Drones can provide some unique and wonderful images for nature photographers, and they can be a lot of fun to fly! With drone cameras getting ever better, and drones becoming increasingly popular, more photographers are finding value in these small flying objects. There’s even a special category for drones and other non-traditional captures in NANPA’s Showcase photography competition. Ryan Trenkamp has been using drones in his work for the past couple of years and shared his thoughts on these nifty little tools, how and why he uses them, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Like everything else in this crazy world, nature photography is constantly changing. Especially during a pandemic, out business models, ability to travel and the very tools we use aren’t the same as they were a year ago. In acknowledgement of all the new ways photographers are using to capture outstanding images, document nature, advocate for conservation and create art, NANPA’s Showcase competition has added special recognition for “non-traditional captures.”
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), otherwise known as drones, have been in the news a lot lately, not always on a positive note. Reported sightings near airports, sport stadiums and large crowds or urban settings have caused alarm and consternation from public officials and the FAA, which has led to negative and (sometimes) alarmist coverage from news organizations. Of course, the problem lies with inexperienced and reckless users rather than with the exciting technology these UAVs offer for the gathering of unique and useful images and footage.
Using a drone in Tanzania.
As an avid landscape and wildlife photographer with a background in commercial aviation (my day job), I became intrigued with the possibilities of utilizing UAVs. They can be fitted with stabilized cameras to record images and footage not otherwise obtainable except at great expense with manned fixed-wing aircraft or rotorcraft. The rapid technological advances that enabled adaptation of this technology to small UAVs from their larger military cousins have produced capabilities that rival ground-based camera systems. The latest is the DJI Phantom 3, which allows stabilized 4K footage and 12 MP DNG files. It also provides full camera control through a controller-mounted tablet. The DJI Inspire 1 Pro is fitted with a MicroFourThirds (MFT) sensor that takes 4K video, 16 MP stills and has the unique feature of interchangeable lenses. Thus the capabilities for capturing exciting and memorable footage and images have become a reality.