5 min read

Drone Photography Process

If you are even vaguely thinking about getting a drone to do more with your photography, I highly suggest at least looking into one, so that you can also experience the fun of flying drones and taking very amazing pictures.
Drone Photography Process
360 photo over a pine tree forest

Over the week before Labor Day in 2021, I was on vacation in Colorado with my parents. This is a trip that I had been waiting to go to since I bought a new drone in 2019 because I had purchased the drone after having all sorts of issues with my previous drone (A DJI Phantom 3 Professional) as it really seemed like the drone had been killed off both in sales and support after I had it for only about 2-3 years with no real support for Android or iOS (on a "legacy" application that hardly got updates with OS updates, especially on Android).

My last time in Colorado (2019) I got this amazing shot (from Just south of Gypsum, CO).

Google Photos HDR created from Phantom 3 Professional in 2019

The real amazing part of this shot is the stark contrast between the red rocks in the mountains on the right to the lush valley of green just to the left of the road, and the more vegetative rolling mountains on the left. But, the truth is that this is a photo that's enhanced by Google Photos. And this is what I want to talk about on my blog today, how I use my drone to take great landscape pictures, and how I then take those pictures with the great software that exists already and turn them into amazingly beautiful  landscape photos that have vibrant color.

After dealing with all of the silly DJI issues with my Phantom 3 Professional. I decided to upgrade my drone. At the time, the hot new drone was the DJI Mavic 2, but I had a real struggle in which to get between the Mavic 2 Pro and the Mavic 2 Zoom. The basic differences are available on the website, but this specific portion of the website (which doesn't have a div id for me the link to, so a screenshot will have to do)

Mavic 2 Pro vs. Mavic 2 Zoom

When I think about the things I most spend my time doing with my drone, I know that I'm not usually doing much with video, so the 10-bit HDR Video is really a non-starter for me, in addition, I have no devices that support 10-bit HDR viewing and honestly don't see much of a use for it, in addition, I'm typically taking landscape photos, so a "48 MP Super Resolution Photo" sounds like a way better deal to me than 10-bit video. I also found that I really wanted to be able to zoom in from the typical distance that I fly at, and having the ability to zoom (and the Dolly Zoom feature) was really what hit the spot for me, so I ended up going with the Mavic 2 Zoom. It also helped that the Zoom was cheaper than the Pro, so with that savings, I ended up purchasing a kit to provide more batteries and chargers and a nice case.

Okay, so I decided on a new drone, and now I'm wanting to head out to test it out, we planned to go out to Colorado in September 2020 and my parents made it out, but SOMEONE decided to tear his CCL and need surgery to fix it. I'm not pointing my fingers at WHO IT WAS, but his name starts with "Su" and end with "do".

Sudo says, "Who me, nah...I didn't do anything wrong, like run so fast that I tore my CCL"

Sudo has his TPLO surgery in early August, 2020 and was in recovery for 12 weeks, so I did want to leave him with someone else or force him into a situation where he couldn't relax and recover properly from the surgery. With that, and the still ongoing global pandemic, 2020 was out for me to travel to Colorado to continue my drone photography fun. But, I was ready to travel again in 2021 (and being fully vaccinated from SARS-COV-2 helped a lot).

My goal in 2021 was to find a new unique place to take some pictures, while we could've ended up out at the LEDE Reservoir (which is where we were trying to get to in 2019) and that probably would've been cool with all of the red mountains, I really enjoy seeing some cool areas from way up above, so in 2021, my dad suggested looking at Dillon Reservoir (between Frisco and Silverthorne) and then checking out Vail Pass (just west of Copper Mountain). While there's not the stark contrast between the lush green foliage and the red rocks, there IS some beautiful and spectacular views to behold, and with my new drone, a lot of new settings, shoot modes, and fun options to try out. So, let's look at pre-HDR vs. HDR images up at the pass.

Drone photo from the top of the Vail Pass without HDR
Drone photo from the top of the Vail Pass with HDR (via Google Photos)

While doing HDR via Google Photos after landing and pulling data off of the drone is somewhat of a pain and takes more time, and requires uploading of all photos prior to then a re-download of the HDR. I also take large-scale (Super Resolution) panoramas, which unfortunately do not have the option to be shot with HDR, but the resolution of them are just amazing as you can see below.

Super Resolution Panorama from on top of Vail Pass

While the color doesn't pop nearly as much as it does in the HDR, it's something I can do many edits of to find some nice new desktop wallpapers for desktop where I have 2 by 3 1440p monitors, with an overall resolution of 7680x2880. Flying a drone is an absolute blast and as more and more technology comes out, it becomes easier and easier to get really good looking shots. If you are even vaguely thinking about getting a drone to do more with your photography, I highly suggest at least looking into one, so that you can also experience the fun of flying drones and taking very amazing pictures.