There's an element of wonder around our local spots. When fresh images drop from a day of pumping waves, you may be quick to scour to see how the banks are, notice any rippers in the lineup or catch a glimpse of your most loved break with a bit of a twist on the view.
For a few years now, Matt Warren aka Kernow From Above, has been capturing the locales we love best across Cornwall from an eye in the sky, offering a crisp perspective from a few metres high. Matt's a staple across the dramatic Cornish coastline, a bodyboarder as well as a lensman, so we decided to check in as part of our Definition series - a spotlight cast on those local pros who capture their home turf in a different way.
Tell us a bit about yourself, how’d you get into photography?
My name is Matt, I am 33 years old and have lived in Wadebridge, Cornwall, for 32 years. I have a massive passion for drone photography and think Cornwall is the perfect subject for it.
I've been playing music for years. I started off with some basic software and as I got older and my passion grew I bought better equipment. Most of what I write is electronic based, anywhere from atmospheric chill out to house music. I don’t get as much time as I would like to write music these days but of course I still have my little studio setup in my bedroom.
The idea is to eventually write the music for my drone videos instead of taking the less time consuming route of using copyright free music from the internet. Its just so quick and easy and a lot of the copyright free stuff these days can actually sound pretty good.
What equipment are you using?
I never got proper serious about photography until I bought my first drone. However I had quite a lot of previous experience with photoshop. I used to love editing other peoples work or trying to put my own little spin on other peoples captures. I was more into being creative in post rather than taking the pictures themselves.
My nephew actually introduced me to the world of drones around 3 years ago. I remember the first time I seen one fly I just knew I had to get one. I was picturing all of the places I would like to capture from above, all the different perspectives I could get. My first drone was a Phantom 3, since then ive owned the MavicPro and now the Phantom4Pro.
None of the drones I have owned have cameras that are DSLR quality although the Phantom4Pro camera is very good for its size. But for me its more about the perspective and the angles you can catch from above, and I've only just scratched the surface.
Most of my shots are taken from a landscape perspective and to be honest there probably the hardest shot to edit. I say this because when the drones up in the air looking across the land there is so much depth in the shot. I think for me though, the hardest part is trying to make my shots stand out without loosing to much of the naturalness. Cornwall's far too nice to be photoshopping the hell out of it but at the same time I want my own style.
A lot of my early captures are pretty basic and was just me trying to understand the drone and what it can do, now I feel I'm slowly getting my own style. Sunsets are definitely my favourite time to shoot. Not only can the shot look more magical but you’ve got more colour to play with, more contrast between highlights and shadows and anyway, who doesn’t like a good sunset right?
What is it about Cornwall’s stunning coastline that sets it apart?
Id say 90% of my shots are taken around the coast of Cornwall and ive got to be honest I think our coastline is pretty amazing. We’ve got some awesome beaches, picturesque harbours/Ports and some of the geology of the cliffs can make amazing captures especially with the perspective from a drone. A misty sunrise at Kynance cove, Bedruthan steps or The Rumps can make them look almost Jurassic, like a whole other world. Its pretty cool how the different seasons or weather conditions can change the feel or vibe of a place. Its easy to want to go and shoot in the middle of a bright sunny day when the suns high, im not saying thats a bad thing but most of the time I like my shots to be a bit darker or maybe more atmospheric.
Was the aim to capture the coast, the sea, swell, surf? Or a combo of both?
I've always been attracted to the sea ever since I was a kid. My parents were never that well off so a day out for us was a day at the beach and we used to spend a lot of time there. We mainly went to local beaches such as Harlyn, Polzeath or Porthcothan.
I have been a keen bodyboarder since I was a teen, again mainly at local beaches such as Constantine, Mother Iveys, Harlyn and Trevone. Constantine is probably my favourite beach to chill and surf, when the conditions are right you can get a nice chunky wave and on the rare occasion the reef is working, it can be pretty epic, it can also hold a fair size wave there although it's probably one of the most rippiest beaches in Cornwall when it's big.
On a plus side, even on the smallest swell, you’ll probably find waves there. Most bodyboarders tend to favour mother Iveys as it works on a similar swell/wind direction and for obvious reasons, like, it's wedge city. But at certain stages of the tide, Harlyn can actually produce a nice long hollow ride especially on a stormy day plus, with it being a bigger beach, there's more waves to be had as Iveys can get pretty crowded when it's on.
What kind of waves do you like shooting?
I have a few favourite spots that I like to shoot, Gunver Head near trevone is one of them, The rumps near Polzeath is another but I'm always trying to shoot new places. I can't really be called Kernow From Above if I'm only shooting locally on the north coast. It wasn’t really in till I gained a bit of interest in my work through insta That Kernow From Above was born.
How important is Insty in getting your images out there?
Insta has been pretty important to me for getting my images out there. Although I haven’t got a massive amount of followers it's slowly increasing day by day and it's nice to know there's people out there that appreciate my work as well as Cornwall itself. It probably sounds dumb to some people but every time I walk along the coast I'm taken aback, it almost feels spiritual to me, like, I have some sort of connection with it.
That's another great thing about having a drone, it gets you out and about. Walking along the coast isn’t just good for the mind but its good for the body to as it can be a bit physically challenging at times.
How easy is it to pilot a drone?
I sometimes get asked how easy is it to fly a drone. To be honest it completely depends. Most modern drones are set to GPS mode by default which essentially means the drone can hold its height and position (hover) without you even needing to touch the controls. But in reality, you're not really flying a drone in GPS mode, it's more like you're just positioning it round the sky.
Don’t get me wrong, it's very handy and has its uses but it's always a good idea to be able to learn to fly a drone out of GPS mode
Don’t get me wrong, it's very handy and has its uses but it's always a good idea to be able to learn to fly a drone out of GPS mode. DJI call this Atti Mode. Although the drone will still hold its height, you will now need to fight the wind to keep the drone in its position. Not only will it help you become a better pilot but it will help you get nice smooth footage. For example using the wind to glide your drone along while filming can be an awesome way to get smooth footage. Nope you can't do that in GPS mode.
Talk us through some of your fave shots....
This is probably my best image to date. I can remember it being a really hazy sunset, seem to get a lot of them in Cornwall, I was worried that the haze would stop me from getting a good capture. However, I kinda feel that it worked to my advantage. When shooting, I decided to eliminate practically all of the sky from the shot. It was kinda uninteresting and I didn’t feel that it needed to be in there but you can still make out some of the haze in the background. I didn’t want it too low as I wanted the rocks to have some water round them. I wanted people to imagine what it would feel like to be swimming around the rocks. On a calm day I think it would be pretty magical.
Trebawith Strand (sunset)
Again I took this back in February. Even though it was a nice evening, it was still pretty damn cold and I wanted to try and capture some of that so I exposed the shot a bit darker than normal.
As you can see there's quite a lot of cloud covering the suns path so waiting for that crucial moment when the sun appeared was pretty vital. I will admit that I would of liked the tide to have been lower, so there was some beach in the shot. The trouble is around that time of year the days are short and we’re not always blessed with evenings like this, sometimes you’ve just got to make the most of what you have. Im sure I will go here again for another go.
Another favourite off mine. Theres a lot I like about this capture. I like the patterns in the whitewater. I also like how clear the water looks from up here, it looks so shallow you can even see the shadows on the sea bed made by the surfers. What's great is you don’t necessarily need to rely on a surfer riding a wave. Sometimes it's just good to capture them between sets when there paddling or chilling on there boards. This perspective definitely makes an interesting one!
Probably my favourite beach in Cornwall. Its not often you’ll see me take pictures in the middle of the day but if I do then its captures like this that ill head out for. What I loved about this shot at the time was the contrast between the sea, wet and dry sand and the grassy dunes.
It was actually pretty hard to fit it all in the shot and to be fair I would of liked some more in sea in there. It was taken just before the holidays last year which I felt was pretty important as it meant the beach wasn’t overcrowded. By giving the colours some extra saturation it helped pronounce that summer vibe a bit more. Again not really the style that I'm renowned for doing these days but it's always good to experiment.