While other kids in Huntington Beach, Calif. surfed, Chris Kao was a "camera geek." He liked everything about them: the lenses, the bodies, the lighting gear. He could look at cameras online for hours.
Kao then attended the University of Pennsylvania, studying computers and marketing.
There, he fell into drones and bought his first one off a Penn student in December 2015.
Kao repaired it over Christmas break and learned about Drone Eddie, "a beach bum but in a good way," the 21-year-old Penn student said on Tuesday.
Drone Eddie taught Kao the basics of drone photography, taking shots around sunset or sunrise at the beach and the Huntington Beach pier. Last October, Eddie Paige – Drone Eddie — died of heart attack on a break during a drone shoot near the pier. He was only 60. "I'm glad he died while he was doing something he loved," his wife of 25 years, Jennifer Paige, told the Orange County Register.
Thinking of Drone Eddie, Kao woke up early Sunday morning, before the sun came up, and pedaled his rented Indego bike east on Market Street. His destination: the new Comcast skyscraper under construction. He thought: Wouldn't it be awesome to catch the "golden glow" off the Delaware River while photographing the top of the Comcast tower, just as Drone Eddie taught him at the ocean?
Kao, who will be a senior this fall, parked the bike at a surface parking lot near the new skyscraper and buzzed the building with his drone, staying within federal regulations.
He captured stunning shots. Not only was he thinking of Drone Eddie, he said, but also of how emblematic the new Comcast tower will be for a Philadelphia with more high-tech companies.
After 20 minutes, Kao landed his drone, packed it up and pedaled off. "I didn't want to take too much time or get too much attention," he said.