expensive – is that true?
AM: That is not necessary the case. I think each shoot should be looked at and the right tool should be selected for it. For drone photography, the first step is to check area for hazards and no-fly zone regulations. There are still a lot of un-knowns and lack of regulation in the drone world, so we really need to iron out details before the flights.
Q: What kind of prep do you need for an aerial shoot?
AM: For a traditional aerial shoot, the first important step is to understand the clients ask. Then a site visit is sometimes needed to assess the best angles and times of day. We also form a flight request and our flight provider files a flight plan if needed.
Next we create a “flight detail”, which we use to brief the pilot the day-of. This includes a map of the area, requested flight line, as well as supporting material such as photographs of the location. The more information we provide, the better the pilot can help us do our job.
On the day of, we have a short verbal brief with the pilot, then proceed to safety checks and harnessing all our kit to the aircraft. There is no door, so anything that is not tied down can fall out, including me! Most flights are about an hour depending on the location. During the flight I’m in constant communication with the pilot and monitor the general air traffic dialogue as well.
After the flight there’s a short “de-brief” with the pilot and we’re done!
Q: If you weren’t a photographer what do you think you would be doing?
AM: I actually don’t know because I’ve have never done anything else. Through photography I’ve been exposed to all kinds of things and have perqs from all sorts of different jobs. Like getting to be on top of the catwalk set at Roy Thompson Hall because you’re setting up lighting; or being on a multi-million dollar boat as a photographer and guest or fly around in helicopters.
But I think… I love aviation. I’m almost forty and I’m actually debating if I should get my private license. I have flown planes a bunch of times and I was certified as a sky-diver in ’97 so i’ve had a lot of time around smaller planes like Cessna. It’s the freedom, of being able to go anywhere, any direction you want.
I also madly, madly love food and cooking. The older I get the more important it is to me what we put into our bodies, which is partially why I’m doing this long-term project with Actinolite restaurant. Their values are so aligned with mine that just makes it easier to work with. So I would imagine I would probably be a restauranteur.
But probably pilot first. I would have something to do with flying an airplane.
Q: What have you learned in photography?
So much of what I learned in photography was being someone’s assistant who massively screws something up. With certain photographers that I worked for, I learned a lot more of “Don’t do this” versus “Oh this is how you do this.” If you’re going to be doing something, do it right. Put a valiant effort into it and don’t fail yourself. Otherwise if you only gave it 60% and failed, it’s just such an icky feeling. I think that applies to many other aspects of my life.
Any time when someone younger like knocks me off for a job, it’s great because, this means I just have to be better. I feel like that just allows you to grow as a human being and pushes you forward. I also think it’s incredibly important to embrace when you fall into a rut. Because that’s when you push forward again. That’s the cycle of creativity.
Interview first recorded in December 2015