Getting up in the air to photograph a subject from above presents options you just can’t get from the ground. And since I like beer, I jumped at the opportunity last September to photograph hops and the hops harvest in the Yakima valley.
I should make clear right up front that flying any aircraft, including my DJI Phantom 4, requires being completely sober and aware of your surroundings. The beer drinking came only after my little flying camera was safely packed away and the job was done.
The folks at Tributary Hops in Granger welcomed me to the farm soon after sunrise. I began work photographing the hops from ground level. Hops bines (a climbing plant that supports itself by wrapping around a support) are grown on ropes attached to overhead wires about 15 feet above the ground.
At harvest time a specialized machine, the top cutter, cuts the cords and the hops fall into a truck which hauls them away for processing.
In my ground-level photography I wanted to capture both the immensity of the hops bines and details of the cones that provide the distinctive flavor to my evening beer. I shot with a variety of lenses from ultra wide-angle to telephoto. At one point I even lay on my back between the rows so I could shoot straight up against the blue sky.
Once I felt I’d covered the subject well from the ground I launched my flying camera, being careful to avoid overhead power lines and to stay well above the hops trellises.
Shooting from the air I wanted to capture a variety of views of the farm, including this view to give a feeling for the size of the operation. Beer is big business and that means lots of hops. This field is a variety called ‘Mosaic,’ which is used in flavorful craft brews. In the photo above you can see that most of the field had already been harvested, with just one block remaining to be cut.
So now you know where the flavor in your favorite beer comes from. Give me a call if you’d like to enjoy a cold one with me at one of Bellingham’s great craft breweries. Call, too, if you’ve got a project that calls for low-altitude aerial photography.