Interview with Drone Photographer Tobias Hägg – @airpixels

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Tobias Hägg, also known online as @airpixels, is a 30 year old photographer and drone pilot based in Eskilstuna, Sweden.

His feed is one of the first feeds I remember coming across back in 2015 that contained such stellar and unique aerial imagery of lakes, boat houses, secluded cabins, ponds, islands, forests, roads dividing landscapes and frozen fractals of ice.

Surprisingly Tobias has only been on Instagram for 2 years and yet he has quickly become one of the most respected, followed and liked drone photographers in the #fromwhereidrone community.

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Since coming onto the scene he has been featured in National Geographic, The Telegraph, Adobe.com and the Daily Mail to name a few and now because of his curiosity and drive he gets to live out his dream of traveling the world and shooting full-time.

In this interview we learn about how Tobias got his start in the world of photography and drones, what gear he uses and his tips for how to find success and succeed as a photographer.

 

 

Can you tell us how you got started in photography?

It’s been a long road and a lot of work becoming the person I am today when it comes to photography. When I was around 14 I started to develop an interest around film and photography.

In the beginning I was more interested in just editing pictures and trying to do cool effects than actually shooting.

But to get my images and film to a point where I was going to be happy with them I knew I need to start learning how to actually use a camera.

That is when all I decided to spend all the free time I had watching tutorials on Photoshop and Adobe After Effects.

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So that is how I learned how to handle the various computer programs that I now use on a daily basis today.

After a couple of years I had a lot of knowledge in post-processing editing so my next step was to start in a digital arts program at a technical institute here in Sweden.

But after almost a year I dropped out of school because I didn’t find it interesting and there weren’t any real challenges for me.

That’s when I decided to step away and started doing photography & film on my own for myself. So basically I just learned how to do everything be making mistakes and exploring my interests.

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How did you get started specifically in drone photography?

It’s always been a dream of mine to do aerial photography but it hasn’t always been available to me as an option.

I either had to have a lot of money or a helicopter to get airborne and unfortunately I didn’t have any of those things when I was growing up.

But I have always had the vision of taking pictures from above.

So when drones came in the picture I got one as soon as I could.

My first drone was the DJI Phantom 3 Pro.

The Phantom 3 Pro was an amazing drone and I was of course a bit scared and nervous in my first flights like I’m sure everyone else is.

But after a while I became more comfortable with flying and I can say that the Phantom 3 Pro served me well for a really long time.

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What do you do when you are not flying your drone?

When I am not flying my drone I am usually doing something else with some other camera =)

But when I am free, I like to relax from film and photography and spend my time with my partner Maria and our little French Bulldog Belle.

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Do you mind telling us about one of your drone failures? :)

When I fly I like to have control of my surroundings and I always pay attention to what I am doing.

But one time I got distracted for a brief moment which leads me to share this story.

Basically I had been flying in an area for awhile that was stacked with trees and a small forest lake and when I was done flying I began bringing the drone down for a landing.

In this particular area there were trees everywhere around the lake and the route to get down by the water was a going to be a bit hard to navigate but not impossible.

So I watched my monitor and saw that everything was looking good as I was bringing it down but instead of doing what I normally do and go make sure the landing spot was free and clear of obstacles, I skipped that step and continued to bring the drone down to land.

As I lowered the drone and walked over to the landing spot so meet it, I heard the props hit some branches in a tree and then I saw a plop in the lake out of the corner of my eye.

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A moment later I discovered my drone was that plop into the water.

This happen during winter here in Sweden but the lake hadn’t frozen over yet so I decided to make a swim for it to try and rescue it.

What’s crazy is the props where still spinning even under the water so I had to shut the power off before I could grab it out of the water.

I ended up taking the drone home so that it could dry off and rest for several days before I tried powering it up again.

Then after a week I went to turn it on and to my surprise everything worked perfect again!

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What do you look for when taking a photo?

Everything and nothing. It all depends on what and where I am shooting.

Sometimes I want to capture something specific but many times I like to just go and shoot at a location just out of curiosity to see how it looks from above.

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What are you inspired by?

My biggest inspirations are films and nature. Nature alone provides a lot of the inspiration I need and it always surprises me

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What are some of your favorite books?

I read all kinds of books but I always get stuck in darker stories.

Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings sounds cheesy to say but hey I love reading them!

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Who are at least 3 of your favorite photographers?

Not rated in any specific order but these guys all inspire me in different ways: @Stianmklo, @saltywings, @muenchmax.

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What is a photo that means a lot to you?

I have a photo I took while traveling in Lofoten (see image below).

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Reinebringen, Lofoten Norway

So the sun was about to set and I of course didn’t want to miss sunset so I had to run up the mountain to catch it.

When I got up to the top I was so exhausted because all my energy was gone from trying to get to the top in time while carrying all my gear.

But nonetheless I fired up my drone and was able to capture the sunset from the top.

That experience is memorable for several reasons like that and the fact that I had to get myself down in the dark but it this image also means a lot to me because it shows the person that I have become today.

 

 

What is your dream project?

A dream project for me would be to shoot for BBC’s Planet Earth series next time.

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What are some of the cool opportunities that have resulted from your success as a photographer?

I get to travel a lot due to my photography and partner with cool brands such as Fjällräven but the coolest opportunity has been that I get to do this full-time and meet so many inspiring people along the way.

 

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What’s your Instagram story?

When I started doing Instagram I literally had no idea what I was doing and I had no purpose with it either.

I just wanted to post my content and I hoped that somebody out there would like it (besides my friends) :D

Things really started to change when I started using hashtags for the first time and then over time I learned more things and now this is where I am today almost two years later.

 

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What advice would you have to those looking to grow a following?

My advice to people reading this is to just be yourself. Post what you like and do the projects you wanna do.

When it comes to growing on Instagram it takes a lot of work, at least in my case. It’s almost like a full time job.

So I guess an important part to all of this is to frequently put up content and keep things interesting but again the most important thing is to be yourself or you will lose yourself out there doing things you don’t really like doing just for some likes.

 

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What is Sweden like?

Sweden is beautiful! We have a lot of forests and lakes and archipelagos (small islands) in the area where I live so that’s what I like to shoot when I am home.

The weather is actually not a big problem when it comes to droning in Sweden, rather it’s the drone regulations since it’s droning is currently banned here.

But in a few months things will all be sorted out and I will start doing more work from here again.

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Can you tell us about your editing process and what your favorite apps are?

I use Adobe Lightroom to edit all of my pictures and Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Apple Final Cut Pro and Adobe After Effects to edit  my videos.

My editing process is always different depending on what photo I am working on but generally my photos always run through Adobe Lightroom and in some cases Adobe Photoshop.

 

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What is your drone setup/favorite gear?

My drone setup right now is 2 DJI Phantom 4 Pros, 1 DJI Phantom 3 Pro and 1 DJI Mavic Pro.

I have been thinking about getting the DJI Inspire 2 but at the moment I don’t really know if I need it.

Other then that i use a Sony A7r II with a wide variety of lenses and a DJI Ronin M for stabilization.

 

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What advice do you have for aspiring aerial photographers that want to create better photos or videos?

Be yourself and be curious.

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What’s next for you, anything exciting on the horizon?

I have lots of projects planned this year but they are currently in their planning stages so stay tuned for more on those! However the biggest project for me this year will be becoming a father! =) I’ll close out this interview though with a little video teaser of some of my upcoming work:

 

 

Check out more of Tobias’s work on the web:

Website: airpixelsmedia.com
Instagram: @airpixels
Facebook: airpixelsmedia
Vimeo: Tobiashagg

 


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