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Capturing motion in airborne photography

iKenndac

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I bought my Mavic Air (although the particular drone isn't really relevant) mostly because I wanted to add a new dimension to a hobby I'm already passionate about - photography. I'd been planning a trip to the French Alps for a while, and I really wanted to get some cool photos of my car in motion on a nice alpine road.

So, I purchased my Air in April, did a bunch of practice and research, sucking up as much information as I could from this forum. In late May, I found myself standing on the side of a wonderfully empty Alpine road, a drone in the air and my wife on the phone, driving my car back and forth as I attempted to take some good photos.

My self-assigned challenge was to take some photos that specifically showed motion.

The first way of achieving this is pretty easy - a still drone, a long shutter speed, and a car in motion. I got a couple of photos I'm particularly pleased with:

DJI_0150.jpg

DJI_0158.jpg

However, the other way of achieving this, and the one I really wanted to get, is to have the moving object appear pin-sharp with a motion-blurred background. I found this much harder to achieve, and spent 6 batteries and 200+ shots attempting. I only got less than 10 that weren't a huge blurry mess (although that's 10 better than 0!), and learned a lot about this.

- With a manageable shutter speed (I was using 1/10s) at a sensible speed (travelling at about 30km/h), the wide-angle field-of-view of the Mavic's lens means that you need to stay pretty close to the moving object and its background to get a decent amount of motion blur. I really wish DJI made a version of the Air with a longer focal length!

- My original goal was to have the drone fly slightly in front of the car and to the side, to get the classic "rolling shot" look. However, I found this really, really hard. Keeping the drone on exactly the same vector as the car in 3D space was incredibly difficult, as was synchronising the speeds of the car and the drone. This was pretty much the best I got with that sort of shot - unfortunately, a photo where everything is blurry isn't very compelling!

DJI_0173.jpg

- I found the Air's long processing time between shots very frustrating. We only had 5-10 seconds per run to take photos, since these shots were all being taken on the middle section of road you see in the second photo above, between the two hairpins (for safety reasons - that was the only stretch we could fly the drone near the road with enough visibility up and down the mountain to make sure we could get it well clear if another car came along). In single shot mode, I could get maybe two shots in per run if I was quick. In burst mode, I only got one burst in per run).

Finally, on the second day and with extra visual aid, I ventured out over the road for an attempt on some simpler chase shots. These actually came out great! Unfortunately, there's still a lot of falloff in the amount of motion blur as the background gets farther away from the camera, but I'm pretty pleased with the photos and they do look rather cool.

DJI_0239.jpg

DJI_0241.jpg

My biggest hurdle is learning how to synchronise the drone's flight with the speed and vector of the car so I can take more sideways-on photos that depict motion. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, and see any photos you might have taken on this theme of expressing motion in still photography!
 

Scarnag

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As someone who has been a professional photographer for years I have to say nice shots, way to put in the work! The camera is limited for this type of stuff for sure but you still got some good looking shots. They look like you did it in PS because of the way the blur is only in part of the shot which makes it cooler that you did it at capture. I actually think it looks pretty darn cool even if that is not exactly what you were going for.

You already hit on the best way to get rid of the partial blur by making sure that less of the far away stuff is out of frame. Without a way to get a longer focal length that will be hard for sure.

I am impressed.
 

Kilrah

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Pretty nice!
II really wish DJI made a version of the Air with a longer focal length!
There's the Inspire series for that... but a longer focal length would make what you found difficult 10 times worse :)
 

genesimmons

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ya these tiny sensor cameras and fixed aperture and fixed focal length are limited,i think u would be better off working on a sharp image forground and background and do the blur in photoshop. your compostion is good and the location looks great. get some good sharp images in raw and work from there
 

genesimmons

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Thanks for the kind words everyone!



That's very true! :D



Where's the fun in that? I'd much rather learn how to do it for real!
i fully agree, for real is better but wayyyyy to many limitations on these cameras to get what your after, a real camera up on hill u may have a chance, kudos for trying though. in the end i think a sharp forground with a blurred background is the most pleasing to the eye and very tough to get that naturally with these cameras
 

Mossiback

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Spotlight mode might work to keep the camera pointed at the car while both are moving. Just make sure there are no obstacles in the flight path.
 
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brettbrandon

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My suggestion would be to use a waypoint mission for the drone to follow the road and have the driver of the vehicle match the drone speed.
 
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Air_Joe

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I always admire these shots sooo much.
Most if not all of the time ive seen these amazing photos if shot by drone, its always the higher range ones, Pro or Zoom.
By Mavic air??? Im flying MA too.
Never thought its able to get such great shots!
Great job pal!
 
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brettbrandon

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I bought my Mavic Air (although the particular drone isn't really relevant) mostly because I wanted to add a new dimension to a hobby I'm already passionate about - photography. I'd been planning a trip to the French Alps for a while, and I really wanted to get some cool photos of my car in motion on a nice alpine road.

So, I purchased my Air in April, did a bunch of practice and research, sucking up as much information as I could from this forum. In late May, I found myself standing on the side of a wonderfully empty Alpine road, a drone in the air and my wife on the phone, driving my car back and forth as I attempted to take some good photos.

My self-assigned challenge was to take some photos that specifically showed motion.

The first way of achieving this is pretty easy - a still drone, a long shutter speed, and a car in motion. I got a couple of photos I'm particularly pleased with:

View attachment 40279

View attachment 40280

However, the other way of achieving this, and the one I really wanted to get, is to have the moving object appear pin-sharp with a motion-blurred background. I found this much harder to achieve, and spent 6 batteries and 200+ shots attempting. I only got less than 10 that weren't a huge blurry mess (although that's 10 better than 0!), and learned a lot about this.

- With a manageable shutter speed (I was using 1/10s) at a sensible speed (travelling at about 30km/h), the wide-angle field-of-view of the Mavic's lens means that you need to stay pretty close to the moving object and its background to get a decent amount of motion blur. I really wish DJI made a version of the Air with a longer focal length!

- My original goal was to have the drone fly slightly in front of the car and to the side, to get the classic "rolling shot" look. However, I found this really, really hard. Keeping the drone on exactly the same vector as the car in 3D space was incredibly difficult, as was synchronising the speeds of the car and the drone. This was pretty much the best I got with that sort of shot - unfortunately, a photo where everything is blurry isn't very compelling!

View attachment 40281

- I found the Air's long processing time between shots very frustrating. We only had 5-10 seconds per run to take photos, since these shots were all being taken on the middle section of road you see in the second photo above, between the two hairpins (for safety reasons - that was the only stretch we could fly the drone near the road with enough visibility up and down the mountain to make sure we could get it well clear if another car came along). In single shot mode, I could get maybe two shots in per run if I was quick. In burst mode, I only got one burst in per run).

Finally, on the second day and with extra visual aid, I ventured out over the road for an attempt on some simpler chase shots. These actually came out great! Unfortunately, there's still a lot of falloff in the amount of motion blur as the background gets farther away from the camera, but I'm pretty pleased with the photos and they do look rather cool.

View attachment 40282

View attachment 40283

My biggest hurdle is learning how to synchronise the drone's flight with the speed and vector of the car so I can take more sideways-on photos that depict motion. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, and see any photos you might have taken on this theme of expressing motion in still photography!
Off topic but I must say, what a beautiful area (and great pics by the way)...
 
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iKenndac

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It's a little weird seeing my year-old thread be picked up again, but thanks for the complements!

Great post! This is what I’m attempting this month. Any updates?

Not really! I upgraded to a Mavic 2 Pro since taking these and had another go with a friend's car. Got some great photos. To achieve the greatest motion effect you need to be alongside the vehicle going sideways, which is incredibly difficult to do. Expect hundreds of missed shots! I find it easier to do angles like in my original post and below, but then the far away background doesn't get any motion effect due to the wide angle lens. This would be better with a Mavic 2 Zoom, most likely - the tighter focal length will give you a longer distance before the movement of the background is so small that it doesn't come out.

DJI_0749@0.5x.jpg

DJI_0794@0.5x.jpg

My suggestion would be to use a waypoint mission for the drone to follow the road and have the driver of the vehicle match the drone speed.

This, unfortunately, is a complete no-go. The driver needs to focus on driving - having them try and spot a tiny grey drone that's alongside them and match speed at 40km/h or whatever is going to end in a crash very quickly. The driver needs to focus on the road. I did this by having a phone connection with the driver at all times and asking them to speed up/slow down etc.

I agree also pics are not mine. I linked to original artist.

They quoted my original post, so if I may be so bold - I think they were talking about my shots ;)
 
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brettbrandon

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If it were me I would have the driver steer and a passenger with their foot on the gas watching the drone...
Then again I just noticed the steering wheel on the right side, would have to be a very long leg. Maybe the opposite and have the passenger steer.
 
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