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Aerial Photogrpahy

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 Steff 07 Sep 2020

Okay, maybe a stupid question, but here it goes: I recently (just before covid) had the opportunity to take photos from a helicopter above Miami, which is an experience that I really enjoyed but for obvious cost reasons, is not something I will be able to do on a regular basis. So, I am looking at cheaper (and more flexible) alternatives.

Are the current reasonably affordable consumer drones, such as the Mavic Air 2, good enough for aerial photography? There seems to be an awful lot of information on video use, but what about still photography? 

I suppose, I should not expect full-frame quality, but what about things like manually dealing with exposure compensation? 

Also, how about dealing with composition and framing? I expect this to be quite challenging whilst piloting these things. 

Any advice or recommendations? 

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 tjdodd 07 Sep 2020
 Steff 08 Sep 2020
In reply to tjdodd:

Thanks for this!

Just giving it a bump to see if anyone has answers to the more general questions. 

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 Sans-Plan 08 Sep 2020
In reply to Steff:

I use my Mavic Air quite a bit for photos, framing is really simple, you don’t actually need “fly” a DJI drone, let go of the controls and it just hovers so is easy to get into position for a shot and with the gimbal control makes it easier again

You have a reasonable about of manual control over exposure and white balance etc, ND filters are useful

Post edited at 19:28
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In reply to Steff:

Lots of landscape photographers use drones for youtube vlogs and some take stills with them. Thomas Heaton uses the Mavic Air 2 and right at the end of this video shows a great still from it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q38EQ-gj8JI&.

This youtube video is all about using drones https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57O79Tfo2m8& and some of his pictures are spectacular.

Post edited at 19:52
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 Steff 09 Sep 2020
In reply to Steff:

Thanks guys! These answers have been helpful!

One downside I have just discovered is my location: I happen to live in one of the most restricted areas in my country (Spain) for flying drones, so some of the landscapes I was looking at for aerial photography are out of bounds. 

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 henwardian 09 Sep 2020
In reply to Steff:

> One downside I have just discovered is my location: I happen to live in one of the most restricted areas in my country (Spain) for flying drones, so some of the landscapes I was looking at for aerial photography are out of bounds. 

The reality of drone laws is that almost nobody is actually obeying all of them in the UK and that most people with drones don't even know what the rules are. My personal take on all this is that the best course of action is to make sure you are away from other people when you are using your drone and that you are not flying in an approach to an airport, but other than that, not to feel too constrained. I don't know what the reality looks like in Spain though.

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 Steff 09 Sep 2020
In reply to henwardian:

Well, I looked at the official map of no-fly zones, and almost all the popular places near me where I frequently see people with drones are out of bounds, so pretty sure people don't observe the rules.

I am going over to Menorca in a couple of weeks' time and have seen the whole of the island is basically off-limit. Yet, Youtube is full of drone footage of Menorca.

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In reply to henwardian:

> The reality of drone laws is that almost nobody is actually obeying all of them in the UK and that most people with drones don't even know what the rules are. My personal take on all this is that the best course of action is to make sure you are away from other people when you are using your drone and that you are not flying in an approach to an airport, but other than that, not to feel too constrained. I don't know what the reality looks like in Spain though.

My query to the BMC about how they managed to get permission to fly a drone over Stanage Plantation for a recent marketing campaign despite it being explicitly banned by the PDNP, being an SSSI (also explicitly banned) and also during the Ouzel nesting season (just generally bad form) went mysteriously unanswered...

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 henwardian 09 Sep 2020
In reply to Steff:

> Well, I looked at the official map of no-fly zones, and almost all the popular places near me where I frequently see people with drones are out of bounds, so pretty sure people don't observe the rules.

That doesn't surprise me. In my experience Spain is somewhere similar to France, stricter than Italy and laxer than the UK when it comes the scale of obeying laws and rules on a general societal/cultural level.

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 Steff 10 Sep 2020
In reply to henwardian:

That could be because some rules here are extremely stupid and extremely hard to understand. I am looking at all these drone regulations and no-fly zone maps and it's full of grey areas and unclear instructions. 

I have noticed the same in other parts of life here. Impossible to make sense of some things.

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 jezb1 10 Sep 2020
In reply to Steff:

I have a Mavic air, it was a generous gift, I’d have stumped up a bit more for the Air 2 though, worth it I think.

As someone else said, they’re dead easy to fly and frame for stills, bit of practice needed to fly and record well though.

The Air shoots in RAW but don’t expect the same quality as a “proper” camera, still very good though, and the alternative perspective they bring makes up for it in my mind.

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In reply to Steff:

> That could be because some rules here are extremely stupid and extremely hard to understand.

The whole training infrastructure around flying drones is dominated by ex-RAF fliers. They have done a good job of instilling the safety standards used in normal aircraft flying into drone flying. They call drone fliers 'airmen' and have absolutely rigid safety procedures. The justification for this is the relatively impeccable accident record of the air industry and it is difficult to argue with that.

However, ... when you are talking about a Mavic Air or Pro then it is difficult to appreciate the way they treat it the same as a 747. In all my drone flying I have never been anywhere near reaching the danger-to-the-public level that I did in driving to the course for three days (and I just drove normally).

Having said that, I fully appreciate the need for tight rules and procedures with regard to drones. There are some things that are weird but being made aware of the responsibility you should have when putting a flying object into the air is no bad thing. I certainly am a much more contentious and careful flyer after going on a course. It didn't teach me a thing about how to fly the drone though.

Alan

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 BuzyG 10 Sep 2020
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Important to remember that a minor accident in a ground vehicle, will likely have minor consequences.  Any accident involving a manned aircraft is likely to have serious consequences.

I recall as a dumb teenager flying my Powel stunt kite on the school grounds, whilst a pilot was crop spraying the surrounding fields.  Fortunately he spotted my kite and all was well.  It could have ended differently.  This is one reason why the regulations are and must be so stringent.

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 Steff 10 Sep 2020
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> Having said that, I fully appreciate the need for tight rules and procedures with regard to drones. 

Oh yes, I fully agree that rules are necessary. It's just very hard to make sense of some of them here (again, probably better organized in the UK). Like different "official" maps showing different no-fly zones. And web links on government sites for registration that lead to pages not found. It seems a nightmare to comply, which is putting me off slightly.

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 PaulTanton 11 Sep 2020
In reply to Steff:

please don’t fly drones in climbing arrears. They are very irritating.

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 Steff 11 Sep 2020
In reply to Steff:

So, given all the uncertainty about how much I will actually use it, I decided to first get something cheap and see how I get on. So I went and bought a Mavic Mini yesterday (combo) and went to try it out on a beach at sunrise today.

Mixed result:

Camera: I didn't expect much in terms of quality and was worried about the lack of RAW support. But the jpeg's come out surprisingly well and underexposing them a bit leaves some wiggle room in Lightroom. Better than a GoPro and probably similar to an iPhone 11. So quite pleased with the photo quality for the price. 

Flying: So it turns out it's quite easy to fly the thing, but it loses connection to the controller fairly easily. Range seems to be about 70-80 meters (250-300 feet?), I was expecting a bit more. Another worrying thing is that above the water it suddenly stopped hovering twice and started a slow descent. This is a bit worrying. Maybe it was due to some low light and reflections of the rising sun on the water. 

Logistics: Quite a bit more compared to my usual photography excursions. First I needed to drive 45 minutes to escape a no-fly zone, then I needed to find a spot to be on my own (I didn't think it would be a good idea to fly above the early morning fishermen). Then there is all this plugging in batteries, unfolding and connecting of stuff,  synching up things, and changing batteries. I am quite a photographic minimalist, opting for lightweight gear (one camera, max 2 lenses, ideally no tripod) for simplicity, so the drone stuff might get annoying in that sense.

Anyway, thanks for all the help on here! I suppose I will either get bored of it or invest in an upgrade at some stage.

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 Sans-Plan 11 Sep 2020
In reply to PaulTanton:

> please don’t fly drones in climbing arrears. They are very irritating.

No more irritating than people, traffic, aircraft, helicopters, etc. etc.

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 PaulTanton 11 Sep 2020
In reply to Sans-Plan:

I agree but drones are the latest gadget that people want.  When people are irritating I move away from them, cars, don’t climb near the road. Aircraft usually just fly past.

a drone hovering around watching you climb is a pain in the arse.  We go into the hills for a bit of solitude. 

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 Sans-Plan 11 Sep 2020
In reply to PaulTanton:

I have a drone, I never put it up near anybody as I don't want them in my shot and I also realise some people have an issue with them

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 PaulTanton 11 Sep 2020
In reply to Sans-Plan:

Glad to hear it. Or not as the case maybe 

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