A Drone for Video Photography


Just a week ago today I picked up a Wall Street Journal at the Marina Store here on Fripp Island. The Saturday issue has two sections of non financial stuff and sometimes I find something of interest. This issue featured a story about a man who experimented with a couple of drones on spring break to take video. Here is a quote:

“Flying a drone isn’t just exhilarating; it also fundamentally changed how I think about photography. It is hard to get excited about vintage filters on Instagram after shooting a drone selfie (call it a “dronie) or panning hillside Napa vineyards at sunrise. A drone allows you to move a camera in ways that might otherwise require a helicopter……”

This got my attention. I have a GoPro Hero camera that takes amazing HD video at a very wide angle and have taken many hours of video while flying gliders, riding my bike, etc. I love cameras and the fun of photography. This would open up a new world of video opportunities. I kept thinking about it.

The next day, Sunday, a beautiful spring day, Ronnie and I drove the golf cart over to the 11th hole on Ocean Point. to watch the competitors in the Beaufort Charities golf tournament play the par 3 hole. This tourney is a huge event. They always have a bleachers set up and a margarita bar going there on Number 11 all afternoon. Lots of fun watching groups come through. There was a bit of a gap between foursomes and I saw a lone man on the tee about 175 yards away. I watched, unsure of what was going on, and then a drone appeared in the air about 30 feet up moving slowly toward us. He flew it up to the green and made several take offs and landings. The drone was a DJI Phantom and he had a GoPro camera attached making a video of the happenings. I went over to see it and talked with the  pilot for a few minutes.

Some coincidence huh? Maybe this was meant to be. By Monday morning I was in full Google-search mode looking at all the options and where I might get the best deal. Had one on order by the end of the day on Monday  to arrive Thursday.  Thursday about 6 PM UPS arrived with my new DJI Phantom drone. Anxious to get it going I opened the box and started putting it together…..the debris is still on the dining room table here:

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Assembly is quite easy. Four propellers and landing gear to attach and that’s about it. Batteries have to be charged both for the drone and the Transmitter. However the instructions said I should download a certain piece of Assistant software from the Phantom web site and do several things which I didn’t understand so  I slept on it and got into it early Friday morning.

I found 15 or 20 very helpful videos on YouTube. I did all the stuff that needed to be done. It was a total immersion into readying the Phantom to fly and learning how to fly it. By the end of the day I thought I was ready to do it for real. After a little diversion to the Bonita Boathouse for cocktail hour Ronnie and I came back to give it a go. No one was on the golf course and the wind was light so we walked out behind our house on the 13th hole and fired it up. Turn on the transmitter/controller, put the battery in the drone, wait for a sequence of flashing lights to appear and go…here is mine assembled with my old GoPro camera attached. Beside it is the transmitter unit.

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Six days from reading the drone story in the WSJ, I had my first and second drone flights. This short YouTube clip below was not uploaded in full HD in order to shorten upload time…I will do some in full HD later

This drone has many amazing features to keep the novice from having a “fly away” or crash on the first flight. The best one is the GPS hover feature. When flown in GPS mode if you become unsure of what the drone is doing, just let off of the two sticks, they return to  a neutral  position and the drone hovers right where it is. Even with a light wing blowing, it will stay put. Then you can gently take back control when you figure out what you want to do next.

However, much to my delight, after only a few minutes in two flights I had a good sense of how to control it. It seemed almost intuitive. More drone blogs will follow with some YouTube video clips.

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4 thoughts on “A Drone for Video Photography

  1. That’s terrific! does it take pictures at night? I got a whole new application ….monitoring your teenager .is there an autopilot feature??? It really is pretty cool .I heard that Apple has a small one with the camera that you can actually control from your iPhone though I’ve never seen it .thanks for sharing. love kelly

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