Dirk Dallas is designer, photographer, professor of digital media and founder of From Where I Drone. When Dirk isn't teaching, travelling the world or flying drones, he’s exploring new beaches together with his wife and three daughters, in Southern California, where he lives.
How did you get to where you are right now?
I remember when I was a little boy, my grandpa had a nice video camera and I was always drawn to it. When I became a teenager all my friends were skateboarding and my grandpa let me borrow his video camera, so I that could make little skateboard videos of my friends. So that became my hobby and I loved doing that and I wanted to go to school for that. I heard about a program at a school nearby that I wanted to go to, but the school didn’t have specifically what I wanted to study - it was more graphic design, but I thought that was close enough. What ended up happening was I started to learn about graphic design and then I fell in love with design too. This is around the time that I started to experiment with photography because I would occasionally need some for my design work. This is when I slowly started to realise that I liked photography surprisingly a little bit more than design and film. So I just started sharing my photos on Flickr (this was before Instagram) and I was actually taking a lot of photos with my phone since I always had my iPhone with me. After a while I started to get encouraging feedback from people so I keep at it. Then Instagram came out, I signed up the day it came out and have been using it ever since. So instead of sharing my photos to Flickr, I started sharing them to Instagram every single day. All that feedback and the friendships that you can make on Instagram is what makes Instagram so cool and so I've been using it ever since. Through Instagram a lot of cool opportunities have come about - shooting for companies and going on trips, so it kind of just happened naturally out of a passion to just create. I never necessarily set out to be anything specific, my goal was just to do what I love and share my photography with other people.
How did you come up with the idea of From Where I Drone?
Another hobby of mine that I’ve always been interested in is flying RC helicopters and RC airplanes. So obviously photography has been a hobby and when I heard about a drone, which is something you could fly and could attach a GoPro to it, I was like “Wow! This might be able to merge two of my hobbies into one!” So I got one of the first drones and I remember it being so fun to fly and being able to take photos and videos really high up in the air was unlike anything I had done before. This is because if you tried to attach a camera to something before drones the footage would be very shaky and you couldn’t really control the settings. So I became hooked. This was good timing because this was around the time when I started to get a little tired of my own photos and a lot of the photos I was seeing online. I remember thinking, “How many shots of The Golden Gate Bridge or the Empire State Building can you see before it starts to get tired?” So the drone offered me a unique opportunity to capture something from a completely different angle and show something unique. Then whenever I would share a drone photo on Instagram I would put the hashtag #fromwhereidrone, which was like a tongue-in-cheek play off of the very popular hashtag #fromwhereistand. I thought it would be kind of funny and people thought it was funny, but then one day a few months after I first used it, I clicked on it and saw over 500 photos tagged with it. This was crazy because I didn’t know anyone who had a drone. So when I’d click on that hashtag and saw 500 photos I thought: “Wow! there’s other like-minded people and they’re doing cool stuff with drones. So the hashtag was essentially a way for me and others to connect with each other no matter where we lived in the world. This is when I decided that I wanted to share all the amazing accounts and photos with other people on Instagram so I started the account @fromwhereidrone to kind of prop up the drone community and inspire others.
Was there anyone who influenced you?
When I first started it wasn’t easy to find inspiration but I did stumble onto some people who shot out of airplanes and helicopters. One of my favorite aerial photographers is George Steinmetz, I’m also a big fan of Tommy Clarke and Gray Malin. As far as inspiration for photography, design and video just in general I am really inspired by Stefan Sagmeister (a New York-based graphic designer and typographer), Jessica Walsh, Paula Scher, David Carson, Eliot Rausch, and Kim Høltermand - these guys inspire me because of the way they think and the way they tell a story visually.
Have ever you taken risks in your career?
I tend to be a bit more private so I am not use to being in the limelight (heck you can’t even really see my face in my profile images). But I feel like I had to take a risk in terms of putting myself out there when I started to take the whole From Where I Drone thing more seriously. My website was created to help educate and inspire people and one of the things that I have needed to get into is doing video tutorials. So I think a recent risk for me is getting in front of the camera because I have a lot of insecurities. I don't feel I’m great on camera: I’m afraid I’m gonna stumble or my words won’t make sense. So I’ve had to take a risk and put myself out there just in general. As the website grows, I have to put more time and more of myself into it. Like I said earlier, I tend to be more of a private person and for me that’s a risk, because it’s not something I am naturally comfortable with. But I see that it's paying off like when I get a message from someone or a comment just saying that I really helped them or that one of my videos has been really informative that then encourages me to keep going.
How do your friends and family feel about what you do?
They are definitely supportive and encouraging. I have three girls, my wife and I had been married for almost 10 years and I couldn't do any of this stuff if it wasn't for her support and encouragement. When I’m gone on a shoot doing something, she’s the one back home holding down the house and making sure everyone's taken care of. If I didn't have her support and other family and friends, it would be really difficult to do what I do.
Where’s home and how living there influences you?
One of the things I love about living in Southern California is that we are about an hour from four different worlds. What I mean is I live about an hour from Los Angeles, which is a big city, I live an hour from the beach, I live an hour from the mountains and I live an hour from the desert. So all those different areas provide inspiration in different ways and it can be from the subject matter that I choose, to the colours I’m thinking about using in my edits, to where I can go to clear my mind and be inspired by something. I love having that diversity and that’s one of the beautiful things about living down here.
What does a good day of work look like?
I obviously have kind of a crazy house with three little girls. It’s a bless, but I can be easily distracted, because I want to play with them, they want my attention - to read a book or something like that. So a good day for me is when I can come into my office, if it’s a beautiful day outside, I can open my window and I can turn on some good music and can get into a flow where i just keep going. l like to work in my office - I have a stand-up desk and so I go back and forth between standing and sitting. I work best when I don’t have any distractions so I actually have to turn on some software on my computer that will block me from checking time-wasting websites like YouTube or Facebook. Then I like to have a lunch break with my family, so I'll go downstairs and do that. Then I’ll come back up and get some more work done and then I like to go for a walk with my family around our neighbourhood.
What gives you ideas and inspires you?
I'm inspired by God’s creation. One of the interesting and humbling things about photography that I like about is that, while I do take a picture, I didn't make anything in the picture. When I take a picture of the beach I didn't make the water, I didn't make the clouds, the sunset, the light, I didn't make any of that stuff. That helps keep things in perspective for me and can be real humbling. I’m also really inspired by music since it can get me into a certain mood and mindset depending on what I am listening to. I'm super inspired by movies, by directors of photography - and because of my background in film, this is a blessing and a curse, I cannot watch a movie without thinking about all the components and creativity that took place. Finally I’m inspired by just the daily stuff I come across through my Instagram Feed or Pinterest or websites that I visit like Flickr, Dribbble, and Twitter - really it's just a big smorgasbord of all that stuff. The main takeaway is that I think it is a good idea to be constantly taking in good inspiration which will help refine your tastes, so that you can be inspired to push out creativity into your own work.
What do you see yourself doing in a few years?
My goal is for fromwhereidrone.com to be the best drone resource on the web. Right now I’m just one guy at home working on it in my free time. I teach, I do freelance work, I have a big family, so I’m pretty busy and one of the things I wish I had more time for is for fromwhereidrone.com. I have a lot of ideas and things on my todo list for it, so I hope to get to a lot of those things this year so it becomes even more useful for people to find help, inspiration and community. One of my favorite things about From Where I Drone is it isn’t just something for me or something I did alone. Rather, From Where I Drone is something a bunch of people on Instagram helped build, which is a cool example of what types of things we can build when a bunch of people find other like-minded people to help one another out!
To see more of Dirk’s work, check out his Instagram:
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