“Drones,” my article on the commercial use of drones for photography, appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Currents. While at that time it seemed clear that such use was prohibited under existing FAA Advisory Circulars and Policy Statements, a recent decision (March 6, 2014) by an administrative law judge with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled that the FAA had not undertaken the required steps to give legal effect to those circulars and statements. Thus, at the moment there is no federal law, regulation, policy or circular prohibiting the use of drones.
The March decision involved a $10,000 fine imposed by the FAA on photographer Raphael Pirker who used a drone to film a commercial at the University of Virginia. While the FAA has repeatedly claimed that flying a drone for commercial purposes is illegal, this was the first and only time the agency had attempted to impose a fine.
For the moment, at least, there appears to be no prohibition on the commercial use of drones for any purpose, including, as one commentator noted, for “beer deliveries”—at least under federal law. But before you begin sending your drones skyward to indulge in a commercial or noncommercial photographic undertaking, be sure you check state and local laws. Many state legislatures and local governments have been considering laws to restrict their use, and some laws may already be in effect.
It is unclear just what the FAA will do next, but it is likely to appeal or establish an emergency rule to prohibit commercial use of drones until it can develop appropriate regulations covering such use as it has been directed to prepare by Congress.
Bernard Friel is a charter member and past president of NANPA who also served on the board of the NANPA Foundation. A retired lawyer, Bernie has been a serious nature photographer for more than 50 years.
Instagram and camera phone photos have inspired a lot of debate in the photography community. Why take a low quality image? You can’t print it large, you can’t sell it for stock, and it doesn’t showcase your skill with a camera. However, none of that is actually true anymore. As the popularity of iPhoneography and mobile phone photography rises alongside the capabilities of camera phones, not only are these points moot, but arguments supporting the use of mobile devices in professional photography are gaining ground. Camera phones and the social media platforms that allow us to quickly and easily share those images provide a greater freedom in story-telling, for bringing viewers along for the ride on a shoot, for engaging in conversation with viewers, and for showing more of the photographer’s personality. And now, all of this can be done without sacrificing much in quality.
In 2012 I took a trip to Midway Atoll and Instagram was a wonderful way to share the experience as it unfolded. My iPhone gave me the freedom to take snapshots on a whim, and uploading them to Instagram let me share what was happening as it happened. It was so easy, relaxing and fun to snap a photo in the moment, edit it and share it all with a single device. Those snapshots became my own diary of the trip and a way to remember the trip in a more personal way. I wouldn’t have had this diary if I’d stayed behind my DSLRs the whole time trying to get only polished, high-quality shots. And I could share what was going on with my followers on social media and generate excitement about the upcoming photo essays I was working on with the deliberate, high quality DSLR photos I was creating. Thus, my iPhone photos and Instagram held both a personal and professional purpose. It was the first time I’d really tried this approach, and it changed the way I have approached every photography trip since. Continue reading →
Flowers are usually best photographed on overcast days. The cloud cover acts as a giant softbox, evening out the light by eliminating dark shadows. Sometimes, this flat, contrast-free lighting is exactly what I’m looking for. Other times, when I’m in the mood to spice things up a bit, I seek out the harshest, most direct lighting I can find. I don’t necessarily want this type of light on my subject but, rather, behind it to create a nice backlight.
Roses are in season now, providing many creative photo opportunities. One sunny morning, I came across a row of white shrub roses in the New York Botanical Garden. After surveying them under standard frontal lighting, I thought: “Nothing to see here. Move on.” But when I walked around to the other side, I was absolutely amazed to see just how much more dramatic the roses looked backlit. No longer static and boring, they came to life against the sparkling highlights that danced in the background.
However, backlight isn’t the easiest kind of light to work with. Unless you’re going for a complete silhouette, additional lighting and techniques are needed to properly expose your subject. Continue reading →
Variable Neutral Density Filters Expand Horizons for Landscape Photography
Story and photographs by Jim Clark
For years I was a devoted citizen of the basic rules of landscape photography. Images were sharp and focused throughout, and I photographed only during early morning, late afternoon or during days with overcast skies. I wouldn’t have dared to photograph during the mid-day hours when there were clear skies. I did not step outside this zone of comfort fearing somewhere in some international doctrine of nature photography I would be prosecuted to the fullest extent. Yet, I wanted to add a bit more spark to my images. Continue reading →