An Architectural Sea
By Jordan Staggs Photography by Sky Pro Imaging
The scenic corridor along Northwest Florida’s Highway 30-A is quickly becoming one of America’s favorite beach vacation destinations, and it’s easy to see why. The Gulf of Mexico’s waters there are sheltered by the peninsula along the Apalachicola Bay to the east and the Gulf Islands National Seashore to the west, keeping them relatively calm and shallow, and making for brilliant green and turquoise hues. Combine that with the dazzling white quartz sand carried down from the Appalachians and deposited into the Gulf by the Apalachicola River, and the natural result is nothing short of paradise.
In the past few decades, the 30-A area has experienced a boom of growth in the housing and tourism markets, with a unique string of ten defined coastal communities springing up along the eighteen-mile stretch of road. From east to west, visitors encounter a distinct personality in each 30-A community: Rosemary Beach, Seacrest Beach, Alys Beach, WaterSound, Seagrove Beach, Seaside, WaterColor, Grayton Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, and Dune Allen Beach.
The beachside, island-inspired culture created in these communities merges with the interesting architecture and the heavy influence of New Urban town planning by Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk in Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, and Seaside, and by David Rockwell in WaterColor. The European vibe of Rosemary Beach is soon replaced by the sophisticated white walls of Alys Beach as you travel west. Keep driving (or, as many locals prefer, cycling along the eighteen-mile bike path), and you’ll discover classic Americana in Seaside. Then, find yourself engrossed in the funky groove of Grayton Beach just two miles away.
As fun as it is to explore each of these unique beach towns, there’s also no denying the beauty of nature in Northwest Florida.
As fun as it is to explore each of these unique beach towns, there’s also no denying the beauty of nature in Northwest Florida. What’s the best way to get the best view of both the architecture and the area’s natural wonders? From the air! That’s why VIE teamed up with the professional photography and videography team at Sky Pro Imaging, who used drone technology to capture some brilliant vistas of 30-A’s coastal communities and their beloved beaches.
“Since childhood, I have been an enthusiast of both radio-controlled flight and photography. When drones hit the market, I was able to combine two things I love into one,” says Sky Pro Imaging founder Joshua Lanier about starting his business four years ago. “Since the industry was so new, I spent a great deal of time researching the technology, the market, and the regulations before purchasing the components needed to build my first drone. I was determined to capture the best aerial imaging our area has seen, and I was up to the challenge.”
“Since childhood, I have been an enthusiast of both radio-controlled flight and photography. When drones hit the market, I was able to combine two things I love into one.”
Joshua and his business partner, Ryan VanderPloeg, have taken their shared interests in photography and technology to new heights—literally—and have used them to capture some incredible shots of Northwest Florida’s most popular areas. (Their video of Memorial Day 2016 at Crab Island near Destin has nearly three hundred thousand views on Facebook so far.) “Drone photography and videography combine our favorite hobbies into one marketable business,” Ryan says. “It has certainly had its challenges, such as following the ever-changing rules set out by the FAA and staying up to date on all of the current UAV and camera technology. It is fun because we often are the first people to gain a different perspective on this unique area where we live.” Other challenges come with the subject matter they’re shooting, Ryan adds. “Sunsets and dolphins always make for a pretty picture, but our favorite shoots include speed boats, race cars, or motorcycles. Anything that moves fast is a challenge, but when you nail those types of shots, it’s really gratifying—and fun to watch!”
Sky Pro Imaging was one of the first thousand companies in the nation approved by the FAA to operate drones for use in commercial, film, and television production. Since then, Joshua and Ryan have produced photography for various real estate and tourism clients and have created commercials, music videos, and instructional videos for others. Joshua says the introduction of drone videography into the market a few years ago was ultimately what rekindled his high school love of creating and editing videos. Of course, having such spectacular scenery to work with can certainly inspire as well. “I absolutely love the diverse environmental features that we are blessed to be able to shoot,” he says. “We have it all: beaches, coastal dune lakes, spring-fed rivers, and wetlands—not to mention the beautiful architecture that surrounds us. We truly live in a photographer’s paradise!”
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To learn more about Sky Pro Imaging, and to view more of Ryan and Joshua’s work, visit www.skyproimaging.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram @SkyProImaging.