Shepherding is not an instant art. In an age of high speed and rapid gratification, shepherding remains a patient task and so, too, is the work of an Israeli drone videographer who, over the course of seven months, captured the movement of a flock of sheep.
The result of Lior Patel's efforts was a bird’s eye view of swirling and meticulous movement on the ground; a sky-high perspective of a flow of carefully shepherded sheep that has mesmerized netizens around the world.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, the 42-year-old, who hails from Haifa, said that he first fell in love with photography 15 years ago when his brother bought him a digital camera.
For Patel, shooting images was pure fun. After four years, a major exhibition displayed an urban shot he had taken five minutes from his home. Encouraged, Patel said that he continued to photograph for enjoyment and participated in exhibitions worldwide.
Eventually, with the advent of drone cameras into the world, Patel bought his first drone camera.
“The thought of adding a new perspective for my shots was fantastic,” he said.
Intrigued by the beauty of smooth camera motion using the drone, Patel’s interest in the arena of videos blossomed. He had an entirely fresh set of tools to learn in order to portray his subjects using motion and an aerial perspective. Patel then obtained his license from the Israeli Aviation Authority and shifted his career to become a full-time drone videographer.
While working as a commercial drone videographer, Patel still took the time to have fun with his art.
“I also enjoyed shooting for myself, searching, driving, looking for projects for my soul,” he said.
His curiosity and interest led him to sheep and shepherding, having had the experience of photographing small flocks before he was aware that there was a “fantastic motion to portray.” However, Patel knew that he needed a larger flock, and thus, with the help of some farming connections, he was put in touch with a shepherd.
Patel was invited “with open arms” to visit the shepherd's flock. On Jan. 2, 2021, Patel made his way to a green hill next to Yokneam, in Peace Valley.
Within the first 10 seconds of having his drone in the air, Patel recognized true beauty.
“The motion that I saw was mind-blowing,” he explained. “The challenge to figure out how they will spread in the field and cluster back together (with the help of 5 border collies) ... amazed me that day.”
By the end of the visit, Patel knew this subject required more attention. After interacting with the shepherd over a cup of coffee, he learned that the flock’s grazing was cyclical. The sheep were moved from their winter pasture to a summer location when winter’s green grass dried. After the conversation, Patel was invited to follow the flock along with his drone to capture the various formations that were about to ensue.
The project would be a time-consuming venture as Patel wanted to shoot the full range of seasonal changes and locational shifting. The full cycle could take Patel into July.
However, he did not scruple at the strolling pace of the project. He accepted the hospitable invitation to visit and made his way to the flock time after time and month after month with his drone.
He followed balletic formations as the sheep moved through open fields, poured across roads, funneled through gates, and swarmed feeding areas. He and his drone camera watched the lush green winter grasses fade to the dry yellows of Israeli summer.
By the end of June 2021, Patel realized the grazing cycle had come to an end, and his next challenge was to figure out what to do with seven months of footage. His goal was to present something that highlighted the natural beauty of the flock’s innate motion, uninterrupted by camera movement.
Thus, in the end, he took clips from each month of his footage, accelerated the movement speed, and opened the images wide on his screen.
“I loved the result,” he said.
Patel shared his work with clients, family, and friends on Facebook and Instagram. Encouraged by the comments he received, he posted the footage on a local photography and nature page and was surprised by the attention it had garnered.
“I was happy that a few other people found the same beauty in it as I did,” Patel said.
Within two hours of sharing his clip, his video went viral. "My feed was stuck, my notifications on social media stopped functioning, I just could not follow all the incoming traffic," he said.
By then, his patient project had taken the internet by storm. In the days that followed, magazines, media groups, and research institutions around the world caught wind of the footage. Not only did his work inspire others to appreciate the natural beauty that Patel himself had seen, but it also inspired international interest in his videos for scientific research and crowd movement studies.
Although overwhelmed by all the attention he received, Patel still took the opportunity to share his story, in hopes to "inspire others to explore and open up for long-term projects in a world that is addicted to everything instant."