Company offers overhead view of oil industry (Video)
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Oil and gas isn't the only Crossroads industry that's recently taken off. Supporting industries, too, have seen benefits.
For one up-and-coming company in particular, business is - quite literally - sky high.
Eye From the Sky Aerial Photography opened in June, offering up bird's-eye glimpses at Eagle Ford Shale operations.
Inspiration came from the upswing in oil production, units going in and people making money off the region's mineral wealth, said Matt Albrecht, a partner in the venture.
"We thought people might want something to hang up on the wall," he said, explaining the oil income can change a person's life. "A good reminder that 'There's a rig on our land we never thought would be here.'"
Albrecht's father, Phil Albrecht, and business partner, Matthew Mozisek, got the ball rolling, he said. All three men worked in oil already, he explained, and had access to data sheets, location information and other things to help get the project off the ground.
They took that initial flight, with River Bend Helicopters Pilot John Fuller at the helm, in June. Still, it took more than a willing photographer and helicopter to really get going.
Mozisek kept busy mapping out GPS routes pinpointing rig sites and making sure the crew knew where to go once in the air, Albrecht said.
The advance prep is important, Mozisek added.
"The last thing you want is to not get the shot you needed," he said.
Victoria photographer Kevin Jordan first took flight with the company in June and went up again in September. The prospect was one he said he wasn't sure about in the beginning.
"The night before, I was sure I was going to die in a fiery crash," he joked. "But it was kind of exhilarating to go up."
He estimated he shot about 250 rigs between those two flights and said he enjoyed the experience. Still, with the twisting and leaning it took to get that just-right shot, the novelty wore off quickly.
"By about the fifth hour, it gets a little tedious," he said. "But it's beautiful to see the countryside, the wildlife, the oil derricks and the beautiful homes from above all day long."
While he relies on his 30 plus years of photography experience to get spot-on shots, Jordan said the high-tech tools, which include a GPS tagger that allows him to see where on the map each shot was taken, also help.
The endeavor takes on a special meaning for Jordan, whose father and grandfather worked in oil.
"With this, I kind of have a little visual of what it's all about," he said. "It's kind of cool."
The work isn't over once the crew makes landfall, however. At that point, it's time to pick through the shots - recent flights have brought in anywhere from 1,300 to 3,400 shots, Mozisek said - edit them and prepare them for customers.
The completed product is a high-definition photo - ranging from 16-by-24 to 35-by-45 - printed from the same lab NASA uses and mounted on Masonite board. Prices range from $335 to $475.
It's all about the quality, said Mozisek, who explained people don't realize just how clear the pictures are.
"That's the biggest battle we see on a daily basis," he said. "Getting people to understand that is hard."
Jo Stone is a senior land man with Magnum Hunter Resources Inc. in Houston, which has purchased several Eye From the Sky photos to hang in the office.
Although she said she enjoys the photos on her walls, her company recently lost one to an investor.
"He aahed over them, and said he had to have it," she said with a laugh.
Stone said she enjoyed the photos not only because they offer a rarely seen look at the work her company does, but also because of the nature included in the shots.
"It points out the beauty of the country," she said. "And it's also a reminder to be careful with the environment."
As for what Eye From the Sky's future holds, only time will tell.
The men said they were pleased with the way business was going, but hope to see things grow and change with time.
Already, Mozisek said, a San Antonio company has looked into getting monthly aerial shots of an ongoing construction project. The Crossroads company also hopes to expand its services to some of Houston's largest companies, while talks are also under way of putting together a coffee table book.
"It's kind of one of those deals where we don't know where the heck we're going," he said, smiling. "But it's a lot of fun."