'Above Bellingham' takes you all the way from the shores of Bellingham Bay to the top of Mt. Baker, highlighting the City of Subdued Excitement from the air.

Earlier this year, visual journalist Kjell Redal released the second video in his 'Above' 4K drone video series, this time turning his attention to the city of Bellingham, WA. The video ably encapsulates the so-called 'City of Subdued Excitement' as well as its immediate surroundings, featuring mountain bikers charging through forests, skiers charging through some Mt. Baker powder, and beautiful flyovers of some of Bellingham's picturesque waterfront.

We chatted with Redal about his experience in making the video, his background and some challenges along the way.


DPR: To start off, tell us a little about yourself, your background and what you do.

Kjell Redal: I'm a video producer and visual journalist from Colorado originally, but I've been in Washington for the last four years, recently finishing school at Western Washington University. I'm trained as a journalist so I enjoy finding real-life storylines that inspire, entertain, scare and teach people. I like to tell these kinds of stories through even better visuals and I've found that drones help a lot in the latter part of this goal.

That uniqueness of perspective was what really attracted me to the tech as a cinematic tool.

What spurred you to get into drone flying and video capture?

Before I started flying, I remember seeing a lot of travel videos on Vimeo's Staff Picks channel that included shots unlike any I've ever seen. I remember one of them in this Iceland video where a drone was recording while moving only about a foot over these flowers at a decent speed and it was the first time I've seen that camera movement from that angle. That uniqueness of perspective was what really attracted me to the technology as a cinematic tool.

Hiking trails and stellar views are plentiful in the greater Bellingham area.

What was the inspiration for 'Above Bellingham?'

Above Bellingham came as the second part in my 'Above' series where I feature two towns I've come to know well via the air. My first video in the small series was 'Above Boulder' which featured scenes from my hometown. I tried to capture both the iconic places from the two areas in both videos, as well as some less well-known spots that give the cities their character.

Tell me a little about how the video has been received.

The video was received great! I had a lot of people tell me thanks for capturing a place they know and love from a new perspective. I can only think of one minor negative comment about drones on the comment board for that one.

The DJI Phantom 3.
Image via: DJI

What were the biggest challenges you experienced throughout this project? Did you have any crashes or issues with the FAA?

I haven't had a crash on either of these projects (knock on wood) and got my FAA certification to fly commercially in September of last year. Other than the test being a bit more difficult than I expected, as well as full of what I saw as fairly irrelevant information to drone pilots, like reading airport-issued weather reports and guidelines for flying at ridiculously high altitudes, everything went pretty smooth during the productions.

I did get some heat after the Boulder video went out though. I didn't realize the city had out-and-out banned drones before I started filming (something they can't really do according to the FAA, see paragraph 9). I followed all the FAA regulations for flying in the airspace and nothing more than angry commenters came of it, but I think I'd have a fairly solid federal preemption claim were the city to have pressed charges.

And lastly, what drone(s) did you use for this project?

I used a DJI Phantom 3 4K for all of last year, and just got a Phantom 4 Pro this spring - looking forward to the next big project to go with the new drone!


To see more of Kjell Redal's work, check out his portfolio at kjellredal.com.