How a Local Photographer Snapped This Sweeping Rural Scene

Captured in “the golden five minutes,” Michael Leis photographed this landscape with a drone.

Michael Leis photographs landscapes “that tell a story.” That means when he’s flying his EVO II Pro drone, trying to find the right shot, he’s looking for two or three striking points of interest. Leis captured this study of light and shadow over Timber Coulee in Vernon County during the late evening – “the golden five minutes,” he calls it. The scene has at least three of those points of interest: the red farm buildings, the meander of Coon Creek (renowned for fly fishing) and the five “rolling contours” in the fields above the barn that “give that hillside character,” Leis says.


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When did you shoot this photograph, and do you remember that day? What do you think ‘makes’ this photograph?

The photo was taken during the evening. When I left our home, I told my wife, ‘I don’t know where I’m going and I won’t be home till after dark.’ I drove to Timber Coulee in Vernon County and kept driving until the shadows were just right. I pulled off on a side road and launched the Evo. From there I could see three points of interest. First, the farm. Each farm has its own farming practices. Note the hay in the lower right, corn in the center and strip cropping to the top near the tree line. Second, Coon Creek. Fly fishermen love this picture, because they can see the beauty of the area that they might fish one day. Third, God the artist. Above the red barn, in the sun, are five rolling contours which give that hillside character. Then, add the 400+ foot hills with shadows in each coulee. Most coulees have a creek or stream that feeds into Coon Creek, which is the creek in the photo.

When do you like to shoot, and why?

I have always loved aerial photography. I wanted to be more than a guy with a drone. I practiced on the farm for one year but quickly realized that you need to know four things; topography, FAA laws, photography, and the tech part of droning. Early morning or late evening are when most of my photos are taken. In most landscapes, I try to have two to three points of interest in the photo with none of them in the middle of the picture.

Where are you based? Where can people find your photography?

My wife and I live on our farm on St. Mary’s Ridge near Cashton. Next year we hope to roll out “Leisurefarm Images.” We will provide drone services and sell various landscape prints. My wife takes rural landscape and wildlife pics as well. As for now, we sell prints through Instagram by direct message. I do drone projects for real estate, insurance inspections, and gifts for private individuals, videography and photography. My wife rides shotgun with me once in a while but she says she needs a cup of ‘good coffee’ in order to come with.

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This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine’s September issue.

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