Pushing the button is hard.
I don’t consider myself a “photographer”. I know a few who have been at it a long time and I admire their work and creativity. Casey Grimley and Gary Pack come to mind. These are the guys who understand light, position, settings, tricks and hacks (light painting) and of course the places to go to get great photos.
I like taking photos and video, but I’m still trying to figure out what works best. Understanding how the light, shutter and white balance settings work. I try to stay out of auto mode as much as possible. But every time I think I get a good shot, I find that the shutter fired too late (because of latency) and what I saw in the viewport wasn’t exactly what the drone was seeing at the time.
So I can resort to still frame extraction from videos I have recorded that really cool things happened while I was obvious to any single target due to focusing on the gimbal pitch, elevation and position in the lateral plane.
There are different ways to do this of course. You can just take screen caps of video you have taken while it is playing, pause and then scrub the time line until you find the frame your want, or you can use an app like Video to Photo by Paco Labs. If you use the screen cap function of your handset, you will get a decent representation with the dimensions of your screen resolution. If you use Video to Photo, the EXIF data of some the examples I am about to show you report the dimensions of the camera.
So it’s like a real still photo.
Examples of extracted video stills
This pelican looked at my drone and yawned. This is a screen cap of a video.
As I was recording the above pelicans from an elevated position, a duck flew in from the bottom of the shot. These were frames extracted from the video using the application I mentioned above.
I was hovering at about 80 ft video recording a sunset a Stillwater Lake Estates when geese crossed the shot close to the drone flying pretty fast. This is a still extraction from video.
This is from a top down recording at Antelope Island with birds flying low, just above water that is only a few inches deep. This is a screen shot.
This California Gull flew right into the viewport while I was recording in the position you see with perfect precision. This is a screen cap.
Action stills are tough. But flying a camera around people who are doing cool stuff at high rates of speed is challenging but fun. This is a water skier at Stillwater Lake. This was a still frame extraction from a video that has been cropped.
Here is another Gull that flew into an attempt to record pelicans.
Something to consider
We all record footage that we don’t like and some of that is useless. Sometimes it is an extended length of video of absolutely nothing while you are in the air adjusting the gimbal angle, getting your light settings right or just double checking the HUD telemetry and making one more visual and physical survey of the environment you are about to operate in.
But don’t forget to save the great moments in between the dull and boring moments. Take time to scrub every frame of your videos for spectacular things you might have missed.
Every drone operator does his best to get a one shot sequence. Just remember that a lot of frames when into that effort, and not all of them need to be discarded.
Also published on Medium.