Abraham Joffe is an award-winning Australian cinematographer specialising in documentaries and nature videos. His expertise in drone imaging recently landed him a producing role on Tales by Light; a six-part television series by Canon and National Geographic which kicked off last week. We asked Joffe to share his tips for flying drones and taking photos with them.
#1 Practise on a simulator before taking on real-life flying
Canon Master Art Wolfe in PNG with the Huli People.
When getting started with drones, keep in mind that it's much better to crash a computer simulated drone than a physical one. Simulators are incredibly realistic these days and include features that add the element of wind in the environments to get you as prepared as possible for the real thing. Spending a few hours fine tuning your skills so they become second nature is highly advisable.
#2 Start small and cheap when buying your first drone
It's almost inevitable that you will have at least a hard landing in the early days. To avoid heartbreak and a dent in your wallet, it is best to keep your gear rather basic while you're still learning.
#3 Plan your shot before launching
Canon Master Darren Jew with humpback whales in Tonga.
I always have a plan in my head before putting a drone in the sky. Thinking through your desired movement will usually result in better footage and reduce power wastage on your batteries.
#4 Fly within your limits
Drone shot of Darren Jew on Mt Tavurvur.
Drones are exciting in how they operate and what results they deliver but that's no reason to be get overenthusiastic and exceed your limits. Don't be pushed by an overzealous friend or director if you don't feel confident in your ability to pull off a shot.
#5 Simplicity often works best
Drone high lining in Colorado.
Simple shots captured by drones can be very powerful. Shots that capture grand wide angles that establish a scene, or straight down "bird's eye" angles make for effective images. Fast flying or exaggerated moves don't always mean more impact.
#6 Watch and learn
Numerous productions now include some form of aerial cinematography. Make notes and take screen-grabs of your favourite shots for inspiration.
#7 Learn to fly without GPS
Darren Jew with drone on Mt Tavurvur.
When starting out with drones, most people tend to rely on a GPS to guide their flying. It's important to wean yourself off a reliance on GPS as there will be times when the signal is lost. You need the skills to control your flight manually and return to the ground safely.
#8 Respect local regulations on drone use
Canon Master Richard I'Anson with monks in Nalanda Monastery
Every country has its own specific rules governing safe and legal drone use and it's important that you research and adhere to the laws in your area. The drone culture has taken plenty of bad press for cowboy antics and it is up to everyone to do the right thing to help ensure flying can continue into the future. Here are the key rules for Australia.
#9 Practise, Practise, Practise!
Canon Master, Krystle Wright in Vanuatu.
The more time you put into learning, the better your footage will become and soon it should become second nature. Don't forget to have fun!