Day 4: enjoying a break in the rye in the middle of nowhere
Ukraine-born photographer Alexey Fedorenko has used the restrictions on everyday life as a chance to experiment with drone photography – and make memories with his children. Here he reflects on how his London-based family discovered new horizons together.
Day 1: aerial view of the Privy Garden of Hampton Court Palace, the famous seat of Henry VIII
It’s mostly landscape photography I’m interested in, with an aerial aspect. I like following developments in technology and seeing places from different perspectives.
Lockdown was difficult – two adults trying to work and two kids trying to study from home, and coping with that. We did a good job in terms of working and studying, but it did create some stress. We tried to go to the park – to Richmond Park – but it wasn’t enough. We needed something more, something bigger.
Day 3: a sunset view of the old bridge in the village of Maidenhead, described by Jerome K Jerome as "too snobby to be pleasant"
In July, because of the circumstances, it was not safe to go out of the country, or to travel far away, so we decided, “OK, let’s not use public transport, pack some things, and go from our place to Oxford.”
I had read Three Men in a Boat [the classic comic novel by Jerome K Jerome] again in January 2020 and because the children were bigger, I shared the story with them, and we watched the movie. Then in March it all happened with lockdown. A few months later it popped into my mind that we’d read this extraordinary story about a journey by boat and I thought, “Why can’t we do that by foot?”
Day 4: confluence of the Thames and the smaller river Thame, exactly where our little one fell into the river
We carefully planned the route, choosing to use transport only once to bypass the crowded part of the Thames around Reading, which shortened 155km to 100km. Under normal circumstances we would probably never do that because [the journey took] five days, which is difficult to carve out. Normally if we had five days together we would go somewhere else.
I have a heavy camera and tripod, but a long walk isn’t ideal for that, especially with kids. The drone was the perfect solution because it’s foldable and lightweight and can produce a beautiful photo.
Day 5: aerial view of the old city of Abingdon-on-Thames, near Oxford
It was quite challenging. Every day we did something like 20km. We’d start off the day smiling and joking, and by the end of the day everyone was exhausted – no smiles, no jokes, just silence.
At some point on Day 4, while trying to catch a fish with her bare hands, my daughter, Kateryna, fell into the river. It was so unexpected and funny. All of a sudden, we realised that she only had a spare pair of shorts with her, so we had to quickly collect a hoodie from me and a T-shirt from her brother Ivan. Carrying her wet clothes on sticks, we looked even more like true adventurers. At the beginning Kateryna obviously wasn’t happy, but after five minutes she was, and that’s the story we keep on telling.
Day 5: posh boat houses on the approach to Oxford, where the river is already called the Isis and not the Thames
Reflecting on it a few months later it feels like we had the time of our lives. Besides enjoying each other’s company we encountered plenty of birds, animals and insects, practised putting up a tent and carving walking sticks, discovered old wartime bunkers, successfully passed 12 villages and numerous locks and bridges – and only fell into the river just that once!
It’s a pity that Jerome K Jerome didn’t write a book about three men climbing Snowdon or crossing the Lake District – these routes we would need to explore ourselves during different times.
Most drone users are required to register with the CAA and complete certain exams before they can fly. See register-drones.caa.co.uk
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