8 Ways to Perfect Your Aerial Drone Photography Skills

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Below are 8 easy ways to perfect your aerial drone photography skills, and to get the very best and most our of your aerial photography drone. As with everything else in life, always keep in mind that practice makes perfect.

1. Before Heading Up High in the Sky

A few precautions should be taken before sending you aerial photography drone high up in the sky.  (1) Get well accustomed with local laws and regulations regarding hobby drones. Only fly your drone in an area if you’ve become well acquainted with applicable drone laws and regulations, and are sure that its safe to fly. (2) Make sure to always calibrate your drone whenever you change locations. (3) check your drone’s compass sensor index after calibrating, and make sure that the sensor index is between 1400 and 1600. If the  number is higher, this may indicate signal disturbances that can cause in-flight connection problems. (4) Always test your drone at ground level before flying it higher in the sky. Watch our for any abnormalities in flight and control before sending it any higher. (5) Watch out for wild life.

2. Use Longer Shutter Speeds Over ISO Setting

The higher your ISO, the more grain and noise will appear in your aerial drone captures. In broad day light, there is sufficient light available to leave the ISO setting at a minimum. In low-light environments, using a longer shutter speed should be preferred over increasing the ISO. With this in mind, you’ll want to find the perfect, balanced setting for each environment.

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3. Shoot in RAW format

As with normal photography, capturing aerial drone images in RAW format allows you to later bring appropriate corrections to things such as colors and exposure. If you end up capturing that one stunning photograph with your drone, you’ll certainly be glad to be able to have access to post-processing options made available through apps like Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop.

4. Make Good use of Bracketing 

For anyone unaccustomed with the term, ‘bracketing’ refers to the ability to simultaneously shoot to or more photos using different camera settings. Bracketing will ensure you always have that one photo with the best camera settings relative to your subject and its environment. If you’ve also been shooting in RAW format, you’ll be able to apply post-processing options to the best image.

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5. Start from Auto Mode then Switch and Adjust from Manual Mode

The granular control offered through manual mode (M), as opposed to automatic (P) mode, is just another way for you to express you artistic creativity in aerial drone photography. However, doing so can be tricky, especially if you’re a beginner. A good way to learn is to first start in auto mode, to see what settings are suggested relative to a specific subject and its environment. With those settings in mind, you can then switch to manual mode, and making any adjustments according to your own artistic viewpoint.

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6. Low-light Conditions and In-Flight Vibrations

Unique to the art of aerial drone photography is the fact that the device used to take the photos is often high up in the sky, where it becomes vulnerable to vibration and shaking caused by higher altitude winds. This is particularly problematic when shooting in low-light environments, such as night time. To reduce vibrations and shaking in your aerial drone photos, a shutter speed that does not exceed 3 seconds is recommended.

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7. Neutral Density and Polarizing Filters

In well-lit environments, such as in broad daylight, use neutral density filters (‘ND’) as a creative, artistic tool for your aerial drone photography. Using a ND filters the light coming to the drone’s camera, and achieves a result that is similar to shooting with a slow shutter speed of say, 1/50 of a second. The result is a darker image in broad day light settings, which can lead to overall better looking images.

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8. Use Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are excellent tools to help you achieve you creative and artistic vision. Use them to your advantage.

 

DJI’s Ronin 2

DJI’s released the Ronin 2, which it describes as a more powerful, versatile, and intelligent stabilizer for film and video professionals. According to DJI, the all new Ronin 2 offers, among many other things, more power and torque to carry larger cameras. It incorporates more intelligent features, and is more versatile in terms of its ability to be used and adapted to different situations, from a large scale studio photoshoot, to a tightly focused documentary. DJI essentially brought the Ronin back to the drawing board, to come up with an overall better high performance product. The main features of the DJI Ronin 2 are included immediately below.

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Platform

  • High torque encoded motors for larger payloads (without sacrificing speed)
  • Film at speeds of up to 75 mph w/ 30 pound payload; strong wind resistance; all while delivering 0.02 degrees of sub-pixel level precision
  • Improved gimbal assistant App for intuitive control
  • Integrated locks on all three axis provides easier balancing, tuning, transportation
  • New integrated adjustment knobs allow quick fine tuning adjustments
  • Dual batteries that can easily be replaced without interruption;
  • 50mm extendable arms allow full customization; carry larger cameras and lenses, from DSLR to cinematic cameras and lenses
  • Full carbon fibre built

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Mounts and Movements

  • Cross-compatibility with quick release mount (e.g. can easily be mounted/dismounted to and from vehicles, drones, cable cams, or hand mounted)
  • Hand held 2.4/5.8 GHz remote control designed for wireless control of gimbal with minimum interference with an operating range of up to 1.5 km
  • New 2 Axis operation mode with locks allow unique mobility and camera control
  • Easy detachable hand grip and foldaway feet
  • Easy handheld and jib configuration

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Set Up and User Friendliness

  • Refined setup and balancing time
  • Axis locking levers and fine tuning knobs for fast and precise balancing
  • Auto Tune stability feature for intelligent adjustment of motor parameters
  • Integrated touch screen with 1,000 nits of brightness for on-the-fly gimbal and RED camera configuration

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Frame

  • Carbon fibre monocoque style frame with new fold-away feet
  • Splash-proof motor design with internally routed power, SDI, and data cabling
  • Integrated power and data ports
  • Four 14.4 volt ports near camera cage; two 12.6 volt ports near pan motor; one P-Tap 12.6 volt outlet on battery mount

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Intelligent Features

  • New Time lapse mode for programming of multiple movements and camera actions
  • Enhanced SmoothTrack system provides stable images while on the move
  • New GPS module allowing for better performance in high speed shooting
  • New CamAnchor for quick recording of preferred gimbal orientation
  • Gimbal assistant mobile app with easy, user-friendly interface
  • New Panorama mode for still image panoramas
  • New studio-oriented functions

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Price & Availability

DJI has yet to announce a price for its new Ronin 2. The Ronin to will be available during the second quarter of 2017 from DJI, DJI Flagship stores, DJI Authorized Retail Stores, and DJI Resellers worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DJI’s Long Awaited Product Release: Disappointment, Satisfaction, or Both?

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The Current Climate in the Consumer Hobby Drone Industry – Less than a month ago, Skynex Racing released a brief post about DJI’s undisclosed product that was set to be released today, May 24, 2017. The release came just a few weeks from the International Drone Racing Association‘s upcoming June 2-4 Dover drone racing series being held in parallel with NASCAR, and less than a month from the Drone Racing League‘s season 2. Owing to the success of these drone racing leagues, several other big, small, amateur, and professional drone racing leagues have sprung up,  notably the DR1 Micro Drone Racing Series. Aside from all the hype going on in the consumer hobby drone racing sector, as consumers are increasingly turning to portable gadgets, pocket selfie drones have also been growing in popularity.

In light of the above climate in the consumer drone industry, and left with little to no other clue than what appeared on DJI’s ad for the secret product release (above), some consumer hobby drone industry experts affirmed that “seize the moment” referred to a fleeting moment, and related to something fast, but without necessarily referring to speed. Some expert consumer drone commentators guessed a Phantom 5, a selfie drone, the spark drone. For our part, relying on the flashy swirling lines against the pitch black background of DJI’s ad for the new product release, we had guessed that perhaps DJI would make its first real attempt to pierce into the consumer hobby drone racing sector. In the end, many were wrong about what DJI was cooking for its fans.

The new product released today, May 24, 2017, in New York City at 11:00 am, was the Ronin 2, described by DJI as “a more powerful, versatile and Intelligent Stabilizer For Film And Video Professionals”. Does this new product release by DJI offer satisfaction, or disappointment? The answer is of course both. DJI’s most important presence and following is in the aerial drone photography and filming sector. In that sense, the Ronin 2 will definitely come as great satisfaction for its existing customers looking for the latest in DJI drone technology. On the other hand, aside from perhaps its Snail Propulsion System, DJI has made very little to no contributions towards one of the largest growing sectors in consumer hobby drones that is, first-person-view (‘FPV’) drone racing. Given the quality of the products it offers to its photography and filming drone enthusiasts, DJI has left a large section of drone enthusiast underserved, envious, jealous, and disappointed.

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The Key to Exploiting All that is Best from Aerial Drone Photography

0004283_ottawa-hot-air-balloon-rideLooking back at the origins of aerial photography, and comparing the means that were used back then with today’s modern consumer hobby drones, it’s apparent that the full creative potential of consumer hobby drones as it relates to aerial photography depends on the photographer’s ability to exploit the unique and inherent characteristics and features of a drone. This includes the ability to capture subjects and sceneries that test a drones maneuverability, agility, precision, and responsiveness, from angles that aren’t available from the ground or high-up in the sky, and under circumstances that would otherwise pose a risk, danger, or hazard. Worded differently, aerial drone photography, properly said, is at its best when it can’t be replicated through any other means, such as airplane, satellite, helicopter, kite, hot-air balloons, etc.

From Paris to Boston to San Francisco: a Brief History of Aerial Photography

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The very first aerial photographs are credited to a French photographer named Gaspard-Felix Tournachon (a.k.a. Nadar) who in 1858, undertook the risk of capturing Paris from a shaky tethered balloon at an altitude of 1,600. Two years later, the trend caught on in other parts of the world; aerial photography was born in the United States when James Wallace Black took photographs of Boston, once more from a hot-air balloon. Some 20 to 30 years later, photographers began re-envisioning the means employed for aerial photography.  Near the end of the 19th century, Arthur Batut daringly took aerial photos of Southern France from a kite, a method of aerial photography that was replicated by George L. Lawrence in 1906 when he took photos of the damages caused by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Perhaps more interestingly, aerial photography became the thing of Pigeons carrying miniature cameras with automated timing mechanisms, a method that was rapidly employed by the French military during World War I, then after by the C.I.A. following World War II.

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The Question

Aerial photography was said to be born from a hot-air balloon, then by kites, the by carrier pigeons and other similar creative and innovative contraption. At the heart of a better understand of the role of modern consumer hobby drones in the history of aerial photography, or what is expected from modern consumer hobby drones within the historical context of aerial photography, is how are drones different from hot-air balloons, kites, pigeons, and other means or methods used for aerial photography. The differences between these means or methods and drones emphasize what should be reflected in good aerial drone photography.  In other words, aerial drone photography shines when it brings perspectives that cannot be reproduced by any other means. For instance, with perhaps the exception of air zone restrictions, one could imagine that the below photo, while stunningly beautiful, could be reproduced by helicopter or aircraft. The key question to ask is, can you droner capture be replicated by other means of aerial photography, such as by satellite, helicopter, airplane, kite, etc. How are drones different from these means, or methods of aerial photography?

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While stunningly beautiful, one could imagine how the unique characteristics of a drone are not required to capture this type of angle and perspective. Worded differently, this photo could most likely be captured using other means, for instance, a helicopter.

Main Differences

Accessibility, Plurality, and Diversity – Leaving aside C.I.A. type intelligence gathering aerial photography drones, a first obvious and important difference between consumer hobby drones and other methods of aerial photography are that aerial photography drones are much more accessible that  a hot-air balloon, kite, carrier pigeons, helicopters, satellites, airplanes, and the likes. Consumer hobby drones are not constrained to the professional, specialist photographer looking to bring a fresh new perspective to her/his artistic work, as may have been the case with Tournachon, Batut, and Lawrence. With the above in mind, leaving aside advancements in digital photography and storage devices, aerial photography drones have in that sense enabled or facilitated the release of a massive explosion of creativity, plurality, and diversity of individual perspectives. Dronestagram is a testimony of this fact.

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This drone capture, taken in the Philippines from an altitude only accessible by drone, exemplifies the creativity and diversity in the masses often present in aerial drone photography.

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This drone capture entitled “where’s Wally”, was also captured at an altitude only accessible by drones, and exemplifies a culture of the masses. 

Positioning and Risk – Another visible difference is that whereas hot-air balloons, kites, helicopters, airplanes, etc. are piloted from within and above ground, drones are piloted from a first-person-view (‘FPV’) that is outside of the drone, and from the ground up. That is to say, unlike kites and hot-air balloons and the likes, the person pressing the shutter button on the camera is not physically in the air; the photographer remains on the ground. As with carrier pigeons used for dangerous military and intelligence gathering missions, photographers are therefore completely distanced, or removed from any physical risk associated with being in the air. Psychologically, the photographer is freed from the fear or risk of any physical harm. This arguably provides more room and freedom for creativity in aerial photography. The result of risk, uniqueness, and captivation are often the result of aerial drone photography. A photo on top of the Golden Gate Bridge is a example of such a daring risk in aerial photography.

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This drone capture was taken from an angle, perspective, and altitude only accessible by drone. The risk or danger of taking this photo by any other means of aerial photography would be too great. 

Size and Maneuverability – Leaving aside modern C.I.A. type intelligence gathering aerial photography drones, drones with aerial capabilities are much smaller, let alone more discrete than hot air balloons, kites, and the likes. Drones are also much more manoeuvrable, agile, and responsive to commands. This includes being able to change very rapidly from a low, near-ground hovering altitude, to a a high, above-cloud altitude. Aerial drone photography therefore offers a highly dynamic and timely method of capturing unique moments of subjects or sceneries, from unique and creative angles. One could image how the below capture of an Eagle, for instance, would not have been possible without the quick responsive maneuverability offered by a small aerial photography drone.

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Final Remarks 

Aerial drone photography is at its best when the captures call upon the unique features and characteristics of consumer hobby drones, which offer unique angles of subjects and sceneries not otherwise accessible by any other aerial photography means. If your drone capture cannot be replicated using other means of aerial photography, such as by airplane, helicopter, satellite, kite, and the likes, then you’re exploiting the full creative potential of the new and modern art of aerial drone photography.

Aerial Photo Drones: Invaluable Aids for Environmental Monitoring of Cultural Heritage Sites

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Aerial Capture of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

“It’s basically a flying laptop with auto-pilot capabilities”  – Andrew Denzin 

 

A group of Indigenous rangers in Queensland, Austria, the Yuku Baja Muliku Rangers, are showing the world how aerial photography drones can be applied and used as cost-effective environmental monitoring machines. Work that was traditionally done using helicopters at an hourly rental rate of up to $2,000 can now be just as effectively completed using, for instance, marine drones at the same price, or lower. The group of Indigenous Rangers, which were trained by Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority (“GBRMPA”) drone pilot Andrew Denzin, are using aerial photography drones to discover unexplored lands, which they hope will also help map parts of the Australian territory in great detail.  Their aerial photography drones are being deployed from Archer Point site, an area used by several endangered species of turtles as a “marine highway” to Raine Island, one of the largest turtle nesting sites in the world. In addition to being an invaluable aid to monitoring cultural heritage sites such as Archer Point, aerial photography drones are also being used by the ranger to support the monitoring of marine debris, seagrass beds, coral reef, beach erosion, mangroves, as well as turtle and dugong activity and seabird populations.