Wow! That was my first reaction when I opened the NADRA gallery of project pictures submitted by companies all across North America for the annual deck photo contest. I sat in front of my computer with my jaw wide open in complete awe of the crafsmanship and creativity on display. Every company that submitted a photo should be congratulated for their high level of design, quality work and the presentation of their efforts. They are most assuredly the standard bearers of their communities and should all be recognized for their talents. Studying those photos is a great way to get ideas for future projects of our own, afterall, they are some of the best decks built in the U.S. and Canada in 2017.
There was a deck with a full landscape scene that had a moose laid into the decking pattern. Unbelievable. That was very impressive and deservedly won an award. There were a resounding number of curved decks with decking or borders that were obviously heat formed and molded to the deck design. There were decks with curved steps. Most of the composite/PVC style decks featured contrasting accent color borders and inlays that really made the projects “pop” and draw your eye to all the custom details that these craftsmen and women put on display. I take my hat off to each and every one of them. It was actually a bit humbling. It also immediately inspired some new goals.
As I sat and took notes of the different design aspects, two recurring themes stuck out: the presentation of the photos and the perspective from which the photos were taken. Not only were these some of the most amazing looking decks I’ve ever seen, but I was surprised by how many appeared to be shown from an aerial view. As we all know, it’s not a difficult task when building low elevation projects—we climb up our trusty ladders and start snapping away. But when the deck is off an upper level, that becomes a more difficult feat. We find ourselves hanging out windows, climbing up on roofs, up in trees, and a myriad of other less-than-safe options just to get that money shot. After all, we want to put our best foot forward and have our prospective clients feel that same drop-jaw “WOW” when they look at our work.
It was obvious that a good many of these photos were taken with a drone/quad copter and a high quality camera.
In talking to members at the NADRA awards banquet, I found that contractors have been investing in new and better drones. As they have become more prevelent in society, prices for a high quality product have come down substantially. Today’s drones have numerous safety features built into them–they take off and land themselves, have crash detection so you don’t hit the house or trees, and feature outstanding cameras. They operate like a video game and you can watch them in real time on your smart phone or tablet. (Note: you may need to insure your drone and register it with the FAA, so please check your local rules and with your insurance company.)
Another great feature is they can be flown not only during the daylight hours, but also at night and during that highly-sought-after “blue light” period after dusk. If you’ve incorporated lighting into your project (another easy feature that will set you apart from your competitors), dusk is a perfect time for the pics. At dusk you can still get the color of the deck, the lights look fantastic without just looking like dots, and the photos still have a clean, grain-free finish. The drone will allow you to zip around and get photos from every possible angle, close up on specific details or at a distance for a shot of the full project. Use your imagination, be creative, experiment. With the amount of effort put into crafting that dream deck, allow yourself the opportunity to show it off the best way possible.
Again, the resounding theme from the photo contest was the presentation. Every project was staged to perfection. As Deck Specialists, we go to great lengths to set ourselves apart from the competition. We create out-of-the-ordinary designs, curves, railings, board patterns, lighting and even landscaping in our projects to “Set the Standard in Excellence.” We owe it to ourselves, our crews, and our futures to make the same great effort to have our clients say, “I’ve got to have that deck on my house.”