Flying like Superman in Okoboji: Tom Gustafson’s drone photography is on display January-March

It has only been two years since Tom Gustafson first purchased a drone, but in that short amount of time he has made quite a name for himself with his aerial photography.

A selection of his drone photography will be on display January-March in the Dickinson County Nature Center’s eARTh exhibit area, and a special opening reception will be held 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4.

(Check out other programs coming up on our environmental education page.)

“I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs for myself,” Gustafson said. “Just like anything, with digital, I ended up uploading all the photos on my computer. My wife said, ‘You should open up a Facebook.’”

He hesitated showing others his photos, but his wife started a Facebook page for him and people reacted positively to his “land camera.”

Then, as drones became more popular, the former private pilot was inspired to take to the skies in a new way. He purchased his first drone in January 2016 and has since logged more than 250 hours.

“An average flight is about 10 minutes — that tells you how many flights I’ve taken,” Gustafson said.

Aerial photo of Minnewashta and Lower Gar in fall

Photo by Tom Gustafson

He has become almost addicted to drone photography and the viewpoint it gives people. He came back from a trip in December and hadn’t flown in three weeks, so he took his drone to Arnolds Park and sent it out while sitting in his car to stay warm. He sat and watched the drone footage as it flew above the water, a misty vapor rising from the lake on the frigid day.

“I come back and tell my wife, ‘This is the greatest thing ever,’” he said. “I find it so fascinating. Here we can fly like superman, like a bird.”

“That’s what was really powerful for people, because people haven’t seen the area from high up,” he added.

Gustafson’s nature center exhibit, with approximately 10 images of the Iowa Great Lakes area, will allow people to see a variety of bird’s-eye views. Photos will include a sunrise panorama, a view of Arnolds Park on the Fourth of July, the Queen II docked on a hazy morning, an abstract wetland view and, his favorite, a shot of Smith’s Bay on a beautiful morning.

“I kind of wanted to get a hodgepodge, because I found that certain images have an appeal to some and don’t to others,” Gustafson said. “I hope that they’re able to see the beauty of our area like I see it. I hope that it inspires them in their daily life to stop and note that moment.”

(Are your kids crafty? Check out this week’s featured craft.)

The photographic pieces will be for sale for $285-$450, and Gustafson will also have books for sale for $39.99. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the Dickinson County Nature Center.

Guests may view Gustafson’s work 5-7 p.m. Jan. 4 during his opening reception, and he will give an artist talk at 6 p.m. Appetizers and wine will also be served.

Following Gustafson’s exhibit, the eARTh exhibit area will feature Sue Boettcher’s photography April-June, Hannah Habarecht’s fish paintings July-September and Danielle Clouse Gast’s paintings October-December.

For more information on the eARTh exhibit area and other programs at the Dickinson County Nature Center, call 712-336-6352. You can also keep up on the latest happenings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

1 Comment

  1. Louisa and Ali Tabatabai on December 29, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    Fantastic! We have a copy of his beautiful photo book! If the weather cooperates I will make the drive from Ames! We are so very proud of our talented son-in- law!

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