Even if you aren’t a modern day hipster with a quality Instagram account, you have to admit that drone photography produces interesting content. The traditional angles associated with a point and shoot camera are beginning to appear aged compared to the photographs and videos that modern drones are able to capture. Due to the fact that drones are more accessible to the general public, hobbyists are able to elevate their passion for photography to another level, literally. This development has allowed the entertainment industry to place drones on a pedestal, and for good reason, as it means that you no longer have to go out of pocket for an expensive helicopter trip to capture that perfect shot at golden hour. This recent increase in the demand for drones has allowed companies such as DJI to develop numerous products that fall within a range of different prices to appeal to a variety of costumers in order to increase their sales. DJI produces drones for many purposes – from lightweight drones for hobbyist photographers through to drones that are powerful enough to lift a fifty-kilogram camera rig for commercial film shoots.
This high level of availability is, however accompanied by a negative stigma. Drone pilots are slowly becoming seen as a nuisance as they have been argued to breach privacy and disturb the peace of certain areas such as along hiking trails. Individuals who live in very picturesque areas find themselves being disturbed by the sound of drones flying overhead and there has been a rise in the concern for privacy with regards to photographs being taken that aim to look inside individuals houses. Incidents such as these have been contributing factors with regards to the implementation of stricter laws from Civil Aviation Authorities around the world. But are these really valid concerns?
Drone pilot and videography Matthew Wroth explained that the implementation of drone laws were originally put in place to ensure the safety of citizens. However, laws such as flying fifty meters away from roads and developed areas means that a large amount of Cape Town has been turned into a no fly zone. Matthew felt that this limited the application of a drone, and consequently limited the possibilities of the standard of his work. Areas that tend to be quite picturesque such as Llandudno and Camps Bay are heavily populated, which makes them hard to capture without breaking the law. As a photographer, Matthew uses drones as a tool to further his creativity and to allow his work to stand out from other photographers in the very competitive area of Cape Town, as this is a necessity in order to make a decent living in this field of work. Negative stigmas relating to drone flight do however draw attention away from his work as he finds himself under constant scrutiny by individuals who are against hobbyists owning such equipment.
Due to such high availability, more and more teenagers are getting drones as Christmas and birthday presents and proceed to take flight without the proper training. It is when the drones are treated like toys rather than as a piece of camera gear that the problems start to arise. Developments in technology mean that certain drones are able to fly upwards of one hundred kilometres per hour, increasing the chances of the general public becoming hurt. This is why most suppliers offer an hour of free training with the purchase of any drone as it educates people, and ensures that no one treats the technology in a manner that would further aid to the negative development of drone-user stereotypes. Laws are explained in these training sessions that apply to the local environment to ensure that new users do not pose a risk to the reputation of the current drone communities.
Constant conflict between drone pilots and members of the public means that certain stigmas continue to develop, giving drone pilots a bad name in modern society. Therefore, individuals who often do not know a lot about drones, misunderstand their purpose and ability and assume that they are being used for spying on people as opposed to being used as a camera to capture landscape from a different point of view. Such stigmas are not as prominent in relation to normal point and shoot cameras, however the likelihood that they are being used illegally is the same. Untrained pilots and individuals who are unaware of the laws set out by the Civil Aviation authority create further tension between other pilots as true hobbyists and commercial pilots like to ensure that drones are seen in a positive light. The misuse of them, therefore drastically effects everyone. If drone-users ensure they fly within the constraints of the law, then the likelihood of laws becoming more lenient increases, which would allow for greater photography options thus further developing the idea that drones are a worthwhile investment.
Cape Town is a densely populated city with large amounts of individuals living in very picturesque locations. These locations are frequented by photographers and drone users on a daily basis, yet drone users continuously receive negative reactions despite regular photographers sharing images where the insides of homes are clearly more visible. Drone photography offers a new perspective that transforms the way we see our neighbourhoods and aren’t always used to capture the perfect background. Johnny Miller’s photographic series on the economic divide in South Africa (I highly suggest taking a look at this series) is a key example of the content that drone photography is able to produce with regards to highlighting current world issues which other forms of photography couldn’t possibly show. The fact that drones are a new phenomenon and are still located in a bit of a grey area, means that individuals aren’t aware of their positive applications thus allowing for more and more keyboard warriors to feel the need to drone on in their typical ignorant fashion.
(All photos on this page are my own)