Learning How To Fly A Drone
When I bought the DJI Mavic Mini drone, I honestly had no idea how to fly and no idea if I’d be any good. It came with a remote control that reminded me of days spent playing / watching siblings play James Bond Nightfire or Lord of the Rings on the Playstation, just with less buttons so in my head I thought it should be manageable.
However, the fear of crashing the drone, like my friend did in Asia, or just not being able to control it and not wanting people to watch led me to not actually try the drone before I went on a photography trip; this would’ve been a risky move if I hadn’t checked, and double checked that I had all the cables and the batteries were fully charged before I left and watched a LOT of videos on YouTube on how to fly it.
Where I Flew My Drone For The First Time
I had already scouted out the beach I wanted to fly at first - Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand, which I’d been told by some family to go and visit. I had decided to go away and see something that wasn’t in Auckland because we’d been in lockdowns for most of the time since I’d arrived in the country and I wanted to get out of the city. On a more personal level, it was coming up to the anniversary of a friend I’d made travelling’s death, they embodied so many amazing values from the moment I met them and were completely inspiring, so I wanted to challenge myself and do something I really wanted to do but hadn’t yet, which was to start my own photography business and this was the start of my journey. The weather was perfect that day so thanks G.
What My First Drone Flight Was Like
I had zero expectations for the flight, was massively nervous and wanted to have zero people around me so I got up at 5am, which isn’t my best time of day, drove the 15mins from my lush airbnb to the beach, parked riiight at the far side, away from the Hot Water pools, and began. Flying over the beach, looking at all the abstract patterns in the sand, the waves crashing onto the shore and discovering that they actually looked pretty cool was the most incredible feeling. It was genuinely the most blissfully happy I’d been in years. I spent the next couple of hours on the beach learning how to fly the drone, taking in the fog rolling over the hills onto the sea and watching swimmers slowly turn up as the sun rose.
One of my favourite drone shots of that morning is one I took of myself from above with the waves, golden sand and some man-made patterns left over from the day before. It’s not for sale but has found its home at a friend’s house across the pond which brings me a lot of joy. Friends that support and encourage your dreams, even when those dreams are a little out of the blue, are priceless. I had gone to the beach that morning with an idea of the type of photography I’d wanted to sell and left with a completely different one and massively enthused about starting my business - I actually cut my Rotorua holiday short to set up my printshop which almost resulted in me throwing my work laptop out the window, but that’s a story for another time. Some other shots from my first flight can be found in the Aotearoa Collection.
The Drone Photographer Community
The drone photography community has been so encouraging and inspiring and I love being part of it. If you’re thinking of getting a drone I would definitely recommend it, several of my friends have bought one recently and I love seeing their videos and hearing about tree drama or places to go. I would also recommend watching videos and tutorials on YouTube as well as the ones on the DJI App’s before giving it a go as it’ll stop any mid-flight panic about what to do. But also, just enjoy the moment and don’t get too stressed out, you can take it as slowly as you want. If you want to see my top 15 tips for flying a drone for the first time, take a look at my other blog posts.
I’ve tried to keep this blog post short-ish, my friends will be super grateful that I’ve not gone down the podcast route. But who knows what the future will hold. Definitely more 5am starts to chase the golden hour.
Ps. I’d like to use this blog to spread a bit of gratitude so today’s thank you is to Sam, Matt, Atlas and baby Harlan. If you guys hadn’t been living in Auckland and the only familiar faces in a NZ lockdown world I probably would’ve gone back to the UK and never would’ve started my drone business. Chur x