Drone photography: the art – part four

Not long after teaching myself some ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) techniques in drone photography, I attended SIT2LRN’s annual facilitators workshop at Telford in the Catlins district of Southland New Zealand. Telford was once a family farm and the old stone farm homestead is now one of the campus buildings. I took my drone, hoping to get a nice aerial and maybe some ICM pictures.

drone photgraph of SIT Telford campus

The workshop is a great little hui (meeting) where SIT2LRNs online teachers get together to catch up, share war stories, learn some new techniques and get ready for another year of delivering our best to our online students. I facilitate the entry level photography paper as well as the commercial photography paper. It can be demanding work, but very rewarding. One of the presentations was from our academic research team and I was surprised to learn that one of them had received a research grant to help her write a musical. Now that sent my wheels spinning. I’d done research before, but that was for my MSc thesis, a scientific investigation into immune responses to tapeworms. I had no idea that I might be able to get a creative project funded.

So in the breaks between workshop presentations (and cocktail events), I put my drone up around campus to do my ICM work and think about submitting a research proposal. I concentrated on my ‘fingerprints’ of vegetation types, spinning the drone while ascending during some long exposures. By now, I had got myself some stronger ND filters, an ND500 and ND1000, for 10 stops of light-stopping power, letting me experiment with longer exposures and a wider aperture, where the Mavic 2 Pro’s camera produces its sharpest images – not so important for full blur abstracts, but for my landscape ground rush images (I am warming to calling them the ‘Copeman effect’) it really helps.

Drone ICM photograph of pond weed

This pink pond weed really caught my eye, as did the purple hues in the flowering flaxes below:

drone ICM photo of flowering flax

And I couldn’t miss the colours of the rose garden.

Telford rose garden image

You can see the evolution of these images in the three below. In the first, you can clearly make out the conifers and dry grass the drone is descending onto.

photo of conifers from above

Next, a spin while descending but the drone is still, either at the start or end of the exposure, so you can still make out the trees.

photo of conifers from above

This blur/still blens is another little trick I’ve tucked away for further investigation. Below is the full helical-flight ‘fingerprint’ image. I love how the different tones in the green resemble Pounamu, or NZ greenstone jade.

drone ICM image

A few encouraging conversations and emails ensued. Then, after a few weeks I sent my research proposal in – along with some sample images – applying for some funding towards some travel to different landscape and vegetation types, printing and framing for an exhibition to show the results of my work, and maybe some more travel to present the work at conferences and photographic clubs/societies.

Shortly after, I was delighted to get the news that the research committee had awarded me the funds I applied for. So now, when my work and the weather allow, I’m out there refining these techniques, discovering what else is possible, and making some great new images. There’s a lot more to discover and experiment with, including more artistic digital manipulation of the shots I’m getting, like this creation I made after some inspiration by Kiwi artist Gordon Walters:

Or this one:

I’m applying for permission to fly my drone in some beautiful protected areas, and planning the shots I’ll try to capture there.

Soon, I’ll be reporting back to the commmitte on my progress so at this point it’s time for me to start sharing a little of what I’ve done. Initially my images were met with some resistance, firstly from a Facebook ICM group, who’s moderators thought my work was the result of Photoshop filters or compositing, and more recently, the same from a few folks in some dedicated drone imaging groups. Oddly, I welcome those reactions. It shows me I really am onto something new here. Maybe I can call my ground rush landscapes ‘the Copeman effect’ after all!

Drone lanscape ICM photo
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