We are so often lost in our own cluttered thoughts, our own cluttered lives, our cluttered technology that we don’t stop to appreciate what’s around us.
Okoboji photographer Tom Gustafson said that’s what photographers do --- they stop to capture the beauty that we’re all surrounded by. And Gustafson hopes that his drone photos encourage people to do that too.
“I hope that they’re able to see the beauty of our area like I see it,” he said. “I hope that it inspires them in their daily life to stop and note that moment.”
A selection of Gustafson’s Iowa Great Lakes area drone photography will be on display January-March in the Dickinson County Nature Center’s eARTh exhibit area, and a special opening reception will be held 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4.
“I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs for myself,” Gustafson said. “Just like anything, with digital, I ended up uploading all the photos on my computer. My wife said, ‘You should open up a Facebook.’”
He hesitated to show others his photos, but his wife did indeed start a Facebook page for him and people reacted positively to his “land camera.”
Then, as drones became more popular, the former private pilot was inspired to take to the skies in a new way. He purchased his first drone in January 2016 and has since logged more than 250 hours.
“An average flight is about 10 minutes --- that tells you how many flights I’ve taken,” Gustafson said.
He has become almost addicted to drone photography and the viewpoint it gives people. He came back from a trip in December and hadn’t flown in three weeks, so he took his drone to Arnolds Park and sent it out while sitting in his car to stay warm. He sat and watched the drone footage as it flew above the water, a misty vapor rising from the lake on a frigid day.
“I come back and tell my wife, ‘This is the greatest thing ever,’” he said. “I find it so fascinating. Here we can fly like Superman, like a bird.”
“That’s what was really powerful for people because people haven’t seen the area from high up,” he added.
Gustafson’s nature center exhibit, with approximately 10 images of the Iowa Great Lakes area, will allow people to see a variety of bird’s-eye views. Photos will include a sunrise panorama, a view of Arnolds Park on the Fourth of July, the Queen II docked on a hazy morning, an abstract wetland view and, his favorite, a shot of Smith’s Bay on a beautiful morning.
“I kind of wanted to get a hodgepodge, because I found that certain images have an appeal to some and don’t to others,” Gustafson said.
The photographic pieces will be for sale for $285-$450, and Gustafson will also have books for sale for $39.99. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the Dickinson County Nature Center.
Guests may view Gustafson’s work 5-7 p.m. Jan. 4 during his opening reception, and he will give an artist talk at 6 p.m. Appetizers and wine will also be served.
Following Gustafson’s exhibit, the eARTh exhibit area will feature Sue Boettcher’s photography (April-June), Hannah Habarecht’s fish paintings (July-September) and Danielle Clouse Gast’s paintings (October-December).
For more information on the eARTh exhibit area and other programs at the Dickinson County Nature Center, visit our website or call 712-336-6352.