Let’s face it: Some of us drone users live in ugly places. As a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I live in a wintry wasteland for most of the year. But that doesn’t mean I can’t capture interesting aerial shots.
I recently reviewed the DJI Mavic Pro for the May/June 2017 issue of Drone360 magazine, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to take some amazing aerial photos — however, it was April in Wisconsin. Everything was dead and wet, and nothing looked good from the ground, let alone the sky.
It took some patience, creative thinking, and location scouting to get some good photos. Here are five useful tips to keep in mind if you’re hoping to capture beautiful drone photos in some ugly places:
As long as it’s not raining, windy, or damp (all of these conditions are bad for your drone’s flying capabilities), you can definitely still fly on grey, gloomy days. But it makes more sense to photograph a subject that fits the mood: aerial shots of a graveyard or church with some moody clouds in the background will make for a more compelling photo.
On a grey day, I headed to where I knew there was a small, abandoned house without a roof. It looked pretty dismal and had garbage littered inside the house, but I think all these elements worked together to create a more cohesive mood.
If you’re looking for a general area to fly, searching on Google Maps’ Satellite function for parks or interesting geographical features can be somewhat useful. But there’s nothing better than driving, walking, or biking around an area and keeping an eye open for something that might look cool from above.
Don’t discount a location just because it doesn’t immediately seem perfect. Once you get to your location, send your drone up for a quick survey — the drone’s-eye view may surprise you!
I was lucky to find this island while flying off the shore of a small beach near that abandoned house. I didn’t expect anything too compelling, but the beach was nearby, so I gave it a shot. The little island wasn’t stunning, but it did make for a cool picture.
OK, don’t actually get wet. What I mean is, you should try to find some water. A shot over water is always going to end up looking cooler than a shot over land — it takes a lot more confidence to get a water photo!
And not all water is created equal. Glimmering lakes, small streams, and rushing rivers all have their own unique attributes, so use those to your photographic advantage. Even if all you have nearby are some gullies, you can make it work.
I am the first to say that you should never use your drone to disrupt wildlife. Seriously, just don’t do it. But if you are able to get some photos of animals without bothering them, it can make for a greatly improved photo.
Be especially careful around animals that may be threatened by the drone. Animals like dogs and birds may want to attack your drone if you get too close, which is both bad for the animal and for your drone.
Your best bet is to capture a group of animals from a distance — it’s a unique shot, and it’s less likely to bother the beasts. This shot from above a swarm of seagulls has plenty of space between the drone and the birds, but it’s always good to keep flights around animals to a minimum. Once you take your shot, bring the drone back in. And be careful to avoid any animals you may encounter on the flight back!
No one likes seeing the same drone content over and over. As long as you’re willing to try something new, the photo is going to reflect that. Try new angles, subjects, editing processes, and flight patterns to make your aerial photography stand out.
Or just do what everyone else does and get a picture of a sunrise or sunset. Those work pretty well, too.
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