Divergent paths: Route 7 and train tracks part ways in Kent amid fall foliage. Kent was a commuter rail stop on the Danbury branch of Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven Line, but the rails are only used for freight these days.
Heaven on Earth: Graffiti — names, faces, floral designs, national flags and tags of all kinds — can be clearly seen on the concrete surfaces at Heaven skate park at the corner of Trumbull and Main streets in downtown Hartford. With Interstate 84 passing underneath, the site has long been heaven for both skateboarders and the artistically inclined.
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I have always found that travel is an important ingredient in the recipe for happiness, but the way to measure it is not necessarily by the number of miles you put on the odometer. A journey can be any amount of time spent somewhere that can give you a new perspective. Seeing the cultures of faraway lands is certainly a proven way to accomplish this, but having a passport is not the only solution. Despite the allure of the many countries and 46 U.S. states (and counting) I’ve had the privilege to visit, Connecticut has always called me back home.
My work as a professional photographer ranges from commercial clients and photojournalism to yacht brokerage and fine art print sales. This has allowed me to meet some great people, travel to beautiful places, and placed me on the front lines of some major social movements where I have captured small pieces of history. While the commercial enterprise is just a few years old, my love for photography goes back a few decades to an old Vivitar 110 film camera I got as a Christmas present from my grandmother. Since then, my passion for taking photos and investing in better camera equipment have only grown to where we are now in 2021, when cameras have everything from Wi-Fi to propellers and images can instantly be shared around the globe.
This past year I decided to take on a challenge to find new ways of looking at familiar places within the borders of our little Nutmeg State. At face value, the project was simple and straightforward — all eight Connecticut counties encompassing all four seasons, and all from above using my drone, a DJI Mavic 2 Pro. In addition to covering as much geographic area of the state as possible through a full calendar year, I wanted to tell a visual story that showed the variety of Connecticut’s landscape. Many people view our state based on their own experiences or stereotypes — wealthy coastal communities, large insurance companies, and so on. Some of that is based in truth. However, my hope is that the images provide a broader understanding of the spectrum of culture here. From urban skate parks to rural corn mazes, there is something for everyone.
The vantage point in this collection is the top-down aerial image, where the camera is pointing straight down. These types of images quickly became a favorite of mine when I first started flying back in 2017. The photos almost always provide a view there is nearly no other way to get with a handheld camera — no feet in the frame on a balcony, no airplane wings in the corner of the photo, no long shadows making spectral forms. The shapes and patterns, combined with the angle of the sun, create compositions that almost always evoke a reaction from the viewer — whether it be confusion, excitement, joy or wonder — which to me is the goal of taking a photograph.
As a resident of southwestern Connecticut, I had some planning and homework to do on some of the quieter corners of the state that I do not visit often. Connecticut is a relatively small state — the filling of a New York-Boston sandwich, if you will — but once you stray from the interstates you can quickly get lost in rural landscapes. Thousands of acres of open space await in the form of state parks, farms, reservoirs and waterfalls. Open space can be a little tougher to come by along the coast, but beauty abounds in every direction.
A few obstacles I expected, while others surprised me. I knew the weather would be a challenge, especially the snow which doesn’t always look appealing from the air once the plows have passed through and doused everything in salt and sand. I also knew that the airspace over places like our large defense contractor facilities would be off limits. Sometimes I would get to a target location and be surprised by how the landscape had changed, such as when I thought I was going to shoot tobacco farms only to find a field full of solar panels. I had high hopes for daffodil and sunflower farms, but it turns out those photograph better from ground level.
What I did discover were many pockets of beauty around the state, some in places I did not expect. I found myself consistently surprised by what I was able to capture while flying over railroad bridges on the Connecticut River, a rock quarry, apple trees at Lyman Orchards, or one of our many lighthouses. I hope this collection of photographs encourages you to go out and explore Connecticut and all that it has to offer, no matter the time of year. Even if you’re a lifelong resident as I am, you just might find yourself transported to another world for an afternoon in a place you never knew existed.
Patrick Sikes is a professional photographer specializing in aerial, maritime, event and portrait work. When not shooting for hire, he can be found using his captain’s license for small yacht charters on Long Island Sound. A native of Norwalk, he currently resides in Weston with his wife and two sons. To see more of his work, including images from this project, go to patricksikes.com and Instagram at@magic_sites.