A drone is a purchase I’ve been dancing around for the better part of a year now, and in November, I decided to take the plunge.
My interest in drones is twofold. First, as a photographer I crave new vantage points and new ways to capture the images in my head. From my perspective, drones are about the most unusual thing to happen to the way a photographer creates an image. As an artist in general, I’m very intrigued by the spacial flexibility a drone brings to photography and filmmaking. And, at a fraction of the cost from my high-school days when I first dreamed of making cool stuff.
I initially chose the DJI Phantom 4, buying it from a Best Buy. After a few flights, I learned that a pro-line model of the Phantom 4 had been released just a week or so earlier. I promptly ordered the upgraded model and returned the old one to Best Buy. The new model had some important features I had previously acquiesced on. It was sporting almost twice the resolution, higher dynamic range, adjustable aperture and five direction obstacle avoidance.
When I got it up in the air for the first time, there were a couple of things that really shocked me.
First, it’s unbelievably easy to fly, and reminiscent of playing a first-person video game. It takes off by itself. It lands by itself. It can automatically track subjects, follow you around, hover in place like a tripod, and with the help of a third party app called Litchi, you can program almost everything you need it to do before it even leaves the ground.
Second, it’s surprisingly easy to crash. Foliage without leaves doesn’t trigger the obstacle avoidance very well. It’s simultaneously very good at stopping a collision when it’s detected, but not good enough that you should ever trust it to. The novelty of flying it around burned hot and bright, but it wasn’t long before I just wanted to be a photographer. Unfortunately, although the Phantom 4 Pro takes a lot of the risk out of flying as a beginner, I’ve still got to put the time in to work on my piloting chops.
Being a drone photographer and hunting for photos, so far, hasn’t been altogether different than being any other kind of photographer hunting for photos. With my SLR, I would wander into my area of interest, attempting to admire or be moved in some way by what I see. When I see it, I capture it. With a drone, I send it up into the sky, do a few fly overs of my area of interest, and then start spending time at various altitudes over areas that cause me some kind of reaction. When I see it, I capture it.
In my first month of flight, I’ve been most compelled by the abstract nature of this new vantage point. The world looks a lot different from up there and with the right light, it almost looks microscopic or alien. Colors pop differently and textures form that are invisible from the trappings of the ground. It’s all very exciting.
Here is the collection of images I’ve created so far. I’m gradually branching out into other kinds of media I can create with this drone. Soon, I will compile a video of some of my favorite flyover clips. In the mean time though, here are some of my favorite drone images I created in November.