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Fresh Perspective

One Local Couple Takes their Biz—and Everyday Lives—to New Heights

Article by Pamela McWhorter

Photography by JL Aerial Views

Originally published in Loveland Lifestyle

On a sunny, unusually warm day in mid-February, a flight takes place—launching from a picnic table in the middle of downtown Loveland. Within seconds, the view shifts from a few feet above the ground to treetop level to flying high in the sky. Houses become smaller, streets begin to look like grids on a Google map. Just beyond the streets, the Little Miami river snakes along, framed by the bare limbs of winter woods. From up here, the varying water depths are easy to discern. Is that a big fish or a rock down below? Then … swoop! The view changes again, now beginning to travel up the river. 

That perspective, that flight path … this must be what birds see and experience every day. Ever wondered what it’s like? Lauren and John Connolly can help—providing thrilling sky-high views, all while your feet stay firmly planted on the ground. The Connollys are the founders of JL Aerial Views, a locally based drone photography and videography business serving the Greater Cincy area and beyond. The “ride along” with first-person-view video is just one of many services they offer.

Their business was born from the convergence of the Connollys’ career paths, their personal passions, and, of course, COVID. In the spring of 2020, Lauren found herself furloughed from her longtime job at the Newport Aquarium, where she had been a Dive Safety Officer. About six months later, John retired from the Ohio National Guard. 

Both stuck at home, the couple wondered what was next. Then, as Lauren surfed the web, an idea came into view—she kept seeing listings for drone photography.   

“I thought, this is perfect because I love to take pictures, and he’s really good with maps,” Lauren recalls. 

As they set off to make their entrepreneurial idea a reality, John was able to use a military benefit that covered paying for a drone and printing business cards. The couple also took courses with the Pilot Institute, which preps students to take the Federal Aviation Administration test for drone pilots. Both Lauren and John received their FAA Part 107 Drone Pilot Certification.  

Within a few months, the Connollys were ready to “test their wings” and started seeking customers. On the way back from an early job, they discovered a unique roadside attraction in Versailles, Indiana.

“Did you know? There’s a Stone Henge there, but for a guy named Paul,” Lauren laughs. “We’ve seen some interesting things just traveling around.” 

They’ve filmed “Crabbie,” known as the world’s largest horseshoe crab statue, located near Hillsboro, Ohio, which they stumbled upon on their way to a friend’s house.

“We travel with the drone everywhere—you never know when there’s going to be a good opportunity,” says Lauren.

Since JL Aerial Views took off, the Connollys have filmed real estate properties, businesses, community events, and wedding receptions, including one up the road at Valley Vineyards. Their drone work has even led them to volunteer to help recover a lost dog at night, using thermal imaging. Each project brings fresh perspectives to sometimes familiar surroundings—including revealing neighborhood amenities that are within walking distance to a featured home for sale.

For the Connollys, exploring new ways to see things extends beyond JL Aerial Views. Lauren’s other gig, LC Aqua Art, invites customers and the curious to “follow for an art adventure,” specializing in bright and playful watercolor portraits of pets in unexpected hues—such as blue-and-white retrievers and rainbow-colored lap dogs. She’s also one of the five Sirens of “Siren Soapbox,” a weekly podcast that takes listeners along as they explore beyond their comfort zones and encourage other women to do the same. The Connollys have given motorcycling a spin, taken the stage as stand-up comics, gone ghost hunting at Bobby Mackey’s, interviewed authors, and brought on a stop-motion artist who films “fairy-tales with a modern twist.”

“No matter where you are in your life, you can still explore and make those steps outside your comfort zone,” says John.

As for the talented couple themselves, who first met in high school and became college sweethearts, their adventure surely continues as they move through life and work from whole-new—and ever-changing—perspectives. | | 

No matter where you are in your life, you can still explore and make those steps outside your comfort zone.” 

  • John and Lauren with Crabbie
  • The Sirens on bikes
  • LC Aqua Art Experience

Businesses featured in this article