Eye In The Sky: Alon Koppel's Aerial Photography | Visual Art | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Eye In The Sky: Alon Koppel's Aerial Photography 

click to enlarge Story Farms 1, Alon Koppel, digital C-print
  • Story Farms 1, Alon Koppel, digital C-print

"While I'm not a scientist, maybe I wish I was one," remarks Alon Koppel. "Aerial Abstraction," an exhibition of his photographs, is on view at the New York Restaurant in Catskill until March 21.

All the photos were taken by a drone within 25 miles of Catskill, most of them close to town. Three images document the point where ice in Catskill Creek hits the warmer water of the Hudson and cracks apart, forming stark geometric patterns. From the air, the river water registers as black; the ice a lucent, shimmering blue. These pictures give no hints to reveal scale: They might be puddles or vast Arctic ice shelves. They represent the intersection of aesthetics, geography and physics. Koppel offers his neighbors a chance to see their locality through the eyes of a bird of prey. "Aerial Abstraction" is sponsored by the Council for Resources to Enrich the Arts, Technology & Education (CREATE), formerly the Greene County Council on the Arts.

In her book Picasso, Gertrude Stein and the artist fly in an airplane for the first time. Looking down at the patchwork of fields, roads, and streams transformed into abstract patterns, Stein says: "Now, that's cubism!"

In his youth in Israel, Koppel was an avid paraglider, leaping off cliffs overlooking the Sea of Galilee. His romance with flight continues, photographically. Koppel uses the word "flying" to describe his aerial photo sessions ("I went flying the other day")—though he is only vicariously aloft. In the town where the Hudson River School of art was born, Koppel turns its perspective upside down.

Drone photography coordinates numerous factors: the height of the flying camera, the angle it shoots from, the aperture, light exposure, shutter speed. All may be controlled with a handheld device similar to a Game Boy; the photographs are viewed on an iPad. Most of Koppel's images were taken fairly low, around 50 feet, but some are as high as 300 feet. Drones are prohibited from flying above 400 feet.

Koppel has been using aerial devices for five years. "It's a natural extension for someone who likes technology and cameras," he observes. Koppel is a registered drone pilot, licensed by the FAA. He uses a DJI Phantom 4 drone.

click to enlarge Swamp Grass, Hudson, Alon Koppel, 2017.
  • Swamp Grass, Hudson, Alon Koppel, 2017.
We see much more drone photography than we realize. Movies and TV shows employ this technology where helicopters were once used, for images of cars riding on highways or slightly elevated views of houses. But the 90-degree angle Koppel prefers is more rare—the view from directly above. He himself does real estate photography using his drone, and sometimes will sneak in an "art" image after completing an assignment.

Koppel also creates political work, such as "99 Trump Signs and 1 Hillary," a series of photos he took in the Hudson Valley in 2016. (The Hillary sign actually reads: "Hillary For Prison.") "But for a restaurant, people want to have fun and have dinner; I'm not going to club them over the head with political stuff," the artist explains. His website is Notlikehere.org.

"Aerial Abstraction," an exhibition of Alon Koppel's photographs, is on view at the New York Restaurant in Catskill until March 21.

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