Behind the scenes of our drone fire station photo shoot

Julie Bhusal Sharma

The backdrop for our April cover is a smoky, dramatic scene. But don't be fooled by the glossy photo illustration. The real backdrop was The City of Columbus' Fire Station 12 on Sullivant Avenue and the shot involved a large crew of Dispatch Magazine staffers and a local drone owner-not to mention approval by many fire chiefs-to make it all happen.

Johnson sets up his lighting stand.

A week and a half before the print deadline of our April issue, Photo Editor Tim Johnson, Art Director Yogesh Chaudhary, Production & Design Director Craig Rusnak, Director of Photography Will Shilling and myself headed down to the station where we met Firefighter Aaron Herron-a source for the drone story-and prepared for an eventful shoot.

Walker and Herron meet before the photo shoot starts.

Michael Walker, owner of Iconic Media, arrived soon after we did to bring our star prop-a drone.

Due to the fact that Columbus Fire is still in the research phase and has not purchased any drones for use, Walker was kind enough to lend his drone for the shoot and stayed to make sure it was handled properly and get in on the action.

The action was on once Herron put on his firefighting gear except for one detail: smoke.

We had brought a smoke machine that was used for Columbus Monthly's October cover, but the smoke machine just wasn't working. The bump in the road wasn't so bad knowing that our art director, Chaudhary, would be able to photoshop smoke in for the dramatic effect.

Herron holds his station's future tool.

Standing in front of a firetruck in the station's garage, Herron started off posing with the drone in hand-walking as if he were coming out of a fire. Then, Walker turned the drone on so our photo editor could get some shots of the drone flying by Herron's side.

The drone was pretty loud-even for a fire station-and with GPS unavailable in the garage, Walker had to be careful about controlling the drone so it would not run into the station's walls.

Fortunately, the drone was flown without a glitch-but it had to come down for a second when in the middle of the shoot, a voice came over a loudspeaker and before we knew it, firefighters climbed into the truck just to the left of the one Herron was in front of and we temporarily moved photo gear aside and stopped shooting so they could leave. Luckily, Herron did not have to go on the dispatch and we were left to capture a few more shots.

In all, the shoot was a success and captured the dramatic and lifesaving results the station's upcoming drone plans will ensure. But the fire station shoot wasn't the only one to capture a source's enthusiasm for drones.

Up in the Treetops

Only a few days before our print deadline, Tim was able to shoot Mike Meyer, an editor and producer at Mills James and a source for the drone story, Downtown. It happened that Meyer wasn't the only one playing with drones that day. Two college students accidentally flew their drone into a tree nearby and Meyer climbed the tree to get the drone down for the students. Now, that's dedication.

Read the full story on Columbus' upcoming surge in drone business uses.