With limited flight time, how do you make the most of your time in the air and take great drone photographs?
This might sound like a fortune cookie note from your local Wok it Up, but in terms of drone flying, I hold this to heart as the time you have to fly your drone can be widely dependant on time available, weather, serviceability of your drone, personal/work commitments and many more factors. The following is a snippet of what I have done and recommend for anyone doing a solo trip or just any trip in general to capture those perfect shots!
You have your drone all packed up, batteries charged, day off and ready to go…I know the feeling, it is a mixture of excitement and nerves but you can’t wait to go and see what you can capture!
I experienced this when I went to Perth in November last year and had to borrow my sisters bright green Suzuki Swift called “Olive”, yes a 6ft 3 guy in a green bug is a sight to see!, but none the less I had my plan and this was it…
Western Australia is huge…HUGE, and as I hadn’t been back to see the folks for almost three years, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to get a a few drone photographs and maybe that elusive whale shot!
My plan was to travel South and head to Esperance starting from Fremantle and stopping off at Busselton, Bunbury, Dunsbourough etc…my planning had to be good and setup was important.
Get a lot of drone photographs
I mentioned this before and its 100% true, get a lot of photographs. You don’t want to get to a spot to only take a couple of shots, before leaving and having a look later, only to find that they were blurry or the angle wasn’t right…hover in the one spot and start hitting that button!
Take four or five and then move the drone higher, lower, left or right and get multiple shots from multiple angles…its a 64Gb micro SD card, it can handle a lot of drone photographs!
Don’t face into the sun
Sounds dumb but its true, just because the object you want might be in direct line of sight to that big ball of fiery gas in the sky, doesn’t mean you have to be Icarus and fly directly into it!
Yaw the drone slightly to the left or right to offset the glare and you will still get that shot…or if you’re in a mountainous area, bring the drone low and use the features for cover, to block the sun.
Better yet, if you are able to grab your hands onto some filters, you can buy them on Ebay for next to nothing..these won’t block out everything, but they help with capturing that perfect drone photograph without sacrificing clarity.
For help with ND filters, read our article on the Polarpro App to see which filters to use in what situation.
Now most drones these days come with the standard one battery or the “Fly more” version. This will give you an additional two batteries allowing you a total of roughly an hour and a half flight time. I on the other hand chose to have five batteries as it allowed me more wiggle room with regards to charging as I go.
My aim was to use one battery for every two places I visited, giving me roughly 15 minutes on target each time. This gave me enough time to takeoff, find my chosen shot (waves, surfers, boats, dolphins, beach sunsets, crashing waves, structures, colour contrasts etc) and then enough time for the flight home. This is the better option if you don’t have a car charger or just on a short hop.
In car charging
As mentioned above, five batteries is good if you don’t plan to charge on the go, but with me and my big trip I chose to charge as I went so that I always had full batteries. That being said, do not attempt to charge a battery directly after flying it, as it will not charge unless cooled down significantly.
This might be different in cooler climates, but in Australia I had to wait a good 30 to 40 minutes under air-con to have it accept charge! Keep this in mind when you are only a short distance between locations…also don’t forget to charge the controller!, remember it charges your phone or tablet and will only last two to three flights!
Sand is not your friend
Sand is good for kids to play in, its good to make sandcastles and dig for treasure, its good to make mud-balls and throwing them at your friends, but it is soul destroying for drones! The camera gimble is the most sensitive so if you’re near the beach or any sand in general, please give your drone a quick brush over after every flight, as the smallest build up can cause the gimble to malfunction or worse, cause damage to the ribbon and that equals game over for you and your drone!
The above might sound pretty obvious, but believe me, they can creep up on you, especially forgetting to charge your controller and your phone in the heat of flying and getting those amazing photographs!
Also I suggest downloading all images onto an iPad with an external SD card reader just in the unlikely event of your phone breaking, or your SD card getting too full. You don’t want to be over a pod of dolphins mimicking a figure 8 and you don’t have any room left!
When I got home, I was well and truly wrecked and slept like a log. The following day over a morning coffee, I looked on my iPad to see hundreds of drone photographs to choose from.
To this day I am still able to look on some and show them on my Instagram, without them being repeats. I had a mate send me a message asking how my three months in Perth was! He was shocked to realise I was there only four weeks, as I was posting nearly everyday with new photographs!
So I can’t stress enough, take a heap of drone photographs! even if you think they are a bit average, you can edit them later! all angles, heights, time of day, video and static! just snap snap snap!
In our busy lives, we don’t get that many opportunities to go out and have a few days to take drone photography. I myself being land locked, find it difficult, and having kids and a full time job makes it that much harder…so when you have that chance, seize it and don’t take it for granted, you will thank me over that morning coffee, trust me!
About the author – Timothy Merchant
My name it Timothy Merchant and I am an amatuer drone photographer. I grew up in Perth, Western Australia (WA) before joining the Army and then settling in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
I have always had a passion for flying and since I can remember, I had always wanted to be a pilot. Throughout my 35 years on this earth, I managed to get my Private Pilots licence but circumstances prevented me from continuing. Needless to say the flying bug has stayed with me, throughout my tours in Afghanistan and Iraq seeing all the jets and helicopters doing their thing, living the dream of all boys and girls out there, to now here in Canberra..it will never leave.
So introduce drones, the amazing technological advancement allowing people like me to satisfy their flying urge, but also given the opportunity to take high quality aerial and drone photographs. It was a win win for me and I always love the feeling of setting it up and taking off that first time.
Please feel free to follow me on Instagram. I take photographs of anything that peaks my interest, mainly ocean views, surfing, ships, boats and anything that has that potential wow factor. Message me if you would like any information on drone flying or setup.
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