Commercial Drone Photographer in Melbourne
With the advent of affordable high quality drones, it was really only a question of time before I added an aerial camera platform to my equipment arsenal. Prior to purchasing my drone I was keen to learn about the legalities and technical skills necessary to ensure that I was flying safely, and so I earned my remote pilot licence (RePL) through the excellent (and patient!) instruction of Rowan Kimber at Aviassist.
The initial 5 day course enabled me to not only gain confidence with flying a drone, but also gave me a good idea of just how much the drone industry is expanding and evolving across all sectors. Naturally my interest is in photography and video imaging, but I also recently read an article in which some farmers in New Zealand are attaching a speaker to a drone which plays the sound of their working dog barking in order to herd the livestock from the air…and apparently it works! Suitably equipped with licences, radio, insurance and training, it was now time to purchase a drone.
I initially went with the DJI Phantom 2 Pro drone, but have now ended up with the superb DJI Mavic 2 Pro. I have been impressed with the flight characteristics as well as just how portable this little machine is, but ultimately for me it is always going to be all about the image quality. Of course the Mavic cannot match the Canon 5DSR for versatility and resolution, but when I looked into a drone that could carry my DSLR, the steep price and the fact that I would need to have an assistant to help me transport such a bigger drone just made it impractical.
The Mavic 2 Pro is equipped with a Hasselblad camera featuring a 28mm lens and a 20 Mp Sony CMOS sensor with a variable aperture from f2.8 to f11, all housed in a really quite tiny aircraft that is incredibly portable. I know I have already mentioned this, but when I was recently asked to shoot an industrial site from the air only, it felt quite unbelievable turning up on site with only a tiny bag as opposed to the usual mountain of gear that I strap to my back.
Aerial architectural photography in Melbourne
I primarily purchased the Mavic to enable me to offer an extra service to my clients, but of course I have thoroughly enjoyed using it to create some personal images such as those featured below. I have always loved shooting panoramic images, and was really keen to see how the beautiful city of Melbourne would look in an aerial panorama. I also wanted to see just how capable the Mavic was as a flying tripod platform for slightly longer exposures; I wasn’t expecting to be able to shoot 4 seconds and still have pin sharp images as I do when capturing dusk shots on a tripod from the ground, but was hoping for at least 1 second crisp exposures. So far I have found that 1 second exposures are indeed possible on low wind days, but with only about a 20% success rate. As such I capture multiple images of the same scene before panning the drone to get the next portion of my panorama if I am attempting 1 second exposures. My percentage of in focus images rises considerably when capturing at between 0.6 and .8 of a second, but I still shoot multiple versions to be sure. I also never shoot in anything but manual mode, with the ISO set at 100.
To give a idea of the level of detail in the images, I have included below a really rough 1005 crop from the first sunset image in this post, which would be the same as from the image above as they were both shot at exactly the same spot…
One point I do feel compelled to make is that buying a drone does not make the operator a photographer; quite simply the same rules apply in the air as they do on the ground, and a boring badly composed shot is still a boring badly composed shot, whether it be taken from the ground or from 50 metres up in the air. Certainly the drone offers a unique perspective, but it still comes down to the eye of the photographer in seeking out the best angle and the best light to really make the image work. Just because the subject has been captured from the air, does not necessarily mean that it is a good shot, in the same way that converting an uninteresting image to black and white does not magically turn it into ‘art’. As such, I am really enjoying learning to see the world from a new perspective every time I fly, and learning what does and what doesn’t work; for example I know that the panoramic image of St Kilda Marina above will look so much better if I can return at a more suitable hour for the light, preferably sunrise or sunset. I still flew my drone when at the marina, simply because I cannot resist getting into the air, (and every flight offers experience), but I look forward to chasing more interesting light next time.
For safety reasons when flying I always carry an Icom A15 aviation radio; particularly important when in a VFR area such as the St Kilda coastline. I use the Avplan EFB app as well as the desktop version of ‘Can I fly there?’ Safety when flying, as well as ensuring that I was operating legally was the main reason I decided to obtain my RePL licence through Aviassist, and as already mentioned I found them to be superb, giving me the confidence to now offer the aerial photography platform to my commercial / industrial clients.