I purchased my first drone in 2018, the original DJI Mavic Air in red. I had a co-worker at B&H show me the ropes and then took the drone to Italy. For the first few flights my hands were shaking like a hound dog passing peach pits! It was truly exciting to take a camera into the sky and then apply years of early video game training to fly it over a mile away- so far that I quickly would lose sight of the little red drone.
Aside from fear of crashing I was dumbfounded by the choice of either video or still. When I started droning I leaned heavily into video and even upped my Adobe account to include Premier. I put together a Tuscan countryside video that was quite basic and filled with mistakes. However among those mistakes were gold- I was learning to see like an eagle if not fly like one.
Drones can see straight ahead and at any angle completely down. It was the “completely down” that blew me away. Drones are smart, in that they know where they are in space (thank you GPS satellites). They can hover and remain stationary or they can fly upwards of 40 MPH in “sport mode”. What I found most appealing from a photographic perspective is hovering in cinema mode. Cine mode makes the drone move very slowly, like a slow camera pan. In still photography it allows for precise micro adjustments of the composition.
So get this, you are controlling a camera in the sky (400 foot ceiling as per FAA) over a mile away and making slight adjustments for framing while using altitude as your zoom. That is very exhilarating and empowering. You are now not limited to the perspective afforded by being grounded. Technology is wonderful!
During the pandemic I bought the DJI Mavic Mini and used it on the quiet streets of Manhattan to document the amazing city. The Mini is under 50 grams and no licenses are needed to fly it, so it was perfect for my urban explorations.
I’ve walked past this skate park at least 1000 times but when I viewed it from above I discovered a geometry and texture that remained unseen from the ground.
Sometimes great surprises can occur when you are droning that being on the ground would go unnoticed like this message in the corn fields of Warwick NY in the fall of 2020.
Much like a view camera, there are a number of steps to ensure you achieve the image you want. Forget one step and you blow you chance or worse, crash the drone. Here is my “Pre-Flight Checklist” to ensure a successful, fruitful flight with the Mavic Air first gen.
The Mavic Mini is my faithful companion in rural italy where I can fly it safely and see a whole new landscape from above. I keep it in Tuscany, and look forward to a new generation of Mavic to purchase soon. Each release of the Mavic series from DJI just gets better and better. I find it thrilling and what’s really amazing is that it represents a whole new way of seeing that is accessible and relatively wide open to anyone who doesn’t have a fear of flying.
Stay tuned for Part Two, Droning with Video.