CT Drone Photography & Video Services

Travelers Golf Channel Preview

Two man drone operations are more effective under certain circumstances, the DJI Inspire 2 equipped with the X7 camera is a solid performer in those situations.

I have covered the PGA tour event at TPC River Highlands for almost 30 years, this will be my first year not covering it as a photojournalist. From the earliest days I can remember with Sammy Davis, Jr., and his band of merriment during the Celebrity Pro-Am that brought laughter to the cornfields in Cromwell. Greg Norman disqualified himself before the third round in 1996 for using a ball that did not conform to USGA rules. Phil Michelson won back to back in 2001 and 2002, Bubba Watson, like many before him, earned his first tour victory at the Travelers Championship in 2010 in sudden death, the 2oth such victory. Watson trailed the leaders by 6 strokes going into the final round but shot a 66 to finish in a three-way tie with Scott Verplank and Cory Pavin. And the victory burned into many minds as the best finish in golf during the 2017 season was Jordan Spieth’s 20-yard bunker shot for birdie and the win in sudden death after Daniel Berger’s birdie putt to tie slid past the hole. Monday and Tuesday I had the opportunity to film part of the TPC course as the camera operator on a drone filming a segment for the Golf Channel.

On Monday, Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott and Golf Channel social media host, Alexandra O’Laughlin, walked and talked about two of Watson’s memorable holes to win the 2018 championship, the 15th and the 18th. An entourage of about a dozen people converged on the tee box of the 15th as Scott and O’Laughlin discussed the strategy of going for the green on the drivable par 4 with water to the left and bunkers to the right. Petr Hejl of PhotoFlight Aerial Media reached out to me to assist him on the project his company was hired to film for the Golf Channel. Hejl asked if I would like to man the camera controls on their DJI Inspire 2 drone configured with the X7 cinema camera, I jumped at the chance to man the sticks. I have limited experience in two man operations but have 30 years of photojournalism under my belt that helps with understanding composition and lighting. It took and little time for Petr and I to get a flow working as he flew the drone and I moved the camera into position or followed the pair as they walked along the fairways or in a “picker” cart at the driving range. It is definitely takes some getting used to but producer and Golf Channel crew were pleased with our results.

On Tuesday, we returned for another round of filming, this time O’Laughlin spent a little time with Nathan Grube, Travelers Championship tournament director. The two faced off on the 15 1/2 hole, an 85 yard chip shot onto the Travelers “Island Green”, a floating red Travelers umbrella between the 15th green and 16th tee. The shot is challenging under good conditions but with winds swirling at 15 to 20 mph and 30+mph gusts, it would seem nearly impossible to land a ball on the rather small target. The winds were also a challenge for drone operations as well but the Inspire 2 proved to be a rock solid performer holding steady enough hover to get O’Laughlin hitting the target three times, almost keeping one on the artificial turf. 

The highlight of the day was O’Laughlin trying to “recreate” Bubba’s approach shot from the 18th fairway during the first playoff hole in 2010, Watson nearly holed out from the fairway on his second shot into No. 18, as the ball finished one inch from the cup. After talking with Grube about the atmosphere of the day with the crowd surrounding the amphitheater green still abuzz from Watson’s booming 396 yard drive, she settled in for her chance at getting it close. On her tenth and final shot she did Watson one better, her chip landed about 6 feet past the hole, spun and backed up into the hole. On this day Mike Gearing of PhotoFlight Aerial Media was the pilot flying in the swirling winds around the 18th. He settled the Inspire 2 at an altitude of about 90 feet and set back slightly and to the right of the green, a perfect place to watch her shot come into the frame, land, spin and drop. I had the best seat in the house as I was manning the sticks on the camera and watched the ball drop on my iPad. I couldn’t hold back my enthusiasm as the ball rolled in and let out a loud cheer.  I have to say one of the best performers of the two days had to be the Inspire 2, especially Tuesday with Gearing at the controls while the winds swept through the trees and valleys of the course making it a challenge to keep the drone stationary. I really enjoyed my time as a camera op on this project and hope to do it again when the opportunity presents itself.

Cromwell, CT 5/20/19 Flying the TPC River Highlands golf course in Cromwell with Petr Hejl and PhotoFlight for the NBC Golf preview of the 2019 Travelers Championship. Photo by John Woike | Owner/Operator Samara Media, LLC


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