This vertical panorama focuses on the beautiful Makena Beach area on Maui.
The cove at the bottom of the image is known as “Secret Beach.”
Know Your Drone
Even before I acquired the Federal Aviation Administration’s
Part 107 certification, I learned that the number one item
on my preparation list was to simply “know my drone.”
Professional photography taught me that I needed to know
my camera inside and out before going out on a shoot; for
example, there is simply no time to dig through a manual when
a tricky lighting situation develops just as the groom is about
to kiss the bride. This is even more critical when operating
a flying machine. When you suddenly find yourself in an
emergency, you have to instinctively know which stick to pull
or what button to push to operate the drone. This “instinct”
only comes with study, time, and practice. There are no
shortcuts: Read the manual. Know your controls. Know your
drone. Practice...and then practice some more. Flying your
drone should become as automatic as breathing.
Plan Your Flight anD Fl Y Your Plan
A close second on my preparation list is learning to “plan your
flight and fly your plan.” When I plan to shoot an aerial island
panorama taken from out over the ocean, I spend quite a bit
of time researching the flight before the props ever start to
spin. The safety of others is always my primary consideration.
I try my best not only to adhere to applicable airspace laws
but also to fly in such a way that few people—if any—see
my drone’s flight. I try to visualize the image that I want
before even leaving the ground. I figure out the best takeoff
point, time of day, sun angle, altitude, distance from land,
subject composition, and more. Ideally, I want to be able to fly
straight out, get the shot, and fly straight back. I want to keep
everything as simple as I possibly can. I also like to use the help
of a spotter to keep an eye on my drone, which gives me more
freedom to focus on getting the shots I need.
CheCK, then CheCK again
I double-check everything before takeoff: Props secure?
All batteries adequately charged? Camera lens clean?
Memory card in place (with plenty of storage space)? GPS
home position established? Check it all, then check it again.
After I take off, I always hover the bird about 10 feet off the
ground and check to make sure that everything is stable and
that all the controls are working as they should before going
waves anD winD
Finally, I’m ready to head out over the water. If waves are
crashing on the shore, I try to get up to 250 feet or so fairly
quickly to avoid salt spray. If I’m flying off the edge of a steep
sea cliff, I try to be prepared for sudden updrafts coming up
the cliff face. I fly as smoothly and quickly as possible to my
previsualized “shooting spot.” When I think I’m in a good spot
to shoot the panorama, I turn the drone around to face the
island and do some quick pans to ensure that I can capture the
I try to vIsualIze the Image that I want
before even leavIng the ground. I fIgure
out the best takeoff poInt, tIme of day, sun
angle, altItude, dIstance from land, subject
composItIon, and more.
sun, sand, and surf