A fiery sunrise over Loop Head in Co. Clare. This point is the culmination of the line of cliffs along the Clare coast that start with the Cliffs of Moher further north. The Shannon Estuary is on the right of the frame, and the Atlantic Ocean on the left. The word 'Eire' is spelled out near the tip of the peninsula. It was placed there during WWII to assist US pilots with their navigation across the Atlantic.
I watched the control panel monitor as the drone spun wildly in the sky. As a rule, drones shouldn't do that. It's an ugly sight. Particularly if it's your drone, which cost thousands of euros, and balanced in its gimbal cradle is an expensive Canon camera. And it's away out over the Atlantic Ocean.
As quickly as my wits would allow (and believe me, they were distracted by the potential consequences for my bank balance), I put the drone into recovery mode, which enabled a return-to-home setting. The drone responded a bit like a naughty dog. It stopped spinning about and slunk its way back to me. It returned so obediently and smoothly, I wondered whether I'd imagined the whole thing.
I hadn't. As soon as the drone was close enough, I could see one of the motors hanging off its arm by a few wires. I landed it safely, but that was the end of the shoot—and I hadn't been able to take the photograph I had come for. There I was: broken drone and no photograph. I was, and I'll be brutally honest about this, slightly upset. I cast my eyes skywards in frustration. A glorious sunrise greeted me. That didn't help my mood any.
Loop Head-Drogheda Loop
The distance from Loop Head Lighthouse (Co. Clare), where I was, and Drogheda (Co. The-Other-Side-of-Ireland), where my drone supplier lives, is 341.4 km. Do you know how I know that? Because I drove it that morning. There was no other choice. I had several more shooting days and I desperately needed a working drone. You'd be surprised how few corner shops in rural Ireland stock drones or spare parts. Certainly in 2014, when this adventure happened.
I have to say, Damien of Copter Shop Ireland was a star. When I arrived in Drogheda, he willingly stripped his own personal drone (which was the same model as mine) and used the parts to repair mine.
Do you know how far it is from Drogheda back to Co. Clare? ... Oh, you do.
Fortune from misfortune
The next morning, I woke up to find conditions were looking good for another clearly visible sunrise. I set off from my B&B to Loop Head again. I was barely in the car when I noticed a thick band of cloud heading in from the west. The race was on between the cloud and the sun. If the cloud won, the sunrise would be a dismal grey affair. All I could do was make sure I was on location and ready with the drone in the sky, in case the sun won.
I won't keep you in suspense, if only because you already know how this ends (see the picture above). The sun came up before the cloud could blot it out from the horizon. The effect was mind blowing. The photograph I was able to take was utterly stunning. The sunrise the morning before had been good. This sunrise, though, was breathtaking. I knew instantly that this photograph would be the cover image for Atlantic Light. And the only reason I was in that spot that morning to capture it was because the drone had failed the day before. Sometimes fate laughs in your face; sometimes it lends a helping hand.
Do you to see a video that shows the moment the drone failed in the sky? Watch the video below.
DJI S1000 Motor Failure from Peter Cox on Vimeo.