Take Flight

Can’t Fly? Experience Drone Flight

On Valentines Day 2020 (no significance!) I made my first serious flight on a drone I had bought from a friend, primarily to use on this site.

I don’t fly on planes. But on good days I can walk a short distance and I can also drive on 75% of the days I am ill. And so, on a trip to visit family in Elgin, Morayshire, I took myself off for a day to visit a local landmark – ‘The Bow Fiddle Rock‘. I had to plan the weather ten days in advance (this site is good) and the key requirements are no rain and modest windspeed. Not an easy task up here.

I got interested in drone photography because it’s a good step up between the virtual world and the physical. You are using a controller and a screen but there’s a real machine flying around above you. For us ‘exhaustives’, it’s a halfway house to physical experiences. I can’t go rock climbing. But I can work with the rock, flying around it from a few hundred feet away. It feels amazing.

I managed to work out how to fly the drone after a few practice sessions and I was after 5-10 basic shots to make this short film. One of the things about my experiences with M.E. that I have noticed, is that I don’t have the luxury to mess around. I have to quietly plan something to the best of my ability, shoot it and go. This is actually not a bad thing. It’s quite focusing at times.

So I designed this clip round shots that would be easy to accomplish, I had just three in mind:

1. Strafing shots – these are sideways shots where the landscape is revealed sideways. my case the camera was pointing down, and it reveals this amazing alien rock. It’s quite a cinematic look. I went in closer over the ‘fiddle’ for a forward fly, looking down.

2. Impossible tripods – This is a vertical hover, where the ‘gimbal’ camera is still – almost creepily so like in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. There’s a shot near the end where the drone is just hovering and looking at the rock. It’s as if it’s on a ledge, but there is no ledge! We are in the sky. This kind of shot really makes me feel like I am sticking two fingers up to M.E. It’s where drones come into their own – the wind buffers the unit but the ‘gimbal’ compensates brilliantly. It’s the ‘God’ shot!

3. Pedestal Shot – You’ll see the camera rise over the rock with the sea horizon behind it – it’s a kid of vertical reveal, you sort of feel like you are with the birds (which you need to keep your distance from) but also it’s a bit of drama.

And that’s the clip really. Drones start at around £360 for something fairly usable. Mine was a DJI Mavic pro which in early 2020 can be bought secondhand for £600.