Home News Local News Mike Lanfor is building a new industry in Roswell

Mike Lanfor is building a new industry in Roswell

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Submitted Photo A few thousand feet above the Earth, camera strapped to his helmet, preparing to pull the ripcord, Mike Lanfor combined his two passions, aviation and photography. Lanfor returned to Roswell five years ago and is helping to build the drone industry in this area.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

It’d be easy to think that Mike Lanfor steps first and looks later. But if you pay close attention, you’ll see that he’s been observing all along, ready to take the next step, whatever it may be.

Though his family has been in Roswell for generations now, he’s a recent transplant.
“I’ve been back in Roswell for the last five years,” Lanfor said. “My family has been here, on my dad’s side for four generations now. I lived here when I was real young, in the ’60s, then my folks split up and I came here for visits for many years. Then I was gone for about 30 years.”
It was family that drew him back.
“I came back because of my grandma,” he said. “I was moving roots. The kids were grown. I had done a photography stop in the Grand Canyon. I was out there by myself for 30 days shooting time-lapse photography. Then I stopped to visit friends in Arizona and then I came here to visit my grandma.
“I stayed with my dad for a couple of months. I had no real plans. One day I was driving through town and I saw a cute little house. I asked my grandma how she’d feel if I stuck around for awhile, and she got real excited. I bought the house and settled in. We spent as much time with her as we could. She passed away in December at almost 90.”
Lanfor had rooted himself solidly in Roswell by then.
“Once I’d bought the house, I’ve had no reason to leave. I’ve put down roots and am trying to learn as much as I can about the community.”
He has his own business, Airplay Media and Adventure Services.
“We repurposed a business,” Lanfor said. “I run an aerial media business. I’m helping to grow a new business, which is both fun and scary. We’re not just growing a new business, we’re growing a new industry. We don’t get paid for growing the industry.”
After a military career, Lanfor continued pursuing his passions, and a career evolved.
“I’m retired Army,” he said. “I retired in 2001, just right when 911 happened. My first few years as a civilian I was a skydiving instructor. I worked full time as a videographer and skydiver. That became a business of adventure photography. I’ve photographed many parts of the world.
“I was the photographer who said he’d never go digital. I never thought digital photography would go the way it went.”
In Roswell, he took his career to new heights.
“The business I started when I moved here was an evolution of that business, with new technology,” Lanfor said. “I started using drones. I am the first licensed, certified commercial pilot for drones in the state of New Mexico. I’m a licensed pilot so getting the certification was actually fairly easy.”
Working with drones has expanded his potential.
“The view I get from drone photography has expanded my eye,” Lanfor said. “With the drones I get a wide view of things that few people ever get to see. As a licensed pilot and a photographer I’ve spent most of my life looking at the world in a way that most people don’t see it, so I know the value of that. What was unique with the drones is that I was able to sustain a view for a period of time by just hovering in place so I could study it and understand it better.”
Photography in Roswell with it’s unusually large skyline and long view presents its own opportunities and challenges.
“The broad open sky here makes my work complicated in some regards,” Lanfor said. “I’m used to shooting complex images; images that are in the foreground but take advantage of what’s in the background. I’ve had the privilege of living in some places in the world where you get some creative weather, or you have some creative scenery in the background such as mountains.
“Everywhere in the world has its own unique light. All photography is, is painting with light. One unique thing about the open sky is when storms come in, you can see the whole storm cell.”
He has a formula for increasing his potential as a photographer.
“When I would see something that struck me as beautiful,” Lanfor said, “I would ask myself ‘Why do I find that beautiful? What is it about that that appeals to me?’ Once I figured that out I would start looking for the same qualities in other places. Then I discover new things.”
Lanfor sees great potential for Roswell.
“There’s not a lot to do in the area if you’re an adventurous person,” he said. “We need to educate and train people on proper safety in using drones. I don’t know of anyone who’s teaching that yet. We hope to become a part of that. I’d like to teach kids about drones, to get them excited about the future of aviation.”
Lanfor is excited about Roswell’s potential.
“We have one of the most amazing air fields in the country,” he said. “There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t be building on aviation. I know that’s part of the city’s focus right now. The Economic Development Center is putting together a board, a panel to try to build our commercial presence out there. Drones will be a part of that.”
He sees himself as part of a bright future for the area.
“If we can help grow the younger people and the industry in this town, with this new technology,” Lanfor said. “That will help me feel more a part of this town.”
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.