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INTERVIEW: Joanna Steidle Of @HamptonsDrone Talks Everything Drones

T.J. Clemente

One of Steidle's magnificent sunsets. (Photo Courtesy of Joanna L. Steidle)

This is a story of both adventure and exploration. It is one of discovering and seeing things differently. It is about passion and commitment, and lastly, it is about the bond between a Water Mill women and her dad, cemented by the beauty of the Peconic Bay area, as well as the ocean beaches and East End farmlands. This is the world of Joanna L. Steidle, a FAA licensed drone operator extraordinaire - whose life is all about drones. Little ones to fly in the house, fast ones to race and larger ones that hover over the East End capturing sensational award-winning sunsets and sunrises.

An exhibition of the photographer's work at Rogers Memorial Gallery. (Photo Courtesy of Joanna L. Steidle)

Her collection also includes landscapes with season changes that feaure the colors of autumn leaved-trees taken from way up high. The effect is dazzling and pure art. Drones are not her hobby, they are who she has become, a high-altitude drone explorer in the sky. If you are on Twitter, you see her skills @HamptonsDrone regularly. Steidle also makes one or two videos per week for weather stations such as @breakingweather and @WeatherNation. She also welcomes suggestions from the public.

Steidle with one her prized possessions. (Photo Courtesy of Joanna L. Steidle)

Steidle explains, "When I am flying my drone, I am totally concentrating like a pilot when they are landing an airplane. My hands are on the controls, I am concentrating, looking at the drone and also at the small screen, too. While flying the drone I am legally not to be talked to or disturbed, that's federal law." She went on to explain why. "It can be dangerous," she stated. "The wind is so important, I need to be aware of gust possibilities. It takes phenomenal concentration."

She has a "day job," that deals with technology as did her education, however never did she ever think that that education would blossom into her becoming a weekly award-winning drone photographer and video star. Surprisingly she said, "Actually, many times the photos or video is subpar, due to sun angles and winds and drone stability, however when you get it right, you see stuff in a way no one has ever has."

When you look at her website joannasteidle.com (highly recommended), you will see a collection of the winners she has accumulated over the last five years of spending endless hours exploring everything East End from the sky via drone photography and video. As Steidle said, "My dad and I have lived in Water Mill for over 50 years. We look at the drone video and shake our heads as we see new things we never knew existed, in places we have been driving by and passing all these years." In optimal conditions, an outdoor larger drone flight can last about 20 minutes. She noted, "I carry spare batteries, but I must be aware of the time and how the power is being consumed, winds can limit flight time. The camera not so much, mostly the drone dealing with the wind consumes most of the battery power."

Steidle often travels on her dad's boat to capture the dramatic landscapes. (Photo Courtesy of Joanna L. Steidle)

In a touching moment, Steidle shared with us, "My dad is my hero, he takes me out in his work [clamming] boat and brings me to the best places, at the best times. He is often with me, supporting me, sharing the moments and it's so special. It's been one of the benefits of this whole drone experience."

She does repairs in her basement and has spent "about $10,000 to $15,000 purchasing drones or drone accessories... I have names for them, they are that much a part of my life."

Swans from above. (Photo Courtesy of Joanna L. Steidle)

Steidle stressed the need for all drone operators to know they are required by Federal Law to be certified to fly any type of drone outdoors in public. She also noted that there are "no fly zones," where no drones are to be flown over at any time.

Joanna L. Steidle is part of a new breed of artist, one that is still evolving as the technology is growing. When you see a beautiful sunset happening, odds are she may be in her dad's motorized dory trying to find that next new phenomenal OMG video or when your alarm clock wakes you, you can bet she is out somewhere checking the wind, the clouds, and looking for a great place to launch her best drone to catch her next award-winning video or photo. Then again, on a rainy day, she may be flying her small drones around the house. Steidle chuckled when she said the part about flying the mini-drones around her house. She really is all about drones.

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