The eye in the MK sky

Posted 23rd January 2023

It’s never normally good to admit that you look down on others, but Chris Read is the exception.

His pastime has helped him in a personal capacity and is giving pleasure to city residents who are seeing things quite differently, too. It’s fair to say that things are well and truly on the up, as he told Pulse’s Sammy Jones.

There was a time not so long ago when a mention of the word drone would conjure up images of male honey bees, and it was our under threat pollinators who influenced the naming of the UAVs (unmanned aircraft systems) that we are all now very familiar with.

Once associated with military use, over the past decade or so they have become useful tools, assisting with everything from surveillance and traffic monitoring to firefighting. They are even employed to make deliveries!

Earlier this year, we looked up to find one looking down on us at a gig in the new city.

Like our army of delivery robots, they are appreciated and used by many, but they raise the hackles in others.

Whether you love them, hate them or are indifferent the numbers of people using drones for personal use has gone sky high, if you take our meaning.

Newport Pagnell man Chris Read is one of those invested in the technology – and his striking images from across Milton Keynes brought him to our attention.

“I’ve always enjoyed taking nice photos and using different angles, and the technology of drones interested me,” he said, “To be able to combine the two was a huge attraction. There aren’t many methods of photography that can capture from the angles a drone can!”

Working with drones gives a different perspective, and that is something that even helped Chris with his own mental health journey.

“Mental health, particularly men’s mental health, is still an area that is still not talked about enough. Mental and physical health is something that we all have, after all.

“Anxiety and overthinking has been an issue for me for some years, and I’ve never really found the solution,” Chris said, “People would tell me to ‘look at it differently’ when referring to an anxious subject, but I would always say that I didn’t get it, because I can only see what I can see.

“What photography showed me is that you can take an object or a building and look at it from different angles and see a different image. It helped me to understand that in a mental capacity – just because I’ve seen something one way immediately, it doesn’t mean I can’t change my angle and see something a bit differently!”

Chris only discovered his new hobby in August but, thrilled by some fantastic bird’s eye views of the area, he decided to share his results online. He set up an Instagram page which is currently nudging 750 followers and his images are causing a stir on social media with 1000s of likes.

“I enjoy people’s reactions and interactions with the posts, but I find it quite overwhelming to think so many people are interested in what I capture!” he admitted.

Chris is often met by intrigued members of the public when he is out with the drone, but he hasn’t encountered much in the way of negativity – people are more interested in the laws of flying these clever little machines.

“I’m always open and explain the laws for the category of drone that I am flying – you can’t just buy and fly a drone, there are qualifications required and I find that once people hear you are qualified and authorised they feel more comfortable.”

To date, Chris has provided unique views of some of MK’s most popular places and landmarks: from the Dons Stadium to Campbell Park, and the green splendour afforded by Salcey Forest.

Chris has captured Christmas light parades and secret rooftop gardens and all sorts of dramatic alternative shots. And if you think you’ve seen enough roundabouts to last you a lifetime, think again – they are quite beautiful when viewed from the air. Honestly!

It will come as absolutely no surprise to know that Chris is a one-man PR machine for UAVs “They are certainly necessary,” he says, resolutely, “The amount of work they can save a person having to do, and the height risks they rule out, make them an asset.

“A prime example is roof inspections where hours of erecting scaffolding and sending people up can be eliminated by a drone taking images in a much smaller time frame.”

But what about those people who do see them as another invasion of privacy?
“Recreationally, I think the first thing I’d say is if a drone is above, it is likely to be photographing something a fair distance away from its actual location. A drone sees nothing that the Google plane, Google earth or hot air balloons or helicopters haven’t already seen!”

Chris and his flying ‘bot’ were on hand at the annual firework displays in Newport Pagnell and Olney – which is definitely ‘up there’ when it comes to his favourite captures so far.

“It was something I’d not tried before and certainly took some work to get it just right. CMK is always a pleasure to capture from above too, and at night time the reflections and lights look fantastic.”

While his drone time is for pleasure just now, the motor trade worker would certainly hope to combine business with pleasure in the future.

“It’s definitely something I’d like to turn into a business, while also keeping the recreational element to share with others. I have already been asked to assist by estate agents, and for the roof inspections I mentioned!

“I want to continue shooting things from a perspective that others don’t generally get to see, and grow my online platform while continuing to enjoy my hobby.

“I will put myself forward for charitable causes too, and have recently established a relationship with Willen Hospice to support them as much as possible; everyone around MK has some connection with them and I am happy to give them my time.

“I also see it as a way of giving back to the local community who have got my pages out there!”

Follow Chris on Instagram @droneovermk and @chrisreadaerialphotography