Tacoma is a city of juxtapositions. Those contrasts can be seen in the city’s various shapes and patterns, grit and charm, history and growth, its bustling port and scenic beauty. Tacoma’s differences are highlighted in the aerial pictures taken by drone photographer Aaron Bender, better known by his social media handle of Over Tacoma.

Drone photography is something that’s rapidly gained popularity in recent years. This type of photography covers the spectrum of landscape shots to weddings. Through the combination of flying the drone and taking and editing pictures, this process embraces both art and technology.

Just looking at a few of the images Aaron’s captured can’t help but make any Tacoman’s heart swell with pride. The pictures and videos that range from the majesty of Mount Rainier presiding over the city, to shots of Thea Foss Waterway, tell a story. And through those images, no matter where they’re taken or what time of year, the story remains the same: Tacoma is a beautiful city.

Prior to using the drone, Aaron says he didn’t have a lot of experience with different types of equipment. “I used a point and shoot and smartphone to take pictures before.”

Aerial Narrows Bridge
Drone photos can provide a different perspective like this one of fog clinging to the tops of the trees and a view of the Narrows Bridge. Photo credit: Aaron Bender

But all that changed when he found and purchased his first drone. He originally bought the device because he thought it looked like fun, and quickly got hooked after using it. And going back to that concept of marrying art and technology, he says it’s that combination of getting snapshots and flying that draws him to drone photography.

Aaron uses some editing software on his photos and says the photography and editing aspect has created more of a learning curve than figuring out how to fly the drone. The device has a camera built into it, and is made to stabilize as it flies, resulting in clear images and videos.

“It’s like a flying tripod. It’s an amazing piece of technology,” Aaron explains.

Aerial Lincoln High School Tacoma
An aerial view of Lincoln High School and the surrounding neighborhood. Photo credit: Aaron Bender

He relocated to Tacoma in the fall of 2017 and used the drone as a way to get a lay of the land in his new city. What started out as something he did for fun took off shortly after he started posting his images to social media. One look at his Facebook and Instagram feeds and it’s easy to see why. Not only are the photos and videos of stellar quality, but they also show a captivating and compelling side of Grit City.

Aaron says he’s been amazed by the amount of people who follow his work online. He’s particularly surprised by the number of former Tacoma residents who’ve responded to his photos.

“I call it the Tacoma fan club. People are nostalgic for this city after moving from the area. I’ve lived a lot of places and I’ve never seen anything like that before moving here,” Aaron says of the phenomenon.

Although he enjoys taking pictures, and despite the popularity of his images, Aaron stresses he’s not planning to turn drone photography into a business. The upside of that is, since he’s doing it purely for enjoyment, the images he takes are on his schedule, taken when, where, and of what he wants to shoot.

Over Tacoma Photography
Aaron says his favorite photograph he’s taken in Tacoma features a shot of the colorful dome of First Presbyterian Church with Stadium High School and a boat on Commencement Bay in the background. Photo credit: Aaron Bender

Besides getting beautiful shots of Tacoma neighborhoods, he’s done some photos during events, such as the Hilltop Street Fair, the 2018 Daffodil Parade, and the start of the SEVENTY48 race that goes from Tacoma to Port Townsend.

Since he’s already captured so many breathtaking shots of the city, are there are still pictures he hopes to capture in the future?

“Oh, yeah, number one on my list is getting orcas.” Aaron says capturing a shot of the mammals is something he’s been chasing for a while. Getting those images won’t be the easiest shots he’s ever taken, as it’s a matter of timing and waiting it out for an orca pod to surface.

Another item on the list of shots he hopes to get is capturing the colors of the Point Defiance rose garden in full bloom. Because of restrictions around air space near the park, getting that coveted shot is something he can only capture during the longer daylight hours of summer.

And yet, since his pictures have encompassed all things iconic and beautiful about Tacoma, one has to wonder if he has favorite locations to take pictures or a favorite photo. While he admits he couldn’t choose just one spot in Tacoma as his favorite place to shoot, he does confess to having a favorite picture. It’s an image of Stadium District taken as the sun is setting on the dome of First Presbyterian Church with Stadium High School and a boat on Commencement Bay appears in the background.

To find out more about Aaron’s photography or to buy licensed prints of his work, visit his website or follow Over Tacoma on Facebook and Instagram.