In all my years working as a photographed I have never photographed the beautiful Tarpon Springs Epiphany. Thousands of people gather to witness the main event. Where dozens of boys dive into Spring Bayou to retrieve a cross thrown by the Greek Archbishop. The diver who recovers the white cross receive a blessing and is said to have good luck for a year.
Looking for a new angle in covering this annual event which has been going on for decades I was brought in to assist with aerials of the event.
A drone can get in much closer and safer than a helicopter and provide us with a view we have never seen. I met with two veteran photographs (guys I look up to) Jim Damaske and James Borchuck who have both covered the event many times before and did a site survey and planned our shots.
It was important for me to survey the area to look for hazards that would affect my drone flight. I also wanted to collaborate with video producer James Borchuck as I would be providing some footage to his video on the Epiphany (link below).
During the preparations I flew four batteries work different angles and different speeds to ensure that I would get the shots needed.
On the day of the event it was critical that I planned my flights to give me enough battery to not only film the moments, but to also get back to the landing zone before the battery is depleted. This was crucial.
Because this is such a large event an estimated 20,000 people descend on this small town making parking nearly impossible unless you got there many hours in advance. I took the advice of our veteran photographers and got to the site at 8:00am, even though my shots wouldn’t happen until around 1:00pm.
I kept an eye on the winds, which were at acceptable speeds as well as 2 other drones that were flying over the event. I was unsure who they were and I made sure that I maintained separation from them. As the time grew near I got more and more nervous. More nervous that I’ve been in a long time. I knew how to fly, I rehearsed my shots, and I was ready. But what made me nervous is not knowing what the other unknown drones were going to do, were they going the get in my airspace and compete for the shot? Were they going to fly erratically and crash? I was also nervous of having some sort of in flight failure and crashing into the water. The thoughts of a police diver recovering and handing me my wet drone for all to watch frighted me! Could you imagine that???!!
Fortunately for me the other drone pilots kept the distance and all flew safely. I was able to accomplish all of my shots and got an amazing never before seen view from the drone. After making my shots I landed with plenty of battery to spare and a huge sense of relief. I got the shot!
Tarpon Springs Epiphany 2017 Drone Video
Epiphany 2017 View from Drone from Luis Santana on Vimeo.
Edited Video By James Borchuck
Cross dive veteran grabs reward of faith from James Borchuck on Vimeo.
View more photos from the Tampa Bay Times Staff of Epiphany 2017
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