Soaring High

Published January 26, 2021, 12:16 AM

by Ronald Jayme

Photographer of the Week: Auremel “Omell” M. Cruz

By Maan D’Asis Pamaran

Photography has taken to new heights with the popularity of camera-mounted drones. With his body of work, Auremel “Omell” M. Cruz offers his viewers the feeling of soaring through different sights, with images taken from a different perspective.

Pasig River (Omell Cruz)
Mactan Island, Cebu
Navotas Fish Port

He started off easy enough, with a hobby of flying remote-controlled planes and helicopters back when they started to become popular.

Medina, Surigao del Sur
Jomalig Island, Quezon (Omell Cruz)

“When drones came out in the market, this changed my life. My hobby became my work. By combining my skills in flying remotely piloted aircraft with camera movements, then I became a favorite of many film directors for videography, and photography came along with it.” Among the projects he has worked on are Star Cinema’s rom-com Princess Dayarees and the Regal Films horror flick Mga Anak Ni Mama Susan.

San Juanico Bridge
Bitbit Bridge, Norzagaray, Bulacan

His style of photography focuses mostly on landscapes. “Aerial photography is best with color, because it offers an awe-inspiring bird’s eye view of different places. The best time to take these photos would be early morning or late in the afternoon. I like taking sunset shots of many different places.”

Mayon Volcano
Vegetable Terraces, Buguias, Benguet
Rice Terraces of Lobo, Batangas
Bayyo Rice Terraces, Mountain Province (Omell Cruz)
A farm somewhere in Victoria, Laguna

Surprisingly, Omell says that he went straight to aerial photography without much experience with a handheld DSLR. He adds that those who have started with a DSLR can try using drones and vice versa.

Batanes Zigzag Road
Bitukang Manok in Quezon
Looc, Limon Norte, Tablas Islamd, Romblon

“It’s ok whether you start with drone photography or ground photography. It depends on what you want or what you have already done. If you’re already a photographer, you just need to learn how to fly a drone and focus on flying. On the other side, if you don’t have a camera yet but starting on how to fly drones, the problem will be composition of shots,” he shares.

The same rules apply regardless of your tools, he adds. “Composition is much better for there is more freedom in movements, but with a small wide angle camera, not much blur can be achieved for your background or foreground. Camera settings are limited, too. Many drones don’t have aperture settings, only shutter speed and ISO. Only few types have aperture like Inspire 1 Pro with x5 camera, Inspire 2, Phantom 4 pro, and Mavic 2 pro.”

1st place, Digital Drone Photo Competition 2020, TESDA CASIFMAS
Camachin, Doña Remedios Trinidad

For those who want to fly drones, however, he advises that it is best to be certified and compliant. “I am a certified drone controller for the Remote Piloted Aircraft System by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. We have groups about drones in social media but there is no formal organization yet. It is through these that I have been joining photo contests on the aerial perspective. The recent photo contest that I joined was the Digital Drone Photo Competition organized by TESDA CASIFMAS in November 2020, for which I won first place.”

Falls # 1 of Lake Sebu
Me on top of Lioness Rock Formation, Norzagaray, Bulacan
Candle Monument, Camachin, Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan

To give an example of how aerial photography can offer a different view, he talks about his most recent memorable experience. “It was in Agoncillo, Batangas after a week that Taal Volcano has erupted. Almost everything in the area has turned to a lifeless color grey but with the view afforded by an aerial camera, one can see that the lake remains blue and alive.”

A tribute to Kobe by the Tenement Visual Artist
Las Casas, Bataan
Luneta Park

For those who want to try their hand at taking photography to flight, he says a DJI Mini 2 is a good drone for beginners and he shares these tips: “Find a good spot for flying, practice a lot, respect rules, always fly within line of sight, and always bring extra batteries.”  

Manila North Cemetery
Somewhere in Imus, Cavite