Robin Gottesman and her drone capture different perspectives


Starting on Saturday, July 29, and running throughout the summer season, photographer Robin Gottesman’s new collection of color photographs will be on display at Cousen Rose Gallery in Oak Bluffs. Gottesman’s new show, “Martha’s Vineyard From a Different Perspective,” will mark Gottesman’s 10-year anniversary exhibiting at Cousen Rose Gallery, the longest-running gallery in Oak Bluffs. Housed in a gingerbread cottage near the historic Campground area, Cousin Rose Gallery opened in 1980, and is owned by entrepreneur and gallery visual art curator Zita Cousens.

Gottesman first fell in love with photography in high school, but headed into the medical field, became a radiologist, and practiced for 26 years. Upon retiring, she revisited her passion for shooting, and began focusing on photography full-time. Gottesman is a professional sports photographer in her home state of New Jersey. During the summer, she lives in Oak Bluffs, and has spent nearly a decade capturing images of the Island. A few years ago, Gottesman decided she wanted to gain a new perspective of the Island, and purchased a drone.

“I got interested in drone shooting when I saw some images in a magazine. One was of kayaks from above, and another was of an apple orchard. The shadows from the apple trees made these incredible patterns on the ground that wouldn’t have been seen if the photo had been taken at eye level,” Gottesman said.

Shooting photos while flying a drone isn’t as simple as reading the instruction manual and going for it, however. In order to shoot commercially, the FAA requires passing a Part 107 remote pilot exam. “It’s more complicated than I thought. You have to get certified. Since I was in the medical profession, I had to take a lot of difficult exams, so I was used to taking tests, but this wasn’t a quick and easy exam,” Gottesman shared.

Gottesman got her certification, and began her journey. She was nervous at first, but with some practice, patience, and a little guidance from a group in New Jersey called the Jersey Drones, she gained more confidence. “Every week the Jersey Drones plan some kind of trip, even in the dead of winter. We put on hand warmers and bundle up. I join them twice a month,” Gottesman said. “It’s really fun, because they choose new locations I might not have known about, and we talk and share our work. They helped me be more daring.”

Not all drones are created equal. Drone prices can range from $50 to $3,000 or more, and have varying speeds, resolution, flight ranges, and features. It’s also important to take safety into account when piloting a drone. “I’m a physician, so I’m risk-averse by nature,” Gottesman said. “You can hurt someone if you’re not careful, so I carry pretty significant liability insurance, and I’m respectful about where I shoot.”

One of Gottesman’s first flights on the Island was over Gay Head Lighthouse. “I was pretty nervous. I was watching the drone, and I thought, ‘Will it come back?’ I was so afraid of losing it, which happens even to the most seasoned drone pilots. One of the guys in the Jersey Drones lost his signal once, and his drone disappeared. You have to keep an eye on it, especially when it’s cloudy and gray.”

When asked what surprises she’s found in her photos over the years, she showed me an image of an empty canoe shot from above. Partially tucked under one of the canoe bench seats is a bright red ring life buoy that Gottesman wouldn’t have discovered if she’d been shooting from shore. The bright red buoy against the brown, gray, and blue of the water is striking. The photo evokes a feeling of loneliness, but due to that bright red buoy, a sense of hope as well.

“Sometimes it’s not even about height. It can also be about seeing things from a different angle. I shot an image of the ‘Jaws’ bridge from the ground, of kids jumping off,” she said. Snapping photos of people jumping from this particular bridge is popular. Many photographers — amateur and professional — have done so, but Gottesman chose to shoot it a few ways. “I took one photo from the ground, and then I shot one with my drone. It’s the same bridge, but the drone image captures things I wouldn’t have seen shooting straight on. From above, I was able to catch this really great texture under the bridge.”

I spent some time at Cousen Rose Gallery looking at Gottesman’s previous photos. The work ranges from printed photos on greeting cards to framed images and unframed prints. “Greeting a New Day” is filled with stunning blues, oranges, and reds at sunrise. The viewer looks down a long pier, while the sun lines up perfectly at the end. It looks as if one could walk off the pier directly into the sun. I got excited when I saw the Aquinnah Cliffs, in part because of the gorgeous mixed color palette of the Cliffs, but also because I live in Aquinnah, and am admittedly a bit biased. While looking at the photo, I said out loud, “Oh! I walk by these Cliffs all the time.” Yet, though I see them nearly every day, it felt as if I were viewing them for the first time. The image took my breath away.

“Sunrise at East Chop Lighthouse,” from Gottesman’s new work, is warm and colorful — orange, blue, yellow, and dark green, with a bright tree-frog green globe in the center of the lighthouse. “I’ve tried shooting the East Chop Lighthouse in the past, and I was just never satisfied. When I shot it with the drone, I finally captured an image I really liked,” Gottesman said. “Storm Brewing over Gay Head Lighthouse” brilliantly reflects the fickle weather in Aquinnah. The image shows a tumultuous sky, with a splash of fuchsia dipping down to greet the ocean.

Art is personal. What one person loves, another hardly notices. This reality is no different for Gottesman. “Some people love drone photos, some don’t. I still shoot from the ground sometimes, but using the drone is a way of capturing different perspectives,” Gottesman said. Aside from how lovely her images are, the other nice thing about Gottesman’s work is that although her focus on the Island is nature, her subject matter varies. If you’re weary of lighthouses, say, but love the white, frothy spray of water as it crashes against rocks, or the graceful way a bird lifts off from the water, or the layers of colors and textures found in the sand, you’ll find something to connect with in Gottesman’s work.

“This wasn’t an intentional path,” Gottesman shared, as we were wrapping up. “I started out by buying a cheap digital camera, and made cards out of the images. I walked around to stores like a peddler, and asked the owners if they’d be interested in them.”

Zita at Cousen Rose Gallery was one of the first people to take Robin’s cards. “Robin has been exhibiting at CRG for years, and has many fans! I have shipped her work across the nation,” Cousens said.

“Shooting is really fun … for the most part,” Gottesman laughed. “Sometimes, when I’m getting up at 4 am to catch the sunrise at Lucy Vincent Beach, I think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ but it’s so worth it when I see the results. There are so many views on the Island. One beach is completely different from another. It’s pretty special.”

Visit to learn more. You can also find her on Facebook. Learn more about Cousen Rose Gallery at, 71 Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs.