Photography is a meditative practice for Toronto photographer Gary Cummins. Working in the construction industry by day, Cummins relishes his nights and weekends to explore his sky-high passion. “Photography for me is mainly time spent with myself. It gives me an opportunity to express my creative side and to capture the natural and manmade beauty of the world,” says Cummins. A recent entrant to the 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year contest, Cummins' photography highlights how he prefers to see the world—soaring drones above intricate city grids and lush, untamed landscapes.
Seven years ago, Cummins was drawn to photography as a break from the daily grind, seeing his world in a new way and finding beauty in mundane moments around him. “The way I see at it, there's a lot of beauty in simple things. You've just got to look at them in a certain way that's more aesthetic,” says Cummins. An Ireland native, Cummins quickly joined the local Toronto community of drone photographers and began to see his surroundings from above. “I thought it was great way to get a different angle of a building or a skyline that has been shot a million times from the ground. You’re introducing a new angle and the story takes a different direction.”
Busy highway traffic illuminates the night sky in Toronto, Canada.
Soaring In the Sky
As drone photography regulations continue to increase, photographers like Cummins, are regularly pressed to make sure they’re flying safely—and legally—something Cummins is very aware of. “The main thing you want to ensure is safety, and giving drone operators a good name. You want to make sure that the conditions are good. There are regulations in cities and drone operators have a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to urban photography, which is unfortunate. That's mainly due to a reckless few people that throw caution to the wind, doing whatever they want. You have to do your due diligence.” Cummins prepares ahead, such as using Google maps to plan his shoots, checking local laws, and staying on top of the weather. “I plan the shot. I don't take unnecessary risks. If it's too windy, I won't fly. If it's bad weather, I won't fly. Stick to the regulations and have fun with it,” he says.
When cities begin to feel confining, he travels the world, including recent trips to Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Hong Kong, and the American southwest. “Nature is different. You've got a lot more freedom, but it's different because it's more about contours and rivers and natural beauty. It reminds me of when you look out the window of a plane and you see all the mountains and scenery and you think—I'd love to be a pilot because I could look at this stuff all day."
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Fuel Your Passion
His advice to others? “You gotta start somewhere. Pick up your camera and try, but prepare yourself to fail. Use the internet as a tool for learning. We live in an age where it’s all at our fingertips. I think if you have an inkling that you have to do something—do everything in your power to do it. Don't hold back, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot, get out there and capture it!”