New East Digital Archive

Georgia by drone: take one last spectacular flight over these Caucasian landmarks

From today, drone photography is forbidden in Georgia — savour these shots while you can

31 August 2017
Text and image: Amos Chapple

When they first buzzed onto the market in 2013, camera drones transformed the photography world by enabling cheap and (relatively) safe aerial imagery. But as security and privacy fears mounted, new laws began limiting their use. Georgia was one of the last countries with relatively open skies. But on 1 September, it too will impose tight restrictions on drones.

After hearing the news, Amos Chapple, one of the early pioneers of drone photography, headed to Georgia with a high-end quadcopter to make one last aerial record of Georgia’s mountains, lowlands, and cities before the new rules come into force. Below is a selection of his work in the country, originally produced for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

Gergeti Trinity Church (bottom left) as the morning sun creeps down the flanks of the 5,033-metre Mount Kazbegi (Mkinvartsveri), the highest peak in eastern Georgia.

Morning mist drifts over a small church near Ukhati along the north-south Georgian Military Highway.

Sheep stream into the morning sunlight after being released from their corral near Omalo in the Tusheti region. Livestock are returned to captivity every evening as protection against wolves.

The remains of the fortified village of Mutso, situated atop a razor-sharp ridge near the border with Chechnya.

Clouds flow around a tiny church in the vicinity of Gulebi, a town in the southwestern Ajara Autonomous Republic.

A stone watchtower in the Caucasus Mountains overlooks the Datvisjvari Pass near the northeastern village of Shatili.

Crypts on a clifftop a kilometre from the border with Chechnya. When plagues swept through the region, infected villagers were banished to these stone buildings to await death. Inside, the remains of apparent plague victims can still be seen today.

The Tserovani refugee camp, near the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Georgians displaced during the 2008 war with Russia now live in the camp, with most surviving off government handouts.

A young brave boy leaps from the wall of the Samtsvera waterfall, located near Zestafoni, on a 38C day.

A stork perched atop the ancient Baraleti church, near Tsikhisjvari.

The Katskhi Pillar, where an elderly Georgian monk has lived for the past 24 years in order to be “closer to God”. The monk has his food winched up by volunteers from the monastery below.

Uplistsikhe, an abandoned rock-hewn town in the central Kartli region that was of one of the earliest settlements in Georgia.

Shepherds drive their herd down a quiet country lane in the vicinity of Gori.

The coastal town of Batumi silhouetted in the setting sun.

Turning away from the port, neon and nightclubs, this picture shows the quiet hills around Batumi’s Convent Of The Holy Trinity.

Near Tbilisi, the Chronicles Of Georgia monument. The little-known (by tourists at least) landmark is the work of Zurab Tsereteli, the same artist behind the divisive Peter the Great statue in central Moscow.

A valley in the hardscrabble town of Chiatura, where manganese is mined. This factory processes the rare mineral and makes it ready for transport to steel-working operations in Georgia and abroad. The town’s dizzying geography inspired Soviet engineers to install a network of “rope roads” [cable cars] to transport workers up to their mines.

A version of this article first appeared on Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty — on the front lines in the fight for media freedom.

Text and image: Amos Chapple for RFE/RL

For more information on travelling in Georgia, check out the Tbilisi edition of our New East Travel Guide app.