Ocean Drive, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands © Karolis Janulis / Offset
Yoga in the park, Vilnius, Lithuania © Karolis Janulis / Offset
Offset Artist Karolis Janulis always wanted wings, to see the world not as humans see it but as the birds do. The self-taught Lithuanian photographer plunged headlong into drone photography when the DJI Phantom hit the market, but his intended destination has always been the sky.
These days, Janulis is widely considered to be one of the forebears of the rising current of drone photography, but part of what’s so special about his images is that they avoid all the cliches. His drone images aren’t cold and mechanical but filled to the brim with human presence. The people on the ground and their daily goings on are just as fascinating to him as the most jaw-dropping landscapes on the face of the earth.
We interviewed the photographer about how he got started, what he sees for the future of drones, and the advice he’d give to those hoping to follow in his footsteps.
How did you get started making pictures with drones? What appealed to you about shooting from above rather than from the ground?
“Some time before drone photography, I had already noticed some breathtaking perspectives from a bird’s eye view while flying hot air balloons, motor gliders, and regular planes. I started just by trying to get to a higher place, to the point where the world becomes small. It’s a world still unseen and new to our imaginations.”
How do you select locations?
“In the beginning, it was easy because most of the places and interesting action were still not discovered from the air, by me or by anyone else. So I just thought of some places in my head, imagining how they will appear from above. If it seemed like it would be interesting, I then went flying and shooting.
“Now, I prefer road tripping in my native Lithuania- or any other place- and looking around until I spot some interesting views. Then, I fly over it right then or just come back later. The most interesting subject is usually nearby, just off to the side. We just need to notice it.”
What has been your favorite place to shoot via drone?
“Even now, most of the places I have shot from the sky have left a great impression to me. Probably the most breathtaking views where the ones I saw while flying above the Atlantic Ocean in the Canary Islands, Spain.”
Could you walk us through the process of getting on a location after you select it? Is there paperwork? Any legal hurdles, etc?
“Until now, there have been no legal hurdles or any other important obstacles in my drone photography process. In the beginning, I just picked the location went up there for a flight. Now, they do actually close many areas in the big cities have restrictions on flying. New rules are being put in place for drones. I have the insurance, have passed the flight test, and have a license to fly for commercial purposes. Still, I think the actions and laws against drones are way too strict. It is the future already, and we cannot not stop it by prohibiting ourselves.”
When you’re shooting, are you looking for specific shots, or do you go with the flow?
“Leaving things up to chance in most cases won’t end with a positive result. When I go to shoot, I already have a plan and imagine the scene. From there, it is just the matter of the right timing and natural light.”
What challenges do you face when photographing with drones? What has the learning curve been like?
“Nowadays, I hear many people say they are going to get a drone for nice videos and photographs. But they do not imagine what it takes to have one in constant use: the expense, the dependency on electricity (I’m always charging), the legal hurdles, the constant risk of doing damage or hurting someone, the additional weight, and of course, the weather. When its too windy or raining, flight is not possible. Each drone pilot has to learn some special, specific things about this activity. Most of them learn them from their own mistakes. You need at least a year of regular flying to get the skills.”
What do you wish someone had told you about shooting with drones before you got started?
“Drone photography has changed my life totally. It has become my lifestyle. As a pioneer, I have gone through many things, opened brand new views from above, noticed the play of shadows, and truly experienced the flight of the bird. All of this still brings an adrenaline rush, and it transforms into an addiction.”
Swimming in the Adriatic Sea, Baska, Croatia © Karolis Janulis / Offset
Family holding hands in the dunes, Nida, Lithuania © Karolis Janulis / Offset
People lying down in protest of the suicide rate in Vilnius, Lithuania © Karolis Janulis / Offset
Kids playing basketball during a school break, Vilnius, Lithuania © Karolis Janulis / Offset
Surfing in La Oliva, Canary Islands, Spain © Karolis Janulis / Offset
Car traveling on a road surrounded by floodwaters, Lithuania © Karolis Janulis / Offset
Offset is a curated collection of commercial and editorial photography and illustration from award-winning artists around the world. Photographers who wish to join the Offset artist community are welcome to apply here.