Since I can remember, I've dreamt of seeing Alaska and the wilderness it beholds. Like many people, it's always been on my 'bucket list'. My original plan was to graduate from college, buy a motorcycle, and head north. Well, I did graduate from college and did buy a motorcycle on Craigslist for $400 but had $0 to my name and was not crazy enough to ride 6500miles on a $400 ticking time bomb. So I kept on practicing adventure photography and hoped that one day a photo assignment would take me there.
A few months later an opportunity arose. It wasn't the opportunity I was looking for but I have learned much from it none the less. When I was out on a mountain bike ride with a group of friends I fell over the handlebars and broke my neck. I wish I could say it was a gut wrenching high speed triple backflip attempt but it was merely the opposite. It was, by most standards, a typical endo. What wasn't typical was the way I landed shattering C3-5 and damaging my spinal cord. When something like this happens in your life you are left with two options. 1. Dwell about what could have should have been. Or 2. Do the best with what you've got.
I'm on Kickstarter right now to do the latter.
The first few years of recovery were about re-finding me. If interested you can check out a blog I wrote at Aspokinlife.com which explains this more.
Next was what I'm going to do in this life. This is the stage I'm at now. If there is one lesson I've learned through my interaction and integration into the disabled community over these past four years, it's that an injury like this doesn't change who you are, merely how you do things.
About a year and a half ago while attending a photography workshop, I was showing some fellow attendees my camera adaptations and the word 'drone' came up. They mentioned to me that these new aerial camera rigs were making an appearance on the scene and it seemed like something I could do. Thinking it was a cool idea though probably unfeasible, I brushed it off. A few months went by about 4 other significant instances which were so much a slap in the face that I had to try one for myself. The first copter I bought 'Watson' was the training wheels. With this rig, I was able to figure out which adaptations were necessary to give me the most control as well as practice and learn to fly.
As time progressed, so did my skill and comfort level. Once I had FPV or First Person View, I could see what the camera sees and immediately my footage became much better. I could frame the shot how I saw it in my head and the freedom I felt with the camera pressed against my eye pre-accident came back in full effect. I knew that from this point on there was no other question of what I can and will be doing with my life. This is it.
The more I learned with building and flying these rigs, the more I realized how the quadcopter is going to change our society forever. I could sense the urgency this go around and quickly decided to roll the dice and try and start my own company. The way I see it; there are very few jobs that I can do and even fewer that I would even want to do. So why not try at this dream job giving it %110 before I resort to plan B?
This is where Birds Eye Optics came to be. After doing a lot of research and reaching out to connections I had made in the industry, I took the plunge and bought my first professional DSLR carrying Octocopter.
I've been extremely fortunate over the past few years to have a support system that has allowed me to get where I am. I've been able to push my abilities in many sports that I hadn't even tried prior to my injury and figure out what I love the most.
One thing that I value greatly is being able to get away. It seems that once you're confined to a wheelchair you can only go as far as the asphalt. I was able to outfit a Polaris rzr and a 4x4 van to ensure that I got my fix of away time. Thanks to everyone who made this possible!
I'm most excited to incorporate my filming skills into adaptive sports. Since I've been injured I've met some of the most inspiring people who get out there in ways very similar to myself. I look forward to using Birds Eye Optics to bring these athletes into the mainstream eye and hopefully change perspectives of what it means to be 'disabled'.
Fuel (8000miles at 12mpg at at least $5 a gallon= roughly $3,300+)
- Oil changes and van maintenance
- Hard Drive space to store media
Some other less obvious expenses that have to be taken into account to make this possible such as:
- A laptop that is capable of 4k video editing
- Additional battery bank to use to charge copter batteries
- Copter batteries (expensive lipo batteries roughly $200 per 8 min of flight)
- Camera and copter gear ($$$)
- modifying my van so it's livable including building a bed, table, shelving and blinds to block the sunlight.
- Portable stove and fridge to sustain living on the road
- spare tire and mount on the van
- spare parts for the copters in order to repair if need be on the road.
If I go beyond my goal I would use the money towards things like:
- telephoto lenses for wildlife photography so I don't have to get too close to the grizzlies
- extra money for boat trips or float plane trips to capture even more remote areas.
For your contributions Birds Eye Optics and myself would like to offer:
- Handwritten Post Cards from the road
- Organic Men's and Women's soft cotton Birds Eye Optic Tee and sweatshirts
- Signed, numbered, and dated prints of your choice (i'll upload my 'best of' so you can choose)
- 1/2 and Full day shoots with me (within a 300mile distance of Boulder) for less than my going rate of 2k a day
- An adventure weekend of riding or camping in Moab, UT
- A Blog where you can follow my progress and suggest places to go and things to do along the way at www.BirdsEyeOptics.com
As it turns out, adventure photography must be in my blood. I realize that I may not be able to film the most adventurist people on the planet but darn if I can't add adventure to the photographers side!
If this project gets funded it would be an exciting launching point for Birds Eye Optics and aerial rigs in general. I'll show how my perspective from the sky and on the ground is every bit as unique and exciting as it was before my accident.
Thanks for taking the time to check this out and I hope to see you down the road,
Kirk and Bella Da Dawg
Risks and challenges
Being a quadriplegic traveling to AK there are tons of risks! I've learned to adapt and move on when problems arise and believe this trip will be no different.
I have planned carefully with as much redundancy as I can afford including two copters and multiple camera's to make sure that I will still prevail no matter what happens.
In the event that both copters are inoperable due to damage, mechanical failure, or weather conditions; I am still prepared to shoot from the ground and capture the immense beauty from 3 ft and under.
- (14 days)