November 2015

Still Photos From The Air

Camera drones are becoming quite notable for their video capabilities, and rightfully so. Even modest machines can capture previously impossible or very complicated shots with ease. And the ability to fly state-of-the-art cameras with high precision and low cost is not news anymore.

But as a photographer whose roots go deep in the world of traditional still photography, I occasionally launch one of my machines with the sole purpose of capturing individual, carefully-composed still photographs.

I recently modified my Freefly Systems MōVI M5 gimbal to use a Futaba radio system similar to that which my ALTA copter uses. I did so because I was having difficulty with range on the Spektrum radio that it came with, and the Futaba not only has better capabilities, but has additional radio channels. I used one of these channels to connect a shutter release for my Canon 5D Mark III. Instead of using a system that simply fires the shutter every few seconds, I decided I’d prefer to be able to compose individual shots. The ALTA’s GPS position hold is sturdy enough for me to “park” the copter in a location and switch to the MōVI’s transmitter to frame and fire a shot. I usually work with a separate camera operator when we’re shooting video, as camera movements are usually too complex to trust to a single operator. But for stills it’s very different.

Tonight I saw some tell-tale signs of an impending sunset of some quality, so I took the ALTA rig down to the beach and got some wonderful photographs. Here are a few samples. Enjoy!

2015-11-29_16-39-52 2015-11-29_16-41-34 2015-11-29_16-43-54 2015-11-29_16-51-24 2015-11-29_16-52-45 2015-11-29_16-53-35

Magic Road Trip!

I was part of a film crew on a ten day journey in an RV from Michigan to California through some of the prettiest places in the USA. And we planned to film the heck out of these places with a dozen cameras and rigs, including my Freefly ALTA drone.

Our road trip has now successfully concluded. Here is some numbers for your consideration:

  • I flew 35 flights across 7 states (from Michigan to California) over 9 days
  • My longest flight (2×10000 mAh LiPos, M5, GH4) was 22 minutes
  • My highest altitude of operation: 12,000 feet ASL
  • My lowest temperature of operation: 21°F
  • I flew 4 flights in light snowfall
  • I calibrated compass only after at least 500 miles traveled…GPS PH was spot on at every location

And here are a few photos of our operations. It was an amazing adventure!

Day 8 scratch.00_12_40_02.Still006 2015-11-05_09-57-05 2015-11-05_09-58-40 chimney approach.00_00_52_06.Still002 day 2 part 2.00_14_42_00.Still005 day 2 part 2.00_34_01_09.Still012 day 4.00_13_07_11.Still006 day 5 scratch.00_22_01_17.Still008 iphone alta launch in kansas.00_00_44_21.Still001 Sequence 04.00_00_00_00.Still001 P1230510 the-crew