Once, when Bill Hecht wanted to photograph Cayuga Lake from the air, he had to wait for a pilot to take him there.
Now, thanks to the use of drone technology, he can play pilot and photographer at the same time.
Hecht will talk about his drone photography Sunday afternoon at the Morgan Opera House in Aurora. As of Wednesday, he was working on narrowing down the number of photos he'll present, but he had not yet decided whether he'll bring the DJI model drone he used to capture them.
"If you don't like slideshows, don't come," he joked.
Hecht, who grew up in Union Springs and earned a graduate degree in environmental management and science from SUNY ESF, bought the drone about three years ago. He most commonly uses it to capture images of farming techniques, as well as manure and corn application.
He's also used his aerial images to raise awareness of sediment entering the Finger Lakes, as well as Crestwood Midstream Partners' storage of petroleum gas in Seneca Lake's salt caverns.
"I'm waking people up to what's going into the lakes," he said.
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Hecht operates the drone alongside an iPhone app that allows him to see from the device's perspective while it's in the air. It can be maneuvered low, yielding more intimate views than airplane photography, and a gimbal lets him tilt the camera to capture precisely the shots he wants.
There are limits to the technology, though.
"You can fly them indoors, but I sure as Dickens wouldn't recommend it," he said. "They can get a mind of their own if you don't know what you're doing."
Another dimension of Hecht's photography is making modern-day replications of archival images of the Cayuga Lake area for before-and-after comparison. He makes his work available on his website for free, hoping to keep the historic record healthy.
The work, Hecht said, is inspired by his mother, who was a font of historical information — as was his neighbor, Ward O'Hara, whose collection of vintage farm machinery turned into the Owasco museum that bears his name today.
The passing of people like his mother and O'Hara illustrate a need for historically focused work, Hecht said.
"We've lost people like my mother and Ward," he said. "People think mainly in their own lifetimes now."