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Shell Point Aerial View
Improve your aerial landscape and real estate photography using drones with great information from aerial photography expert John Sciarrino on Episode 106 of The Understand Photography Show.


Tips on Aerial Photography from a Drone Expert

John’s Aerial Photography Background

  • He started his aerial shots from airplanes and helicopters.
  • John has tried out large tripod systems that raise the camera 20’-30’ and are triggered by a remote.
  • He designed a “Blimp Cam” in 1998.

– The cam was a tethered 18’ inflated blimp with remote mechanisms to pan and tilt the camera and a view screen to help compose shots.

  It needed to be kept inflated and was stored in a trailer for transportation to other locations.

  • He reverse engineered a small drone and proceeded to build larger ones that would fit his needs.

– At the time, it was much cheaper to build your own from pre-made parts than to purchase a “ready-to-fly” unit.

– Engineering a drone large enough to carry a DSLR, and later a movie camera, was a very involved and interesting process.


Uses for Drone (or UAV) Photography

  • Resorts, hotels, and real estate companies use aerial images for promotion and advertising.
  • Agricultural scientists and farmers can use spectral imaging equipment to capture images of pests and diseases within the crops. 
  • Developers, builders, and architects can get aerial views of the site for planning and inspection.
  • Law enforcement, firefighters, and rescue operations can obtain valuable and lifesaving information from drone cameras.
  • Engineers can use drones to inspect the infrastructure of bridges and buildings for repair.


Regulations and Restrictions

  • The drone, or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) must remain below 400’ and cannot interfere with air traffic.  
  • It cannot be flown near any airports, or in any National Parks.
  • Commercial use of drones requires a permit (333 Exemption) as well as inclusion of a certified airplane pilot during any flight.
  • Special exemption permits can be obtained, but take weeks to process.


Flying the Drone

  • Before you fly – plan your route.

– Check the UAV Forecast either online or with an app to get information about air traffic, wind speed and direction, weather conditions, and even solar flares (which could effect your GPS and radio signals).

  • Don’t fly alone.  Your team should consist of a drone pilot – focusing on flying the drone, a photographer – focusing on the actions of the camera, and a spotter – who keeps the drone in sight.


The Camera

  • A remote system allows you to switch camera modes and trigger the shutter for individual shots.
  • The camera can be operated from either automatic or manual modes by making adjustments from your tablet.
  • The advances in stabilization technology create an amazingly steady platform for the camera, but will not (yet) accommodate longer exposures.


Advice for Hobbyists

  • Most small drones are fine for “backyard flight” and nearly all come with a camera.
  • There are plenty of YouTube videos and tutorials to watch to become better acquainted with the system and how it flies.
  • Look for local clubs to find others interested in drone flight.
  • DJI is the most popular manufacturer of ready-to-fly drones.  One of their newest models, the Mavic Pro II, has a camera designed by Hasselblad, and the Mavic 2 Zoom has an optical 2x zoom camera.
  • Drones can range in size and price from a $25 toy that fits in the palm of your hand, to huge, specialized industrial drones in excess of $20k.



Finding John



Understand Photography General Notes


Upcoming Trips:
Everglades 4 day Photo Adventure – January 31 – February 3, 2019
St. Augustine – April 11-14, 2019
Florida’s Forgotten Coast – May 13-17,  2019
Ladies Only Trips:
Mt. Dora – December 5-7, 2018
Cuba – February 2 – 9, 2019

Check our Meetup site for more information.

New Book!  Peggy Farren and Joe Fitzpatrick have published a book highlighting Florida’s best photo spots!

Florida Photo Spots: Naples and Collier County by [Farren, Peggy, Fitzpatrick, Joe]

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