WHEN Jaimen Hudson’s world came crashing down, it seemed almost inconceivable he would one day fly. A motorcycle accident in 2008 left the then-17-year-old a quadriplegic, paralysed from the armpits down after a split-second impact sent his young life going in a completely different direction. Prior to his accident, Jaimen was an active, outdoorsy type who loved nothing more than to be in the ocean surfing or diving with his mates in his home town of Esperance. In the days and weeks following that life-changing moment, it quickly became clear he would never experience the joys of the ocean the way he used to, but a fortuitous meeting with a drone operator in late 2014 offered a glimmer of possibility. Jaimen was instantly fascinated by the emerging technology, having already developed a keen interest in photography from an early age, so he started watching all the YouTube videos he could find featuring drones. With very limited hand function, he was uncertain as to whether he would be able to operate the gadget himself, but ordered his first DJI Phantom 2 drone with tentative hopes. It turned out to be the best purchase he ever made, enabling him to uniquely capture a birds-eye view of some of Esperance’s most spectacular coastlines, sunsets and the wild ways of WA’s ocean wildlife. And as a result, Jaimen’s name and work has now become highly-renowned, not just within the droning community but through YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, after two of his videos went viral two years ago. All of a sudden, media outlets from all over the world were calling him for interviews and airing his spectacular footage to audiences of millions. The first video that caught people’s attention was ‘Dolphin Haze’, a 4.37 minute film featuring a pod of dolphins frolicking and surfing the swell at the renowned West Beach. But it was the image of a lone paddleboarder atop a sparkling crystal blue ocean, with two huge dark shadows beneath him, emerging as two curious southern right whales that skyrocketed through the social media stratosphere. At last count, the exquisitely serene and surreal video notched up more than 6.6 million views on YouTube, but that figure doesn’t really register with down-to-earth Jaimen, as he just loves being able to share these special moments and images of his breathtaking home town. “It was probably my ‘Paddleboarding with whales’ video that really went bonkers,” Jaimen said. “I think that’s the power of social media these days, it just takes a couple of clicks and it’s spread to the other side of the world. “I had all these news outlets calling me for interviews, like BBC Earth, which was my ultimate. “But honestly, I didn’t really get into it for the fame, I just love it and I’m very lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world and be able to share that with everyone.” As a result of his newfound notoriety, Jaimen and his now-fiancé Jess Fotheringham have travelled to parts of the world he never dreamed of visiting, when last year he was invited as a guest speaker at the Drone Tech Europe conference in Bristol, England. The couple travelled to six countries in 17 days, including London, Paris, Amsterdam and Dubai, accompanied of course by Jaimen’s latest baby, the professional DJI Inspire 2 drone. In between travel and his full-time job at his family’s marine tourism business, finding time to fly can be a bit tricky, particularly when he sometimes needs to rely on Jess, family or mates heading out for a surf for a lift to the beach. Once in his happy place, he parks his wheelchair up and sends his drone soaring, excited to capture whatever Mother Nature is throwing forward that day. It’s a brilliant way to spend a few hours, but he admits relying on others limits his ability to visit destinations he longs to capture. Jaimen is hoping sales from his online print store will help turn that around, funding a modified vehicle later this year and providing him with unprecedented independence. “I can’t wait to get my van, it will be life-changing,” he said. “It means I’ll have a lot more freedom and be able to drive to locations myself.” Jaimen loves capturing wildlife the most as it’s such a right time/right place kind of experience which doesn’t always reap rewards. “It’s not something everyone can capture, it takes a lot of time and patience,” he said. “I just love that there’s no second take, you have to do your best to capture it in that moment and let it unfold before you.” This year is looking bright for ever-positive Jaimen, with huge events already locked in for March, when he marries the love of his life Jess, getting the keys to his van and being selected to carry the Queen’s baton in February in the lead up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games that will be held on the Gold Coast, Queensland, in April. “Each year just keeps getting better and better,” he said. “I’ve already been fortunate enough to have many cool experiences from drones, I’m glad they invented it, that’s for sure.”
Photo Caption 1: Esperance local Jaimen Hudson has become a world-renowned drone photographer and videographer, sharing his passion for his part of the world with millions through social media.