Hey everyone. I’m in Indianapolis today getting ready for my Lightroom 5 seminar. If you’re attending please make sure you come up and say hi. I’ve got one coming up on Wednesday in Columbus, OH so you can still snag a ticket if you’re around. And don’t forget next week is Photoshop World. Okay, on to the topic…
I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people on if/when/how I’ll use a quad copter in my landscape photography. The DJI Phantom has been getting a ton of buzz lately. I’m friends with lots of people that’ve been using them and I see their photos posted online just about every day. And you hear plenty of people talk about how the copter is a “game changer” for photographers and videographers. I definitely think it is. Footage and photos that once required thousands of dollars (if not tens of thousands) of equipment and helicopter/jib rentals, can now be done for hundreds of dollars. We actually used one on our latest Photoshop World movie that debuts next week, and without it, the only way to capture footage even close to what we got would have been hiring a helicopter. It really is amazing at how they’re changing things.
Will I Use One?
Right now, the only use I have for a quad copter is to mess around with my kids because they dig RC (remote control) stuff. Personally, photos from that high up don’t grab me. Here’s a story. I went parasailing with my kids this past summer. I remember thinking it would be great to bring a camera up that high and take photos. But when I got up there, I realized that, while it’s beautiful from up high, from a photography perspective it just didn’t grab me.
Why I Don’t Like Photos From Up High
First, remember this is all a personal preference for me. The way I see it, photos from that high up take away all foreground. They take away the depth that I try to get with my landscape photos. Foreground. Middle-ground. Background… these are all things I’m looking for in my compositions. So when you take that away, in my opinion, you have a postcard. And postcards aren’t bad mind you, but they’re just not what I’m looking for in my work.
I use the term “postcard” because that’s what a certain type of photo makes me think of. It’s a photo from some vantage point up high that let’s you see everything around you. They’re not bad mind you. They’re actually great to share with some one who’s never been to the place before. But what I’ve learned about myself (and judging from the stats on my personal portfolio and what people like to view), these photos don’t seem to connect. Again, this is just me, but I’ll take a photo down low with a strong foreground in it, any day over the photo from up high.
Oh, and by the way, I have many postcard photos. Here’s a few.
I’m not saying these photos aren’t nice. But I can’t help it. They just don’t do “it” for me. They’re great for photo books of my trips, and they’re definitely not throw-aways, but it’s not a photo I’d hang on my wall. In fact, the photo above was about an hour hike uphill while I was in Norway. So I had some time invested in it. I was excited, drenched in sweat, moving quickly to get there because I couldn’t wait to see what it looked like. When I got there, I snapped off a few photos and realized it just wasn’t what I was looking for. So I quickly hiked down before the really good sunset light, got in the car, and went off to a place closer to the water.
So Does That Mean I’ll Never Use One?
I’ve learned way too many times that saying “never” always comes back to bite me. So I’ll leave it that, as of right now, I have no interest in incorporating them in to my landscape and outdoor photography work. Believe me, I want to. I LOVE RC stuff! I’d love to be able to justify buying a quad copter (or better) and a bunch of gadgets to go along with it, but right
now I don’t have a use for it. Will that change? What I’ve learned about myself is that I’m usually wrong 😉 So yes, it’ll probably change. Or not. Who knows? 🙂
So what’s your take? Already have a copter? Thinking of buying one? Would love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for stopping by. Have a good one!
Watch this video, full screen, and pause in spots to see what a still may look like. Some amazing possibilities there not possible from the ground.
Hey Matt. It’s not landscape photography per se, but you have to check out this quad-copter video.
Yeah. Who DOESN’T dig RC, right? 🙂
Great post, Matt. You make some great points that I had never considered. I think that the quadcopter’s strength is video and being able to capture shots that even with a helicopter weren’t possible before (such as flying through the Arches or between buildings in an alley). It’s democratizing flight video the way that DSLRs did the same thing with high quality photography (and, later, with professional-quality HD video.)
I can see using it to capture the sheer size of some weddings and provide angles that can’t be easily gotten. But for landscapes, the higher you get the flatter things appear on the ground. And those dramatic differences in heights and the opportunity to place interesting things in the foreground are, to me, what makes shots attractive. Looking down on a tree or a building is nowhere near as cool as looking up at a tree or a building.
Great points James. I don’t disagree that these things are going to change video production from now on. And honestly, for certain types of photography I think they’ll be really cool. Weddings from up high. Real estate photography… there’s a ton of possibilities!
We saw someone using these at Arches last week. When the winds died down, they had it hovering in front of Delicate Arch, and the next day at Balanced Rock. I was intrigued to see what they were getting (didn’t get the chance), and thankfully they brought it down before the magic hour.
Not much use for me – I like being close to my subjects, and they’re often people, nowadays. Not a good mix with quadcopters. And yes, high perspectives often give flat images, especially without foreground. (Maybe a use for 2 quadcopters?)
Also, I feel (without much evidence, mind you) that they are now in the ‘cool gadget phase’: “cool gadget, now let’s see where I can use it”. I think the reverse process will often give better images: “cool idea, now what do I need to make it”?
Hey Peter. I think they’re definitely past “cool gadget” phase. These copters will change video and photography in the future. No doubt about it. But like you, I personally like to be close 🙂
I agree Matt, well said.
Agree with you 100%! Those type of Photos do nothing for me. I can definitely say I’ll never use one! 🙂
Have fun in Indy!
Let me offer a little different take! After doing to books out of Ultra light aircraft, I found that shooting patterns was more exciting than shooting landscapes, I would like to try one with an ability to see compositions from the controller, just a thought! I do agree that the post card look leaves me cold too!
Great point Bill. I LOVE the work from your books, and I’d love to see some photos from these copters similar to that 🙂