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Tom Wrigglesworth - the dangers of drone photography

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 September 2016

Tom Wrigglesworth

Tom Wrigglesworth

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The Sheffield-born comedian finds that photography and droning on don’t always mix well.

Drones can spell disaster for some  Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA WireDrones can spell disaster for some Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The ability to just witter on is something I’ve long admired in people, and although I’ve tried to deny that the cliche exists, people from the north can fill a moment’s silence with quips on the minutiae quicker than a greased ferret up a drain pipe. In fact, in some parts of Yorkshire, the best way to grease a ferret is a conversational cornerstone that can go on longer than a Test match.

Even though I find this trait commendable and utterly endearing, it’s not without its problems. It can occasionally be incredibly off putting. I’ve been in lots of cars where the driver, relaxed, northern and chatty, has insisted on not only making conversation, but also regular eye contact with whoever else is involved in the exchange. The result is a journey that oscillates between shooting the breeze and screaming for your life.

It makes me wonder how dangerous early Sheffield steel works must have been. Not only was an open-toed sandal and a leather apron the height of personal protective equipment, but the water so polluted that everybody drank gin. While carrying around buckets that sloshed full with molten metal, you also had to deal with trivial comments about the weather, the price of fish and a volley of questions about your sister’s gout. It must have violated every rule in the health and safety handbook.

Recently I became a victim of this dangerous chit-chat when I returned to my parents’ house to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Some might say the accident was all my fault, but I put the blame squarely at the door of Yorkshire people and their constant need to fill dead air, as if we were part of a live TV broadcast. It started when I agreed to take charge of the family portrait. This is something I often do and it typically involves shouting at everyone until they’re in position, clicking the shutter several times, then selecting a take where everyone at least looks vaguely normal. The result is then shared and liked by the under twenties, emailed and saved by the over twenties, and printed out and stuck on the fridge by the over seventies.

However, in order to mark my parents’ golden wedding anniversary I thought I’d raise the bar somewhat and move the traditional family snap well into the 21st century by capturing it via a drone. I’ve been the proud owner of a terrifyingly expensive and terrifyingly dangerous drone for over a year, and learnt to fly it to a pretty good standard when I lived down south. It seems in the heavily populated parks of East London, most people are too caught up in their own lives to bat an eyelid at someone tinkering with an airborne toy.

Sadly such indifference was not on offer as I arranged my family into some semblance of a group, fired up the drone and began to mentally map out an epic fly over befitting of my parents’ epic milestone of companionship.

Then the conversational dead air was noticeable and the questions started. ‘How long does the battery last? How high does it fly? How much was it? Crikey, do you know how many eggs you could buy for that? How’s your sister’s gout?’ Call it friendly to the point of distraction, or curious to the point of interruption but I now know that operating a flying camera and trying to bat off questions are simply not compatible.

I was midway through giving my stock polite answers such as ‘I’m not sure...About a thousand pounds...She’s on some new tablets’, when the neglected drone clipped the neighbour’s oak tree, veered violently to the left, collided with a branch and spiralled to the ground. What was incredible was that during the pandemonium, I was still able to press the shutter on the camera, so this year’s family portrait features the usual suspects, but this time with horrified looks on their faces, mouthing the word ‘tree’ or simply holding their heads in their hands.

What was even more incredible was that this year’s family portrait has been shared, liked, emailed and printed out more than any that went before it.

My advice to anyone wishing to fly a drone in the north would be to get some ear plugs, it’s not worth the risk.

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