Technology

From Above: Bird’s-Eye View Photography

The drone's owners tell about their first launch of machine in the sky, why and what do they photograph and discuss the future of air photography

At the end of July 2014 company Airdog wrapped up their Airdog завершила crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for serial manufacturing of a recording “quadcopter”, an autonomous, auto-follow drone equipped with camera and operated by a remote control device.

About the same time a social network called Dronestagram for owners of autonomous drones celebrated its first anniversary. Four of its members from different countries presented their work to Bird In Flight and shared their opinion on the uprising role of drones in photography.

Petr Jan Juračka

Petr Jan Juračka, Czech Republic

My first experience with a drone occurred during my honeymoon. My wife was already asleep as I was preparing the copter for a flight. Battery was connected, all LEDs were blinking properly. I started the motor but something happened to the radio channels, and I was not able to slow it down. The only way to switch it off was by disconnecting the battery. I cut myself so badly that my wife had to take me to the hospital.

In European Union, if you want to use drones commercially you have to officially register yourself and the drone. You also have to obtain insurance coverage. All of the above is very costly and time consuming. So for now I’m shooting for fun.

I don’t have what’s called FPV (First Person View), – goggles that transmit what the camera sees. So I “fly” using my imagination. It’s a similar adventure as shooting pictures on classic film — I can only see results of my photography at home, not in the field.

Presently, camera manufacturers do not take drone users like me into consideration.Therefore flying guys, myself included, use lightweight gear like the mirrorless or compact cameras. I’ve been using various professional DSLRs, but typically for the copters I prefer modern mirrorless cameras, as Nikon 1 or Sony Nex.
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Tarsicio Sañudo Suárez

I was in the process of starting my own business when I found the DJI Phantom device. I decided to buy it to create an aerial video and photo project. My initial experience was unsuccessful, I had a few crashes, but in a couple of weeks I was confident enough to begin making videos using my drone.

Now I am working on my Postandfly project. It is divided in two parts — one offers commercial aerial photo and video using drones. The other – Postandfly Exploring Mexico – is a social media; its content is produced by making videos of Mexico using drones.

In Mexico, using drones for commercial purposes is legal. I haven’t ran into any problems yet, only questioning what I was actually doing. People take particular interest in the technical aspects – specs, capabilities and price.

A drone is not the safest thing in the world, you have to use extreme caution as you can hurt someone if not careful. And you certainly need to know what you’re doing so you don’t loose or damage the equipment.

Today, the possibilities of photo and video are almost infinite. I think the developers will soon make cameras for aerial shooting, and all those who are in the photo and video market will be connected directly or indirectly to the drones.
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Romeo Durscher

Mark Johnson, my colleague, first introduced me to these aerial gadgets. He had used them for his forensic analysis work and often times needed aerial images or video of a certain location to recreate an event or accident on the computer.

The first time I flew a multirotor was actually very fun. Everything was so intuitive and easy. The technology was already so advanced that it did not take too much effort to keep the machine hovering. I even put on some FPV (First Person View) goggles and flew the whole way, including taking off and landing. I was able to see what the camera saw and it made the flight much easier.

In the United States the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) is claiming that you are only allowed to fly multirotors if you are a hobbyist. However, there is no policy in place at this time.
Some of our work has been used for commercial purposes in Europe and Mexico. It’s nice to see your image on a greeting card.
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Almost two years ago any bird’s-eye view shot automatically became a favorite of the audience. Back then it was so new to get an image of your house or your friends at the park. Over time you have to get more creative in getting a good shot. One or two years ago, you had much less flight time to get your shot as the battery performance was not as advanced. You had to think about the images you wanted to get and then fly swiftly. Now you have at least 20 minutes to get what you want.

We are very responsible when it comes to flying and avoid people and property. We have not had any issues but have had local police officers, park rangers and other uniformed persons approach us to learn about this technology.

For a century we had gotten used to the eye-level camera view and vacation picture. Now we can actually get an overhead shot, even if it’s only 10 or even 50 meters above us. It changes the way we see and experience places. I truly believe that vacation and travel photography will never be the same.
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Valentin Valcu

I am a freelance photographer, designer and an avid technology enthusiast. One day I saw a video made by a drone, and realized that I had finally found the missing link between the craft of photography and the passion for technology and gadgets.

My first drone was a DJI Phantom 1 equipped with a GoPro HERO3 Black Edition. Phantom is a docile and intelligent drone that has been with me for over a year with zero incidents throughout more than fifteen hundred flights.

It started as a hobby, which turned into an obsession. Daily, I used to venture out to photograph Timisoara – the city I live in. The first pictures that I posted on Facebook gathered more than a thousand followers within two weeks. I was contacted with offers to take photos or videos by drone for money. I’ve been selling photos and images on the stock sites like depositphotos.com. It’s flattering that the pictures and videos taken with my drone are in demand. However, drones remain a passion for me, not a business. I do not work on the professional level, but what I do still consumes a lot of my time and money.

Drones bring a new dimension to photography. A new perspective for photographers, inaccessible and even unimaginable before, is now a reality. At the moment we are witnessing an explosion in this field, and it’s hard to say how things will evolve. I think we’ve entered the age when we can say: “If a camera doesn’t fly, it’s outdated”. This even became my motto.
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