Off late, drones seem to be the flavor when it comes to getting unique perspectives with your camera. With the physical limitations of a tripod seemingly having reached, it seems the new limit is now the sky when it comes to photography.
Photographers are now looking up in a sort of strange and the paradoxical way to give them a better view looking down.
What are drones?
If you haven’t been away for the past decade and a half, measuring the receding glacier lines of Mount Rwenzori you should be aware what drones are. At least what the military might want us to believe these are capable of doing. However, the civilian applications of these fantastic flying machines have only recently being realized.
As a matter of fact, drones have both advantages and disadvantages and I shall make it a point to write a separate article on the many disadvantages of using drones in an urban (and rural) environment.
The term drone isn’t looked at too well. There are obvious reasons for that. Drones that I am referring to are primarily used for photography and are more popularly referred to as quadcopters.
Four pillars-like legs with propellers attached to each one of them providing thrust and control. These can effortlessly maneuver in flight, avoid obstacles like flying birds and civilian aircraft with the help of wireless control, while streaming back live pictures of what it sees from the air.
These flying machines provide a significant advantage when it comes to shooting videos and stills from an unobstructed viewpoint.
Check out this video on drone photography and video shooting:
What can we do with Drones?
Well, they fly and when they fly with the camera attached to their underside they can get some serious footages and images from a bird’s eye viewpoint. But these quadcopters do not settle for just shooting from their underbelly.
State of the art models like the DJI Phantom can be controlled by two operators one taking care of the in-flight maneuvering and the other operating the camera further extending the flexibility of a system that is already ahead of its competition.
Quadcopters like the DJI Phantom is a highly flexible flying machine. A camera mounted below the fuselage of the machine has an unhindered viewpoint in every direction, except for when you need to look up.
It is a phenomenal machine especially when you take into consideration that you can capture everything from several thousand feet high in the air and never have to leave the security of terra firma.
Video shooting with a drone
Apart from the obvious military applications for survey and aerial reconnaissance of battlefields or conflict zones, there are a lot of civilian applications of these flying machines too. Quadcopters are ideally suitable for making videos.
As a matter of fact, major Hollywood directors routinely use quadcopters for the stunning aerial shots they use in their productions. Quadcopters have opened up the door for smaller indie filmmakers for shooting stunning areal perspectives without having to dish out a lot of cash. Even if they cannot afford to buy one of these they can easily hire one for the days they need it for filming.
Quadcopters can be used for the purpose of filming a day out on the beach. Just as well they can be used to shoot weddings.
As a matter of fact, some wedding photographers are already getting a lot of enthusiastic inquiries from couples who want them to bring their quadcopters to their wedding!
Drones have been used for survey and monitoring of wildfires. Recently an Indian metro city administration announced that they are going to press quadcopters into service for monitoring law and order situations. Going by the growing impetus for using these wonderful flying machines we can only imagine that they are going to be increasingly and more diversely used by around the globe, not just by private individuals working on own projects but also governments using them for public safety purposes.
A few weeks ago I was watching this amazing video shot of some of the key peaks of the Upper Himalayas in Nepal using a quadcopter.
The footages are seriously out of this world. It is the closest that you will ever be to witnessing how the world looks like from the top of some of the highest mountains in the world without actually climbing them. Another application of these fantastic flying machines.
When it comes to video and still photography literally you are only limited by your imagination. Imagine that you need to shoot footages of a migrating herd of wildebeest. There are two options, shooting from the ground level using a telephoto lens, which is kind of a clichéd option. The other would be to fly in a hot air balloon. A hot air balloon can easily scare the animals.
There is, however, a better option – using a quadcopter. A quadcopter can fly at a height of thousand feet, hover over the animals, without scaring them and capture beautiful pictures from the same perspective as that of a balloon. You can follow and photograph the animals from a safe distance using remote control.
The Best Camera for your Drone
The only problem with quadcopters is that the camera that you use cannot be too bulky else it will be difficult to make the whole contraption airborne and or control in flight. Plus you cannot change lenses once you are airborne.
Additionally, the camera has to be sturdy enough to be able to withstand some vagaries of nature. This is why the GoPro Hero series cameras are very popular and widely used with quadcopters.
The GoPro cameras are sturdy and are designed to withstand rain, cold, dirt, and dust. These are capable of surviving a drop from several feet, though, I am not sure they will survive a drop from a thousand feet, and I don’t intend to try that either with a GoPro.
GoPro can shoot in full HD (1920×1080 and progressive) and variable frame rates making it possible to create stunning slow-motion effects as well. Having said that some quadcopters come with their own camera system fitted on them.
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