S K Y- H I G H S C E N E R Y
Louie Tong takes us through the highs and lows of aerial photography, offering his top tips on how to capture awe-inspiring imagery
BEFORE YOU GET STARTED
If you’re just getting into aerial photography, there’s a bit more to flying your drone than you think, including important rules and laws regarding areas where you can and cannot fly. These can be found on the maps on airshare.co.nz, and are colour-coded to designate what parts of the country are control zones, low-flying zones, military operating areas, and restricted areas. It’s very important to become wellversed on these laws before flying. As a casual drone operator, you will be governed by our Civil Aviation Authority’s Part 101 rules for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — these can be found at caa.govt.nz.
The shots I capture primarily consist of the coastal regions around wider Auckland. Generally I try to get to the location an hour before sunrise or sunset to prep — meaning very early 4am starts to get up and drive to an area, which often allows for the time for a short trek to certain spots such as Duder Regional Park, where the highest point is a 20- to 30-minute walk from the carpark. Additional time to consider is that for the assembling of the drone; lugging the equipment to the spot; and, finally, set-up for shooting. You’ll find that sometimes the light dif fusion just before sunrise, due to clouds being on the horizon, will cause the whole sky to light up a bright orange, pink, or red — that’s worth getting up early for. I have three sets of batteries for each drone: the first one is sometimes used for scouting or reconnaissance; and the second and third ones are used to get the final shots. Something seemingly trivial to keep in mind as well is that, in colder, winter environments, the batteries need to be warmed up before use. Some older drone models will not even start if the batteries are too cold. I was very fortunate to have been a relatively early adopter of the DJI Inspire 1 when it was first introduced to Australasia. The X5/ X5S sensor paired with the 12mm Olympus F2.0 is a huge upgrade on the proprietary X3 sensor. The Inspire 2 drone itself is a huge improvement, with more accurate GPS and stability and the addition of 4K video at 60fps with 40mb high-res stills. The DJI Mavic Pro is a cost-effective option, and it’s light enough to carry around with you on hikes. It’s the same size and approximate weight as a drink bottle, and the 12MP sensor is capable of capturing 4K video at 30fps, as well as high quality stills. The gimbal system is also very robust for its size, and the drone itself can actually handle relatively strong winds.
KNOW YOUR SUBJECT
Since so much of New Zealand has yet to be ‘discovered’, we’re blessed that not too many of these beautiful locations are saturated with people all of the time. A good habit to get into is to use Google Maps and its 3D satellite functionality. By doing this before the shoot day, you can reduce the surveying time required on location. Certain beaches have unique characteristics, hence need to be shot from a certain angle, and this gives you a good idea of what it will be like on the day.
I come from an architectural background, having completed my master’s in