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Behind the lens with I Am Sean

PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 January 2017

Lytham Windmill on a star-filled night Copyright Sean O'Donoghue

Lytham Windmill on a star-filled night Copyright Sean O'Donoghue

Sean O'Donoghue

When Sean O’Donoghue started a drone photography and video business he never dreamed it would hit the heights it has. Roger Borrell reports.

Sean O’Donoghue isn’t joking when he says: ‘In 2017, the sky’s the limit.’ For the Lytham-based fine art photographer is producing stunning rooftop views from angles few people ever see.

Sean, 36, is now one of the top drone photographers in the region and, to wring out another pun, demand for his work has taken off.

Ever increasing numbers of people take snaps using drones. Sean’s unique selling point is that he takes the approach of a highly-skilled photographer producing beautifully composed and technically accomplished images.

You may have seen his remarkable shot of Wrea Green from the air in our December magazine and over the coming months Sean will be sharing more of his outstanding views with Lancashire Life readers.

Sean ran his own recruitment company in the City of London where he also developed a fascination for photography and much of his leisure time was spent training with fine art photographers, accompanying them on shoots and learning how to edit and enhance the natural colours of the landscape. He also learned the art of cinematography.

An interest in flying remote-control helicopters and planes led to him attaching basic cameras to his models. ‘The results were pretty grainy but it was amazing to be able to see the view from the cockpit. After that I started to investigate using drones,’ he says.

While in London, Sean met and married a Liverpool lass and ten years ago they decided to move to Formby. ‘We liked it there but we used to look across the estuary to Lytham and were curious about what was there,’ he says.

They paid the town several visits and fell in love with the coastal location and now live there with their five children. ‘The place has a nice feel and there is a strong sense of local community. There’s a good feel about Lytham.’

Sean continued with his recruitment business but his other interest in drone photography started to attract considerable attention online. ‘I wanted to do it properly so I went on a Civil Aviation Authority course to become a qualified remote pilot,’ says Sean.

While the irresponsible use of drones – particularly near airline flight paths - has been highlighted in the media, Sean’s licence means he has a thorough knowledge of aerodynamics and safety as well as the information he needs to be able to know which areas have restricted access. It also permits him to use his drone commercially and he has a special permit that allows him to work at night.

‘Hobbyists are not always aware of the restrictions but to be licensed and to buy the equipment is a major investment of many thousands of pounds. It costs more than £1,000 just to be insured.’

Sean’s work has a particular style which marks him out as a fine art photographer. ‘People say my pictures have a dream-like, other worldly feeling. That’s the style I’m trying to go with as well as producing vibrant, colourful images.

‘I particularly enjoy the new found freedom I’ve gained by being able to get a bird’s eye view on our surroundings. Everything tends to look better from up in the air, and with my photo and video production skills, I’m able to present my own take on beautiful locations across the north west showing a perspective and composition that’s never been seen before.

‘That’s what gives my photos the “wow” factor – and I’ll often spend hours at a time perfecting each photo before I feel it’s ready to be shown to the public.’

Sean has two drones each with a high powered lens that can also produce the quality of video demanded by television companies.

He also has the technology to create montages of landmark buildings and is working with a high quality wallpaper manufacturer to produce images that can cover large areas. This is likely to interest interior designers and restaurant owners. He is also working with the local authority on tourism and planning projects.

However, one of Sean’s most interesting projects involves his role as UK head of sales and marketing with a software company called Golf Birdie. They have produced an app that gives a bird’s eye view of golf courses, taking the user around each hole from above in order to give them a much better view of the course ahead and to plan their shots.

‘When I got interested in drone photography I never dreamed it would develop in the way it has,’ says Sean. ‘It’s onwards and upwards.’ w

You can see more of Sean’s work at www.i-am-sean.com

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