Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Aerial photos over Switzerland - using the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+

I just returned from my two weeks in Europe, and have a ton of photos to review and edit. The first week was a vacation in Switzerland with my wife, and the second week was back at work in France, for the World Rally Championship.

As I sorted through all the photos, I decided to separate the photos that were taken with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter from the photos taken with the Canon DSLR. In doing so, I realized that the aerial photos alone would be a perfect blog entry. (And for those of you wondering, I did shoot a lot of video footage with the quadcopter, and will be making another video compilation called "Flying over Switzerland")

This first photo was taken at Rheinfall (what we call Rhine Falls) which is the largest waterfall in Europe. My wife and I arrived in Zurich early in the day, but the weather wasn't great. Instead of walking around a city in the rain, we decided to make the day trip to Rheinfall. As it turned out, the rain subsided and we had a fun time touring around this fun area. I took a bunch of photos with the Canon 5D Mark III, but just like Niagara Falls (which I visited recently), I found it difficult to capture unique photos from the limited viewing locations. It was time for the aerial camera! And the perspectives were so much better from the air!

I flew the Phantom over the river to the German side of the falls and faced it back towards me on the Swiss side. I just realized that this is now the second time I have flown the drone from one country to another (US to Canada at Niagara and here)!

What makes the Rheinfall so interesting is the large rock formations in the middle of the water. They have a boat ride that takes people out to one of the rocks, which is the more distant rock with the staircase and Swiss flag.

Here is another shot of the rock with the staircase.

On our drive away from the falls, we decided to stop along the way whenever we saw something interesting. This was a ton of fun, as we found some cool scenes off the beaten path. We were driving on a small unpaved road amongst corn fields when we came across these vineyards. Once again, I grabbed the drone and sent it up to get a view of the vineyards and the town below.

After capturing a bunch of stills and video, my wife noticed a Swiss flag flying off in the distance. I flew the Phantom far off into the distance and hovered near the flag to get this shot. As we stood above the vineyards (trying to communicate with some locals who were interested in the Phantom), Annette noticed a large patch of yellow flowers, and wanted to drive in that direction. We were off to explore our next location.

It turned out that the large patch of yellow flowers was a field of sunflower plants. We both took time shooting photos in the field, and nearby nursery. After that, I sent the aerial camera up for some photos. I also have a funny story about this. After 30 minutes of photographing from the ground and the air, I could not find my wife. I figured that I would test the Phantom at search and rescue. I put it up about 100 feet and flew around the field until I located her.

Here is a frame from the video showing Annette photographing the sunflowers.

We did not spend too much time in Zurich, making day trips to other nearby locations. On our second, and last day in Zurich, we drove out of the city to a suburb where some of my wife's relatives live. Her great uncle is 92 and her great aunt is 89, and suffice it to say that they do not use the Internet. We had their address but we did not have their phone number, so we had no way of getting ahold of them in advance. We just drove to their house, knocked on the door and introduced ourselves. At first it was really awkward, but after we explained who Annette was, we were warmly welcomed into their home and I watched as the three of them talked about their family. As we were leaving, they told us about a back way to get to the freeway. We took the back roads and came across a local cow celebration. It was really funny, because we came across a closed road with a man directing traffic. He said "you probably don't want to go through here, since there is a cow celebration" and we both said "heck yeah, we want to check that out!" The Swiss celebrate the descent of the cows from the hills late in September, and we were there with all the locals to join in. After walking around for a little while and shooting photos of the cows with their huge cowbells, I flew the drone for a quick shot of the gathering from the air.

A couple of days later, we visited the city of Bern. We both loved the charm of this city. I also have to give a shoutout to Killian Brennan, who follows me on Facebook and through the blog. This talented young photographer / videographer was nice enough to show us around his city. As we were sitting around having a beer with Killian, he mentioned that there was a good view of the city from the Rose Garden. I knew that this would be a perfect location to fly the Phantom 2 Vision+ and get some aerial shots of this charming city.

Just like when I am shooting with a DSLR, I like to take photos from different angles and heights. You can see how different the perspective is between these two shots.

Our next stop was a visit to the town of Gruyere. I love all types of cheese and was determined to have a big ole pot of fondue in the birthplace of Gruyere cheese. We had an awesome lunch up on the hill by the castle, and I was feeling mighty full and satisfied. We walked around for a little while and then drove down to a vantage point at the base of the hillside. I pulled the car over and launch the Phantom for an aerial view.

Watching the direction of light, I flew the drone over to the other side of the castle and grabbed this photo. Another example of how good light helps make a great photo. I really love this shot of the castle.

This last photo was taken at the castle in Montreux. It turned out to be the last photo taken with the Phantom before I lost control of the quadcopter and sent it crashing hard into the ground. Honestly, I thought for sure that the Phantom had hit the castle and fallen into the lake. But after losing connection to my remote control, it attempted to fly back to me. I am not sure what happened after that except that it landed far from me and busted itself up pretty good. It still flies fine (with 4 new props) but the camera is shattered. Time for a trip back to DJI for some much needed repairs. 

And so, my aerial photography was done for the rest of the trip, but I was happy to capture all the content that I did. I hope to edit the video some time in the next week. Stay tuned.


If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.


Anonymous said...

Have you been following the recent legal developments regarding drone use here in the U.S., notably the so-called "Hollywood Exemptions"? IMO it does not look good for commercial aerial photography using UAV's becoming legal under circumstances that would be practical for everyday photography.

BR, fhd

Anonymous said...

Crazy, just been watching your B&H lectures as a complete rookie and decided to check out your blog. First thing I see is Gruyere, where I was yesterday trying (some) of the 15 things mentioned and getting a grip on my DSLR.

Can't say I can't Gruyere in as much splendour

Anonymous said...

Crazy, recently bought a DSLR and watched your B&H videos, saw the link to the blog and thought I'd check it out. Turns out you were taking photos in Gruyere at the same time I was visiting it with my new camera trying to get learn how to use Aperture Prio (after reviewing I've learned a lot about what I shouldn't do).

Love the aerial shots of the castle/town, couldn't capture the 'feeling' of the surroundings personally but I really think did

Anonymous said...

Through your photography I now realize that these awesome places do exist!

Joseph Ferguson said...

nice post