Drone flight: A new perspective

 In Photography Tips

Finding a new angle or outlet for your passion can never be a wrong move. Discovering unique ways to add back the inspiration that may have gone missing for one reason or another is essential to progress.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog. There appear to be many restrictions when it comes to flying drones or small, unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) — more on that later. For now I want to share the tremendous amount of pleasure this pastime brings to my life. Whether you are looking to fly professionally, or simply enjoy flying as a hobby, there is much to be gained from this new perspective. The pictures I am sharing with you were taken with the DJI fleet of drones: Phantom Vision 2+, Phantom 3 Professional, Phantom 4, and the Inspire 1.

While visiting The Isle of Islay last summer, I so enjoyed capturing the distilleries from above.

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The first time I took flight I was hooked. I have a penchant for flying, and obtained my private pilots license in 2001. Admittedly an inopportune year for such an endeavor, but the events surrounding 9/11 made me even more determined not to be discouraged. Flying is in my blood. My father received the prestigious award from Queen Elizabeth II, Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for his distinguished, innovative contribution to the aviation industry, and I wanted to make him proud. Six children later, I spend most of my days on the ground, but when I stumbled upon an outlet that gave me the opportunity to fly with my feet firmly planted on the earth, and take images from the sky how could I not be interested?

Taking off and viewing the sea from the perspective of a bird in flight is quite an uplifting experience.

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I have many passions. I basically write and take photographs for a living. Often one can become jaded with work, no matter how ensconced in the end results. The ability to spend time in the fresh air and capture images previously out of my grasp simply gives me a wonderful unexpected gift every time I fly.

Many people love to push their sUAS to the allowable limit. For me it is about the subtle change in perspective. I do not necessarily have to be much higher than the ground to capture something amazing. I would consider myself to be a cautious pilot. I have made my fair share of mistakes, while teaching and flying myself. Each flight is a learning opportunity and I would encourage caution each time you take to the skies.

This is especially true when flying from another moving object!

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How about the challenges? Firstly, I think it tantamount that everyone who purchases a drone should have an educated understanding of the rules of flight. For example, a headwind combined with a limited amount of battery power can alter your ability to fly home.

As you became more interested in photography, you learn how to move from automatic camera settings. Automatic flight settings do not offer you the luxury of not crashing, so education is everything!

Secondly, it is important not to get discouraged. Fly without worrying about the camera, master flight and then concentrate on taking great images. The key is finding a balance between flying sensibly, constantly monitoring your position, and firing the shutter.

It takes a bit of time, but the perseverance pays off. You will be amazed at what you are able to capture. Just as there is that moment when you pull your images into the processing software of choice, and you find that killer image you simply were not expecting, so it goes with this form of aerial photography! I can never be sure of what I have captured, but this keeps me practicing, and going out to try again.

Capturing other flying objects in an iconic setting gives one a very real sense of freedom.

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What about quality? I am not in the business of flying the larger, heavy lift octocopter drones that would allow me to haul my Canon cameras, so I have to accept a certain loss in image quality. I sadly cannot afford to buy the new DJI Zenmuse X5R for my Inspire 1, so I had to learn a new workflow in Lightroom and Photoshop that maintains the quality available to me. This took a little time to perfect, but I am enjoying the results. The cameras are improving with each product iteration and soon, I believe this will not even be an issue.

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I wanted to concentrate on the creative side of drone flight, and for this reason, left the elephant in the room to the last paragraph! I know that many of you have burning questions regarding important issues such as the impending rules and regulations appertaining to flight restrictions.

While there is much frustration surrounding the slow decision making process from the FAA, their site is a great reference point, especially if you are starting out and want to keep abreast of the current situation.

There are also many misconceptions surrounding drones. My friend, and fellow drone pilot (among many other amazing talents,) Faine Greenwood, recently wrote an enlightening article based upon the six biggest misconceptions about drones. The chatter will not stop, but it should not get in the way of the tremendous amount of joy to be gained from taking to the skies with a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS).

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I am very much looking forward to speaking at the Out of Chicago Conference. My friend and mentor, Romeo Durscher from DJI will also be teaching some great classes that are a must if you are considering adding drone photography to your arsenal, or just wanting to explore the possibilities.

Following the conference, I will be off to teach a couple of Maine Media workshops with my friend and colleague, Scott Strimple. If you want to find out more, and maybe consider taking a class, chat with me at Out of Chicago! The line-up for Out of Chicago looks incredible this year and I look forward to meeting many of you at the conference.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Kevin Court
    Reply

    Any insight regarding commercial drone photography? Are new rules going to be made public in June?

    I’d really like to invest in a drone, but from a business stand point it’s hard to justify buying a drone instead of lighting, lenses, etc.

    Thank you for your articles.

    • Abbe Lyle
      Reply

      Kevin,

      The fact that you ask these questions is evidence itself of the significant influence drone technology has in the photographic field. There are no simple answers to many questions at this point. We all hope, and somewhat expect that these issues will be clarified this summer, but for now we are living within the constraints laid out on the FAA site (I provide a link in the blog). I hope you decide to invest in a drone, or at least try it out. Consider it separate from your business purchases and simply enjoy!

  • Mark Johnson
    Reply

    Fantastic article that touches on several areas that are so very important. Thanks for the beautiful essay, Abbe!

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