Challenges of Drone Photography

Top of Mauao looking west, screenshot taken from 360 degree video.

Over the years as a photographer, I’ve always wished I could put the camera just over there, or just up here, but my arms weren’t long enough…until drone photography came along.

The most wonderful thing now for a photographer, is being able to put that camera exactly where you want for the best viewpoint.

Jumping Through Hoops for the Perfect Photo

There is a lot of dexterity needed to get a great photograph from a drone. The number one requirement is learning to fly the drone safely within the CA 101 regulations.

Those regulations are for everyone who flies a drone and must be complied with.

Things like, not flying within an aircraft control zone, not exceeding a height of 120m above ground level and maintaining visual contact with your drone at all times, are some of the many regulations. In which case, as a photographer who is always using a screen to look through the lens of the drone’s camera, I have to have a person whose job it is, to maintain visual contact with the drone at all times when I am working.

Our recent photo shoot for the front cover of this magazine at the top of Mauao had many complexities to manage all at the same time.

First of all, the CA 101 regulations also stipulate that you must have permission to fly a drone, from every single landowner whose airspace you enter.

Therefore, we had to obtain written permission from the Mauao Trust, to not only take the photo for Bay Waka magazine use, but to fly a drone, which under normal circumstances is prohibited on Mauao by default.

Bay Waka was also obliged, for health and safety reasons, to recruit a professional drone photographer for the job, and we thank Dean Flavell, Chair of Mauao Trust for the permission that was granted to us on that day.

Natural Challenges

Secondly, on top of the Mount, before we could even think of taking photos and video, we had to contend with many potential hazards including gusty wind, angry seagulls, circling gliders, a paraglider preparing take-off, and last of all and to our great surprise an unauthorised enthusiastic amateur drone flyer who was very understanding and landed his drone immediately when asked.

Technical Challenges

And while all this is going on within my operating environment for which I have full responsibility, my job as a photographer is to take the perfect photo from the drone for the client.

The challenge of taking the portrait photo for the front cover (because the drone can only take landscape photos) meant that I had to hover the drone in one position and take three photos; one low, one centre and one high by tilting the camera up and down while in the hover.

The other challenge is exposure, because the higher photo is much brighter than the lower photo, so all three photos are shot using the exposure set from the centre photo.

Using Adobe Lightroom on the computer, the three photos are stitched together to make a portrait panorama as you can see on the front cover of this Bay Waka issue 14.

-By Andy Belcher: “I write for this magazine because it challenges me!”