Flying a drone at UCT

This week I had an assignment due for one of my courses that required me to conduct an interview and do some filming. So I suggested that we do this on the Rugby pitch at UCT as the campus offered a nice background. UCT usually has a far amount of wind blowing through as it is right on the side of the mountain, but thankfully, the weather wasn’t too bad despite a couple of clouds overhead.

After completing the interview, we set up the drone and took off in an attempt to get some decent footage that could be used as B-Roll and a couple of Instagram posts. I was with Matthew Wroth, who is a drone videographer in Cape Town and so we were able to discuss perspectives while flying and figure out which vantage points would produce the best content.

Something that we did not plan around was the rugby society having training around when we were filming. This did however work in our favor as it meant that we were able to get some great content from filming a game of rugby from above. We did of course ask them if they were alright with us filming them before doing so, because we are great examples of law abiding drone pilots.

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The nice thing with flying over the rugby pitch at UCT is that it is at least 50 meters away from the main road which means that it is within the guidelines set out by the CAA. Something that is always a concern when flying within Cape Town are the laws. Cape Town is such a picturesque place and it is easy to get carried away with it, so its important to always keep yourself in check with the CAA laws. Mainly because I can’t afford a fifty thousand rand fine and the thought of spending up to ten years in prison is not something that I have taking a shinning to.

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The way in which UCT has been designed, means that there are a lot of parallel lines thus making framing shots much easier. For instance, if you have a look at the first picture you can see the way in which the roads run adjacent to each other, which makes it easier  to ensure that the composition of the photograph is effective. However, the amount of these parallel lines means that I find myself paying a lot more attention to the location of the drone and the angle of the gimbal as it will be extremely evident to anyone looking at the photos, to see if the framing is not correct. Working with Matthew has also increased my awareness of this as he spends a lot of time planning flights and often goes out with a particular image in mind that he wants to capture.

I have found that there are pros and cons to planning a flight. Firstly, it is important to have a plan as you want to make sure that you are within the law at all times before you even take off, as well as ensuring that you are able to film everything you wanted to on the battery life and memory space of the drone. However, it doesn’t allow for the same level of flexibility that I like to have. Often when  you arrive at the location, many factors are different from what you had planned for and that makes things interesting. Different shots become available but also shots that you wanted are no longer possible and that can take you out of your comfort zone. By coming out of your comfort zone you find that you can experiment a lot more with the drone and the more you do this, the more your photographs and videos improve. But at the end of the day, how far I can push my comfort zone is framed by the law, which can be incredibly frustrating as it puts a limit on a camera that should have limitless capabilities.

From this flight, I got one of my favorite photos in my portfolio, a front facing view of The University of Cape Town:

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