Gazing out of an aeroplane window at the world below never gets old. There’s an inherent beauty and fascination in seeing things from a different perspective, which is probably why DIY drone photography has taken off. After all, drones can go where no man or woman can, and in this way they’ve opened up a new way of looking at both photography practice and the world around us.
As prices to the technology drop, access increases. While once just for true tech-heads, you can now pick up an entry level drone fitted with a camera from Harvey Norman or Ted’s Cameras for less than $200. Don’t be fooled—just because you can walk into a shop and buy one doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be able to achieve great shots. Like all forms of art, there’s skill and creativity involved. “Getting a good drone photo uses the same techniques as any other type of photograph,” Kirk Hille, a Perth-based landscape photographer who recently started using drones, tells The Creators Project.
Framing, subject, positioning, lighting and angles are all things to think about. Oh, and actually flying the drone. Take it from Sydney-based photographer Gabriel Scanu, who has built up a 15,000-strong Instagram following for his striking, mostly coastal, aerial shots. “I personally tend to fly the drone to a good height and frame the camera pointing directly down to the ground, almost like a flat lay. I feel this angle is the most unique and interesting perspective to shoot from,” he says.
While drones are becoming increasingly available, as WA-based drone photographer Jampal Williamson explains, there’s still some stigma around flying. “Generally speaking, people are cool with seeing a drone flying around, but there are a small number who aren't, who find it to be an invasion of privacy. It makes sense, I get that for sure! But when one of those people comes up to you when you’re flying, it can be a challenge,” he tells The Creators Project, adding, “It's up to us as photographers to be diligent when and where we’re flying and to follow the rules and regulations around UAV’s.” For hobbyists, these rules include things like drones must stay at least 30m away from people and may not go within 5km of airports. Penalties, up to thousands of dollars, apply for violating these terms.
The weather also provides its challenges. Cameron Puglisi lists rain, high winds, cloud and excessively hot/cold temperatures as conditions that drones can’t fly in. The Adelaide-based photographer says it’s all about finding a balance between taking a great shot and ensuring the drone is protected from the elements. When shooting over the sea, this includes things like the height of waves versus the height of the drone, and even how far sea spray is carried in updrafts. “Whilst I might want to take a close-up of a surfer riding a wave, if I incorrectly judge a distance, I may accidentally become an underwater photographer,” he says.
Aside from the fun of flying, the altered perspective offered by drones is what’s drawing in photographers. “It’s such a fresh, new way to view the places we already know and love,” Jampal says. Gabriel agrees that it’s a new way of seeing: “I tend to shoot mostly beaches and seascapes as the colours and textures take a completely different form from what you get at ground level. Shooting from the sky for me is almost like creating a digital watercolour.”
Check out some more incredible examples of drone photography below:
You find out more about the photographers who are featured in this article here: Cameron Puglisi (website, Instagram), Gabriel Scanu (website, Instagram), Jampal Williamson (website, Instagram) and Kirk Hille (website, Instagram).