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In September 2017, Prashant Bhatt, accompanied two climbers to Ladakh, where they were to climb 750m up a mountain. Armed with basic climbing skills, Bhatt, then 27, had to rappel down 150m to get close-up shots of them. As the climbers continued their ascent, Bhatt realized there was small chance he could keep up in the thin mountain air at over 4,000m and went back up the rope. After that, he had to bank on his stationary zoom lens, which didn’t give him the kind of shots he wanted.

Four months later, another assignment took Bhatt to Gulaba near Manali to shoot ice climbers ascending a 120m high frozen waterfall. This time, Bhatt was standing at the base of the waterfall and shooting the climbers with a drone. It helped him get shots of the climbers from various angles and also capture the spectacular landscape around them.

“The drone provides what we call the money shot or the feel-good shot; more so, when it comes to capturing the landscape," says Bhatt, a drone operator-filmmaker at Manali-based 4Play, a digital channel featuring adventure sports and the outdoors.

“I remember the first time I flew one, it was in extremely windy conditions at 4,000m. Till then, I had only worked with handheld cameras. Like everything else, it was a skill I picked up on the job."

On the rise

Bhatt’s entry into the world of drones and filmmaking happened by chance. While completing a course in computer science from DIT (Dehradun Institute of Technology) University to pursue his interest in coding, Bhatt’s mother gave him a phone that had a 1.3 megapixel camera. Bhatt started using it to shoot photographs and videos. Soon, he was hooked.

“I was into stand-up comedy and theatre at college, but during one play, I became extremely involved with the camera work. Soon, I was working on short films with my roommate."

The campus placement took Bhatt to Infosys and after a training stint in Mysuru, he was assigned to their Pune office in 2014. The weekdays were restricted to the desk and weekends were spent watching films.

Few months later, he started making short documentary films based on what he saw around him.

“We made some amateur films while in Pune and really enjoyed the process," Bhatt says.

After two years at Infosys, he decided to quit and follow his interest in filmmaking full time. Back home in Dehradun, his family was apprehensive about his plan. But Bhatt was clear. “I wanted to explore the outdoors instead of sitting at a desk. If things didn’t work out, I knew I could find another job," he says.

While working on his new career, Bhatt got an offer from a friend to join his company, 4Play.

“Though I had never worked on adventure films, I loved nature and the outdoors since I have grown up in places like Kotdwar, Devprayag and Dehradun. I don’t think there was a better platform for me to get started. But I was concerned because I always had a salaried job and I didn’t know how things would pan out at a startup," Bhatt says.

Though he started working with content for social media, he was soon thrown in at the deep end, when the startup’s drone operator suddenly quit.

“During those early days, I always maintained a safety margin while operating the drone. That boundary kept expanding with experience. But it was the perfect outlet for me since I could use my observation skills to imagine the best shot and then use tech-savvy logic to work the drone and make it happen. The drone became a tool to narrate my story," says Bhatt, who gets a share of profits as salary.

The drone handed Bhatt the opportunity to follow athletes in terrains where it was hard to chase them. Whether it was a snowboarder storming downhill, a mountain biker negotiating single tracks or a trail runner on the side of the mountain, the drone made it possible to get close enough without disturbing their focus.

“You can get angles that were once considered impossible. I’ve also worked on music videos, short films and corporate assignments, but it’s helped most while shooting adventure films. Over the last few years, I have even picked up a few skills that the athletes possess. But at the end of the day, it’s impossible to be as good as them, which is where the drone has made all the difference."

Work Shift is a series on professions that didn’t exist a decade age.Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com

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