My Seventeen Favorite Drone Shots of 2017

If you had to pick one thing about my photography that changed in 2017 it had to be my usage of a drone. I got my drone shortly after the new year, and I knew that I would overuse it at the beginning. I made a special folder on my website with that in mind. When I started HDR photography I would HDR everything. I used HDR on dogs, beer bottles, and even a pizza. When you have a new toy you tend to play with it too much. That was the case of me with my drone this year. I made some good photos with it during the course of the year. I also made some terrible photos with it just to get out and fly. As the year calmed down a bit so did my usage of the drone. It has now become a tool in my bag to use. I have some ideas that I have been sitting on for a while now with the drone so maybe it needs to come out of my bag a little more this year than it did at the end of last year. Here are my seventeen favorite drone shots from 2017.


This is the first shot that I made with my drone after I purchased it. It was a cold day and I wanted to go somewhere with few people in case I did something wrong. We went to the local park where I was able to fly my drone with nobody around me. This was the result of that trip. It will never win any awards, but it was the start of me finding what I liked to do with a drone.

17. One thing that the drone allowed me to do was to be somewhere else. I live in an area surrounded by houses and trees. When something amazing happens in the sky I have a very narrow view to look for it. With the drone I was able to go up and above everything else to find moments like the one above. The double rainbow photo is made by stitching together six separate shots. This taught me that I can use a lot of the techniques that I use on the ground in the air.

16. This is the home that I grew up in. At the end of the month the house will change hands to someone else, and they can bring up their family there. I love this house because it has so many memories in it. At some point though you have to let things go and let others make memories there too. I like that I was able to make a shot of it with my drone to get the lay of the land so to speak. As I put up my countdowns this week you will see more from here I would bet.

15. One of the fun things with the drone is to go overhead and find patterns. Here as I covered a yoga group on the Myers bridge I was able to go above everyone to make a cool shot. I wanted to see all of the colors of the mats. The straight down look was one that I really like. It is just a new way to look at life. You will see it much more before this countdown is over.

14. Here at the Indianapolis Museum of Art you can really see how the straight down view makes a huge difference. Those people running by the benches probably didn’t realize that they formed a skeleton. From overhead it is obvious. This year was all about experimenting with the drone to find what I liked about it, and what seemed to work. This was one of those days where I was just experimenting.  Continue reading “Top 17 Drone Shots of 2017”


Taking The DJI Phantom 4 Pro Above The Fall Foliage

One of the things that I was most excited about when I bought my drone was flying above fall foliage. I liked the idea of getting the birds eye view that I had only seen so far from a plane. Here I was able to get out and really pick my spots to try and make images. So far I still think that I am looking for that perfect spot. I have made some photos so far though that really show you what an epic event this is. This is a phenomenal sight to see every year that collectively we treat as something that is not too big of a deal. If I said that it wouldn’t happen for ten more years people would be lined up to follow it across the country from the north to the south.

Twisting and Turning

Part of the fun of the drone has been getting creative with it. This is not totally my creative notion here. I am borrowing a concept that my friend Trevor Mahlmann used for Christmas lights last year. You can see his photo here. I knew that I needed a cloudy day to pull this off, and luckily you get a few of those in the fall. I set my camera up for a two second exposure and flipped the stick to spin the drone. When it was fully spinning I started making some photos. It is definitely different although I am not too sure what my final verdict is yet.

Finding Textures Everywhere

Every now and then I will layer a texture somewhere in my photo. I don’t do it very often, but I will try it on occasion. One thing that I like to do is to go out and collect textures. I have a file on my computer where they sit waiting for me to have the muse strike to put one into a photo. I think that I like to collect the textures more than I do using them. I say that I go out to collect them, but they usually are found when I am not looking for them. I am photographing something else, and I come across a texture that I think that I could use. As I was flying over a freshly plowed field I realized that it was the perfect texture to use in a photo. I may never use it, but it was fun setting up the shot to make this file.

More Textures Than I Know What To Do With

One thing that I loved about the drone was that it was a new way to collect textures. Instead of going around with the camera near my face doing it I was hundreds of feet in the air collecting textures. When you pull away from the ground you start to notice these things everywhere. One thing that I have found is that I have really upped my rate of collecting textures. I like the idea of taking a texture from the air and using it on a photo that I made underneath it on the ground. At some point I hope to use either of these in that way. Who knows if it will ever happen, but I have the files waiting for that day.

Storms at Sunset

I love to watch storms roll in, and I love sunsets. When they both happen together it is a magical thing. Last night we were unpacking our things after a day at the lake when it looked like it could be a cool sunset. I got my drone out to take it up, and when I looked again it looked like it could rain. By the time I powered up the drone it started to rain really hard. I waited out the quick downpour, and right at the end of it a great rainbow popped up. I made a couple of photos of it with my dSLR, but then it was barely raining so I took up the drone. I pointed it towards where the rainbow was, and at first I was disappointed that it was only a partial rainbow. Then I noticed the cloud next to it, and I was not upset anymore. The cloud looked like a huge wave crashing down with the rainbow in the wake. This was cool enough that I forgot all about the full rainbow.

Looking the Other Way

I usually preach about looking the other way during a sunset. When you are looking at the sunset you might be missing something behind you. The rainbow and the cloud were actually opposite the sunset last night. No matter which way you looked last night you could not go wrong. The photo above this one is looking right into the sunset. Another cell moving in made for an awesome sight.

From The Ground

Above is one of my photos I made before I took the drone up. It is not as impressive as the photos from the air, but in a heavy rain it was all that I could do. If I did not get up in the air with my drone at least I would have had something this way. You can even see the double rainbow that was starting to form before the sun started to go behind the clouds again.

The Week In Photos

Last week was a big baseball week for me. I was able to photograph the Big Ten Tournament for the first time. This coming week I will be photographing Xavier in the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. The college baseball season for me is drawing to a close so I will get as much of it in as I can over the next couple of weeks. You can view some of my favorite photos from last week here.

Taking in the 2017 Drone National Championships at Purdue University

Yesterday I had a pretty cool assignment. I was sent to cover the 2017 Drone National Championships on the intramural fields at Purdue. This was the first ever event of its kind. Going into the event I was not sure what to expect. I brought my big glass knowing I was photographing small objects that would be far away, but I wondered how easy something capable of 80-100 mph would be to track. These things were quick, and I knew it would not be easy to capture them. I ended up just picking a zone for the drone to go through and waiting for them to come to me. Anything else would have made me dizzy along with all of the other things that would make it hard to do. That technique helped me make shots like the one above with a drone in both of the “windows” of an obstacle. One other thing that helped with the photo above was a lot of luck.

The Unbelievable Skills of the Pilots

These pilots were amazing. They were pulling off moves that I could not imagine trying. The speed at which they are reacting while looking through their goggles was just amazing to me. In the photo above you can see just how tight the racing was during the day. Passes were made in places where some pilots had trouble just piloting their drones through. This sport is just beginning, but I can’t wait to see where it goes.

More Than Just a Pilot

These pilots do much more than just fly their drone. They are also in charge of making sure that the drones are in perfect shape heading into the next race. Part of the fun on the day was watching what they were doing back in the pits. During an early delay I spent some time back there just watching everything that goes into getting one of these things up in the air. Before I left for the day I made my way back into the pits to get a few more tight shots of the pilots working on their drones. Continue reading “The 2017 National Drone Championships at Purdue University”

Looking Down at the Tracks Near the Davis Ferry Bridge

A while back I showed a photo of this same bridge over the Wabash River from a different angle. I put the bridge in the middle of the frame going straight across. While I was 300 feet above it I decided to see what the photo would look like with the bridge moving diagonally across the frame. I still am not too sure how much I like this look. I am an order person, and this photo is not really in order. It is interesting to me though. Maybe that is because of the way that the bridge moves through it. It was a fun few minutes over the bridge, and one that was very productive for me.

Looking Down on the Earth

The one view that really has amazed me with the drone is looking straight down on things. Maybe it is the fact that we cannot fly that makes it so cool to fly over things with the drone. The top down view is one that I make every time that I take the drone out, and I still am not tired of it. It has a way of neatly simplifying anything.

Photographing Bittinger Stadium From the Air

Last night I went out to Bittinger Stadium close to sunset to get some shots of it from the air and from the ground. I really had the idea of getting some photographs from the air. The slight change in angle I thought would really look good. With the sun going down over the first base dugout my choice to position myself was an easy one. I was standing on the mound in center field flying my drone in left field. I love all of the colors here. The oranges and blues play nicely together up top while the green grass looks ready to play on at the bottom of the frame. I have had a blast with my DJI Phantom 4 Pro, and the ability to make shots like this one are why I bought it.

Photographing Bittinger Stadium From the Ground

While I was up in the air I also had a tripod that I set up prior to taking flight with my drone. The photo above I actually made handheld before setting up a tighter shot and putting the camera on a tripod. I wanted a much wider shot to start off, and the camera in center field gets in the way of that from the hill. It was fun waiting for my shot on the ground to develop while flying the drone in the air. I still do use my Canon cameras, although I don’t talk about them as much. They can’t fly like my DJI Phantom 4 Pro can.

Having Everything That You Need

One thing that is nice now is that since I bought my Think Tank Airport Helipak backpack is that I have one spot to place all of my equipment while out shooting. I tested it for the first time at the potholes and at the Williamsport Falls earlier in the week, and it worked great. I was able to carry my quadcopter along with a basic camera kit. That makes it easy to use both cameras at the same time. When I travel on vacation this summer this will be the only bag that I bring along. It will make it on the plane, and it will be able to carry all of my gear that I need for my vacation.

The ‘Lost’ Weekend

This weekend is what I call a lost weekend. For most of the week I thought that I would be out of town this weekend. I had two clients deep into talks about my services for most of the week. It was to the point that I was thinking that whichever one said yes first was the one I would go with, and the other one I would have to say I am sorry to. Of course as it does sometimes they both went another way leaving me with a weekend with nothing on the schedule. When this happens I am always restless because I feel that I should be shooting. I spent too much time pacing around the house today before finally going out to photograph the sunset. It is not truly a lost weekend as I got to spend time at home before most likely traveling again next weekend, but it feels like it. There is a sense of something missing until I make some photos. It is a weird feeling to describe, but if you have ever gone through it then you know what I mean. That is part of being a freelancer though. Hopefully I will be tired from making photos next weekend.

Crossing the Wabash River Again

Since I bought my drone in early January I have flown over the Wabash River in Lafayette many times. Last Thursday I took it over the Wabash in Terre Haute as well. I was shooting the ISU track stadium from overhead when I decided to see what I could find down the river. This bridge and the winding tracks leading you away from the frame seemed very cool to me so I took some time to make this photo. I love this new view of a familiar river.

Using the Quadcopter to Get a New View

One thing that I did not expect when I bought my quadcopter was how much I would enjoy nearly everything with it. A scene like this I would never have thought about on the ground. Actually I would never have known it was there. With the quad though I can explore a bit to see just what is out there, and occasionally find a hidden gem.

The Mansfield Roller Mill and Big Raccoon Creek

Yesterday I made a road trip to Indiana State a bit longer taking a new route. The ultimate goal at the end of the trip was to see the wildlife at Goose Pond, but I found some cool things along the way. This old mill in Mansfield, Indiana was one of them. I have heard of the large covered bridges festival, but I have never attended. To me I would want to see the bridges with minimal people around them for my purposes. This was my first trip there, and I realized that I should make a tour of these bridges someday when the conditions are better. I love this scene that is above, and I knew that it would make a good photo. I walked down to the water’s edge to use my dSLR, but I couldn’t get the angle that I wanted. I went back to the car to get the quadcopter to get the view that I needed.

Using the DJI Phantom 4 Pro To Make the Photo

To get this photo I had to take off and almost immediately duck under some power lines. Getting under the lines should be easy, but they really messed with my quadcopter as I went under them. The interference is something to keep in mind. By using the quadcopter I was able to get out over the water to make my photo. This thing really has come in handy even if it was only out for a shot time. I could have spent a lot of time there flying it, but I had to keep moving.

More Photos From the Day

I made a lot of photos yesterday. I had a productive car ride down to Goose Pond, and I really got lucky there as I was pulling away to see a large flock of snow geese. After all of that I finally made it to Indiana State to photograph their senior night. I will have plenty of time to write up those posts as I will be on a long bus ride today with the ISU track team headed to the MVC Championships. If you want a sneak peak at my basketball shots from last night you can see them on my Exposure page here.