these amazing drone selfies will give you major #vacationenvy

We speak to photographer Renee Lusano about traveling the world with her drone.

by Shriya Samavai and Emily Manning
20 August 2015, 4:31pm

LA-based photographer Renee Lusano is literally taking selfies to another level. Her Instagram is filled with what she calls "dronies" -- selfies made using a video camera attached to a drone. In these 15 second video clips, Lusano captures herself in envy-inducing locations, by flying her camera up and away, revealing the landscape around her. You don't need professional equipment and a helicopter to record sweeping views of Easter Island or an active volcano -- all you need is a small consumer drone, a video camera, and a little bit of practice.

Renee grew up in San Francisco and has been taking pictures since she was a teenager, documenting punk shows and beach days with her friends. In college she studied architecture, but pursued graphic design full time after graduation, keeping photography as a hobby. Then, in spring 2014, she saw someone flying a drone in LA and was inspired to pick one up herself and attach a camera to it. Over the past year, she's traveled around the world with her drone (named Furby), shooting herself in Argentina, Italy, Chile, and beyond.

We caught up with Renee right before she left for her next trip, to Hawaii.

Hi Renee! What are you going to be up to in Hawaii?
I'm just going with a few friends to go scuba diving and to the Big Island to visit family. My dad's actually from Hawaii. In Maui I'm going rent a Volkswagen Westfalia camper, drive around, go to the beach and take pictures. I'm definitely bringing my drone and I'm going to look for cool spots to take videos.

The camera is always so steady in your videos. Is flying a drone easy or have you just gotten better?
The drones have a gimbal on them which steadies the camera and helps stabilize the movement, but it does take a bit of practice to keep the drone steady as you're going up or out so that the shot is centered.

Is it hard to travel with a drone? Do you get questions in security?
Generally, surprisingly, no. Every time I go through TSA I hold my breath and I'm like, "Okay, I hope this isn't going to be a problem." I would say only twice out of 40 or 50 flights in total have I been pulled aside. There's not much to be concerned about with the drone; it's the battery that they want to test, because lipo batteries are potentially hazardous. But yeah, overall airport security has been fine.

Have there been locations where you've flown your drone and gotten into trouble?
I was flying it in Rome at the Colosseum and I brought it down, and immediately afterwards, I saw police forming around to see where the drone had come from. But fortunately I had already stopped. I don't know how much trouble I would've gotten in, but I didn't want to find out. In Los Angeles I was flying it around Watts Towers about a year ago. Someone came out and started yelling at me, saying they were going to call the police because it was after hours. The police showed up and started harassing me and saying I was trespassing. But there weren't any charges or anything. Mostly it's just people who get upset about it because they associate it with the military or conspiracies. They think it's evil. One guy at a skate park in San Francisco was just like screaming about it, and I kept flying it, and all the kids were so excited about it like, "Wow it's so cool!" And the guy was like, "Well it's not cool when it shows up at your doorstep with a gun strapped to it!" [Laughs]. There are kooky people like that everywhere. Mostly it's Americans who have that attitude about it.

And foreigners don't
No, not really. People in other countries are so friendly and curious. They want to know where I got it and how much it cost.

I was thinking about the negative political implications of drones and how what you're doing is totally disconnected from politics.
For sure. I wish that there was a clear regulatory divide with what I'm doing versus what, say, Amazon is doing with delivering packages. But with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration], everything falls within the same category. I think they're establishing a hobby regulation and I hope there's a clear guideline when they do that. But for now I'm happy that I can travel and fly it without having to worry too much.

Where do you want to go next?
I'm dying to go to Antarctica. I need to see if the weather would permit it, but that's something I'd like to do as soon as possible.



Text Shriya Samavai
Photos courtesy Renee Lusano

renee lusano