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The psychology of aerial photography

Hands Down

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In my ideal world, I’d see something I want to photograph with my quad-copter. There would be a public park within VLOS of the photo op with a “drones welcome” banner at the entrance. I could park my car, launch, and have a relaxed, enjoyable flight confident that I’m not messing up anyone’s lawn. Turns out this fantasy doesn’t occur very often in the real world. :)

The options seem to be more like:
  1. Find a park that allows (or doesn’t specifically ban) drones. Great option for just flying, but limiting from a photography perspective.
  2. Find a non-park public space (e.g. street, sidewalk, etc.) with available parking and launch from car. Not very common in rural areas.
  3. Find private property. Not someone’s driveway, but parking lots that aren’t too busy, etc. Ideally you’d get permission from the owner, but in a lot of cases that doesn’t seem too practical.
I don’t think I’m experiencing drone anxiety in the sense that I’m worried about your average Karen/Ken yelling at me. From what I’ve experienced so far, the average passerby doesn’t seem to care too much about your drone as long as you aren’t being a jerk with it. I’m sure there are exceptions and that my Ken/Karen day is coming eventually, and I’ll deal with it and hopefully diffuse it. I guess this is really more about a desire to obey rules and respect private property as much as possible.

So I do my research and use Google Earth and other maps to try to identify good fly spots. I’ll check the website if there’s one available to look at the rules. I think this is good practice up to a point. I once had an old boss at a very large company tell me “If there is something you don’t want to do, just keep asking different people if you’re allowed to - eventually you will find someone to tell you you’re not allowed.” He was being funny, but there’s an element of truth there. So there’s probably a point of diminishing returns on research like this, and a point of analysis=paralysis.

Anyway, long-winded way of saying that finding a place to operate from, when I actually want to get some interesting photos is fast becoming my Achilles’ heel of drone ownership.

I realize that no matter what anyone says here, I am responsible for my own actions. But just wondering if anyone is willing to share their process and/or mindset when identifying fly locations for photography. Maybe it would help me some.

Thanks!
 

vindibona1

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Flying itself is stressful enough. But we know that there are rules that we have to research and try to obey, people that just hate drones because they think you're taking shots (or might be taking shots of them some other time) of them 3 miles away and will confront you. There are those that want to play Barney Fife without knowing the rules themselves. And all the while, you just have an image in your mind that you'd like to capture. Finding a launch point that's legal and unobtrusive can be a challenge Unless you just don't care, It's stressful. And if you think it's stressful now- just wait until RID kicks in.
 
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DSRT_VLTR

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National Forests. They allow drone flights as long as you follow FAA regulations, don't harass wildlife & don't launch from designated Wilderness Areas. I launch from parking lots at trailheads & dirt road pull-outs (pull-outs usually mean there is something scenic nearby). Also, launching from these areas means I'm not in a Wilderness Area because motorized vehicles aren't allowed in there. After 47 flights with my Mini 2 in Tonto NF, I have yet to have a negative experience with anyone & have never encountered a Forest Ranger.
 

maggior

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Last summer I tried venturing out to areas that weren't a park and didn't have any obvious places to launch from. I was nervous and anxious. I found a spot on the side of the road across from a farm. As I was flying, one of the farmers came by to chat. I thought for sure he was going to take issue with me flying but he just wanted to be friendly. He even warned me of where some hawks were hanging out. Turned out I wasn't the first person to stop there to fly a drone.

Since then I've ventured out in similar ways more often and it has expanded where I can fly in my area or when visiting an area. While on vacation I witnessed a heated exchange over a parking space that thankfully didn't spill over into them asking what I was doing :) I find people just go about their business.

There is an area of vast sod farms I'd love to fly around but there is nowhere to pull over. If I was really brave I'd approach some farmers and ask for permission but I'm not comfortable with that.

I also use google maps to scope out nice places to fly and spots to take off from. Most recently I stopped at a scenic overlook and flew. On the way home from that, I stopped at a historic building that had a small parking lot and flew from there.

I have found that the more often I take off from "public areas", the less anxious I get about it. People go by and don't pay me any mind. If somebody does take issue with me being there, I decided I'll pack up my drone to fly another day. I haven't had to do that yet.

I've even parked my car on a street (not very busy) and launched from there.

Oh, my favorite experience flying from a parking lot was at a local lake beach. Somebody was asking me questions and then watched me. A crowd started to form unbeknownst to me. When I hand landed my drone, they all applauded! With all of the questions they had at that point I felt like I was holding a short seminar on drones!
 

Hands Down

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Flying itself is stressful enough. But we know that there are rules that we have to research and try to obey, people that just hate drones because they think you're taking shots (or might be taking shots of them some other time) of them 3 miles away and will confront you. There are those that want to play Barney Fife without knowing the rules themselves. And all the while, you just have an image in your mind that you'd like to capture. Finding a launch point that's legal and unobtrusive can be a challenge Unless you just don't care, It's stressful. And if you think it's stressful now- just wait until RID kicks in.
Exactly. I mean, I guess that’s what all the research is for. To avoid stress while actually flying, or at least try to avoid surprises.

I don’t know a great deal about RID other than that it’s coming. I’m trying to be optimistic that it won’t be so much about drone-haters stalking drone-owners, and will be more about enabling new privileges like BVLOS.

Thanks for the Barney Fife imagery. If I get confronted by someone trying to vigilante police me, maybe picturing them as Don Knotts will help. :)

National Forests. They allow drone flights as long as you follow FAA regulations, don't harass wildlife & don't launch from designated Wilderness Areas. I launch from parking lots at trailheads & dirt road pull-outs (pull-outs usually mean there is something scenic nearby). Also, launching from these areas means I'm not in a Wilderness Area because motorized vehicles aren't allowed in there. After 47 flights with my Mini 2 in Tonto NF, I have yet to have a negative experience with anyone & have never encountered a Forest Ranger.
This sounds like a great resource! I wish I lived closer to one. But it’s about a 3 hour drive to the closest one for me. Maybe a day trip or an overnighter one of these days…

Last summer I tried venturing out to areas that weren't a park and didn't have any obvious places to launch from. I was nervous and anxious. I found a spot on the side of the road across from a farm. As I was flying, one of the farmers came by to chat. I thought for sure he was going to take issue with me flying but he just wanted to be friendly. He even warned me of where some hawks were hanging out. Turned out I wasn't the first person to stop there to fly a drone.

Since then I've ventured out in similar ways more often and it has expanded where I can fly in my area or when visiting an area. While on vacation I witnessed a heated exchange over a parking space that thankfully didn't spill over into them asking what I was doing :) I find people just go about their business.

There is an area of vast sod farms I'd love to fly around but there is nowhere to pull over. If I was really brave I'd approach some farmers and ask for permission but I'm not comfortable with that.

I also use google maps to scope out nice places to fly and spots to take off from. Most recently I stopped at a scenic overlook and flew. On the way home from that, I stopped at a historic building that had a small parking lot and flew from there.

I have found that the more often I take off from "public areas", the less anxious I get about it. People go by and don't pay me any mind. If somebody does take issue with me being there, I decided I'll pack up my drone to fly another day. I haven't had to do that yet.

I've even parked my car on a street (not very busy) and launched from there.

Oh, my favorite experience flying from a parking lot was at a local lake beach. Somebody was asking me questions and then watched me. A crowd started to form unbeknownst to me. When I hand landed my drone, they all applauded! With all of the questions they had at that point I felt like I was holding a short seminar on drones!
Thanks for this. This is a great success story. Sounds like you’ve been gradually taking calculated “risks” and as a result, increasing your confidence. I’m hoping I can have a similar story someday in the future. That time where you built up an audience sounds wild. I bet that was fun to have an audience that was actually interested in learning more!
 
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Eagle Eye 62

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Exactly. I mean, I guess that’s what all the research is for. To avoid stress while actually flying, or at least try to avoid surprises.

I don’t know a great deal about RID other than that it’s coming. I’m trying to be optimistic that it won’t be so much about drone-haters stalking drone-owners, and will be more about enabling new privileges like BVLOS.

Thanks for the Barney Fife imagery. If I get confronted by someone trying to vigilante police me, maybe picturing them as Don Knotts will help. :)


This sounds like a great resource! I wish I lived closer to one. But it’s about a 3 hour drive to the closest one for me. Maybe a day trip or an overnighter one of these days…


Thanks for this. This is a great success story. Sounds like you’ve been gradually taking calculated “risks” and as a result, increasing your confidence. I’m hoping I can have a similar story someday in the future. That time where you built up an audience sounds wild. I bet that was fun to have an audience that was actually interested in learning more!
My advice, fly safe, fly stealthy...
 
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twickers14

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You guys in the US of A have the sort of space we can only dream of. The Sonoran Dessert, Butler County etc both areas are about the size of Wales here! But, I do just the same as you do and have look at local maps and our UAV/AirMap etc for NFZs/Controlled Airspace and then plan how to get there-is there a decent road and parking spaces by the flight area. Did just this last week and found a great place on the coast here just north of Weston Super Mare. Parked up and walked to a very promising spot along the headland and launched. Well worth the effort to get there and a really interesting sortie. Weather very grey but no wind and 2 kestrels catching the thermals. They were not bothered by the drone. A U.K. perspective!
 

JoelP

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National Forests. They allow drone flights as long as you follow FAA regulations, don't harass wildlife & don't launch from designated Wilderness Areas. I launch from parking lots at trailheads & dirt road pull-outs (pull-outs usually mean there is something scenic nearby). Also, launching from these areas means I'm not in a Wilderness Area because motorized vehicles aren't allowed in there. After 47 flights with my Mini 2 in Tonto NF, I have yet to have a negative experience with anyone & have never encountered a Forest Ranger.
In addition to National Forest we are free to fly over BLM land. There is some of this almost everywhere. You just need to avoid wildlife refuges and airspace for military training that overlaps BLM land. This is an amazing resource where you may fly all
day and might not see another person.
 

Hands Down

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You guys in the US of A have the sort of space we can only dream of. The Sonoran Dessert, Butler County etc both areas are about the size of Wales here! But, I do just the same as you do and have look at local maps and our UAV/AirMap etc for NFZs/Controlled Airspace and then plan how to get there-is there a decent road and parking spaces by the flight area. Did just this last week and found a great place on the coast here just north of Weston Super Mare. Parked up and walked to a very promising spot along the headland and launched. Well worth the effort to get there and a really interesting sortie. Weather very grey but no wind and 2 kestrels catching the thermals. They were not bothered by the drone. A U.K. perspective!
Sometimes I’m envious of where others live (from a drone photography perspective). But I guess it’s all relative. Interesting to get the UK perspective. It may be small compared to the US, but from what I’ve seen there are so many interesting things there!
 
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twickers14

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Sometimes I’m envious of where others live (from a drone photography perspective). But I guess it’s all relative. Interesting to get the UK perspective. It may be small compared to the US, but from what I’ve seen there are so many interesting things there!
You are right we do have a ton of good things to film and, because of the small land mass they are all nearer to us and therefore easier to get to. Being a US lover I know a little about your good places and there are many. The other thing here is that airspace is much more congested (airports are closer together) so, as always, we have to make an effort to find flying spots. Yes ho! Happy hunting.
 

vindibona1

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You guys in the US of A have the sort of space we can only dream of. The Sonoran Dessert, Butler County etc both areas are about the size of Wales here! But, I do just the same as you do and have look at local maps and our UAV/AirMap etc for NFZs/Controlled Airspace and then plan how to get there-is there a decent road and parking spaces by the flight area. Did just this last week and found a great place on the coast here just north of Weston Super Mare. Parked up and walked to a very promising spot along the headland and launched. Well worth the effort to get there and a really interesting sortie. Weather very grey but no wind and 2 kestrels catching the thermals. They were not bothered by the drone. A U.K. perspective!
Yes, there is a lot of land here to choose from in the US But it depends on the region in which you live.

Where I am (Chicago area) it is pretty much flat with buildings. If you want to shoot urban stuff the area has a fair amount to offer. You don't see a lot of vids from this area, do you? And stills? The color of light isn't what you'd get in the American West and Southwest. I've done a few projects with architecutrual history which turned out great. But the uniqueness runs out pretty quickly and finding interesting projects becomes more difficult over time and gets further and further from home. While the UK is smaller, it has an old world charm with a lot of interest and far less distance to travel to get to different interesting places. The "midwest" is a huge piece of real estate with miles and miles of miles and miles. From where I live the east coast is 700 miles as are the Colorado rockies. The west coast is 2000 miles from here. I see YouTube videos from the reviewers in the EU and can't imagine having the topography and scenery that is over there with castles and structures centuries old, complete with cliffs and seaside shots. I'm lucky to have a cityscape like Chicago and Lake Michigan (though i'm constantly on the lookout for hellicopters that fly far below 400'AGL).

I guess the bottom line is: The grass is always greener.
 

Dale D

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Yes, there is a lot of land here to choose from in the US But it depends on the region in which you live.

Where I am (Chicago area) it is pretty much flat with buildings. If you want to shoot urban stuff the area has a fair amount to offer. You don't see a lot of vids from this area, do you? And stills? The color of light isn't what you'd get in the American West and Southwest. I've done a few projects with architecutrual history which turned out great. But the uniqueness runs out pretty quickly and finding interesting projects becomes more difficult over time and gets further and further from home. While the UK is smaller, it has an old world charm with a lot of interest and far less distance to travel to get to different interesting places. The "midwest" is a huge piece of real estate with miles and miles of miles and miles. From where I live the east coast is 700 miles as are the Colorado rockies. The west coast is 2000 miles from here. I see YouTube videos from the reviewers in the EU and can't imagine having the topography and scenery that is over there with castles and structures centuries old, complete with cliffs and seaside shots. I'm lucky to have a cityscape like Chicago and Lake Michigan (though i'm constantly on the lookout for hellicopters that fly far below 400'AGL).

I guess the bottom line is: The grass is always greener.
Yes, we are living in a stressful age all over the world. Gradually, we have come to learn to adapt to it. In my home area (South Florida and the beautiful city of Miami), I have never seemed to run out of new projects where I can easily create a 3 minute drone video with a combination of other media (gimbal, timelapse, Osmo action, Osmo Pocket, etc).

Today, in the US, we are all remembering the terrorist 9/11/2001 attacks, where two New York Skyscrapers were brought down and 3000 innocents lost their lives. That has changed everything. Historically, if you are 21 years old or less, it is only history to you.

I also feel fortunate in being able to travel a lot, and it is becoming my favorite flying venue, e.g.: various places around the world. I recently spent 6 weeks in the beautiful state of Montana which is so big and vast that I think you could literally place the entire UK or at least a large part of it. I have upcoming plans to travel to the Middle East where drones will get you into jail for a year and permits are nearly impossible to obtain. (Next March,2023, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jordan). So I am making peace with myself and leaving the drone at home. Other planned trips include the Canadian Rockies next August, which is extremely photogenic but extremely restrictive to drone flying. Again, I am making that decision to leave the drone at home. I have learned to fly as legally as possible, adapt where I need to, and deny myself the drone when I would put myself in risk and jeopardy.

We all yearn for a plainer and simpler life than existed years ago but we cannot roll back the clock!

I keep trying to fly where permitted, but always STEALTH. No sense tempting the Karens out there.

Dale
 

JOHNVOSS

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Here on Long Island, NY we have lots of seascapes. From a regulatory standpoint there are layers of municipal regulations like an onion. State/County/township/ and within those there are cities, incorporated villages and some other jurisdictions like gated communities. I try to do my due diligence on the regulations affecting the area/park I am flying but I also try to be as inconspicuous as possible, even flying from my car on occasion. I always feel a certain apprehension even though I am fairly certain I am not violating any site restrictions. The same applies when I venture off of the island. I have found Google street view invaluable when scouting a new location.

I have never had an unpleasant encounter while flying. The few I have had were mostly curiosity and folks were impressed when the saw the video I was filming. One lady came by with 2 of her children and asked what video game I was playing. She and the kids were similarly impressed with what they saw. No Karens or Kens but who's going to bother a fat, 84 yr old guy with a cane.

Here is a recent Long Island example
 

Dale D

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Here on Long Island, NY we have lots of seascapes. From a regulatory standpoint there are layers of municipal regulations like an onion. State/County/township/ and within those there are cities, incorporated villages and some other jurisdictions like gated communities. I try to do my due diligence on the regulations affecting the area/park I am flying but I also try to be as inconspicuous as possible, even flying from my car on occasion. I always feel a certain apprehension even though I am fairly certain I am not violating any site restrictions. The same applies when I venture off of the island. I have found Google street view invaluable when scouting a new location.

I have never had an unpleasant encounter while flying. The few I have had were mostly curiosity and folks were impressed when the saw the video I was filming. One lady came by with 2 of her children and asked what video game I was playing. She and the kids were similarly impressed with what they saw. No Karens or Kens but who's going to bother a fat, 84 yr old guy with a cane.

Here is a recent Long Island example
Nice neighborhood! A bit close to the water for some of those homes, I think!(I'm always thinking of hurricanes as a Miami). It was a nice flight and showed your region well.

Dale
 

edfrombama

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Good evening to all-
Once again, I am happy to live where I do- the northern Gulf Coast- where I can fly many places- the main and most understandable exceptions are the military bases here. But by and large, there are miles of great places here to fly.
Just today I was back at one of my favorite locations and a large number of sailing catamarans were working a regatta. I parked in the parking lot, sent the Mini 2 up and got some quite good- at least, to me- videos of the sailors prepping their boats and then I got a video of the boats sailing off to start the race. It was so nice to follow the boats on the water with confidence that I could retrieve the little bird and bring it back home safely. And no, I won't report how far I followed the boats- I don't want to set anyone's tailfeathers in a breeze, but it was a good distance, and it was fun.

There was no hassle from anyone, and even the ultralight "plane" that was in the area didn't come close,

I have found that in most cases, wonderful things like drone flying will work out just fine with a little preparation, planning, and careful flying.

you all be safe and keep well- Ed
 

Dan AISCF

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...
Anyway, long-winded way of saying that finding a place to operate from, when I actually want to get some interesting photos is fast becoming my Achilles’ heel of drone ownership.

I realize that no matter what anyone says here, I am responsible for my own actions. But just wondering if anyone is willing to share their process and/or mindset when identifying fly locations for photography. Maybe it would help me some...
I feel your pain. Even though I own a small business where we shoot for clients regularly, when I shoot FOR ME, just as a little side project or to get photos, I fall into the category of being anxious about where to fly.

Honestly, the ONLY solution to work for me over the years, was to purchase a Mini 3 Pro for our fleet. I'll explain.

When I started out I had a Phantom 4 Pro. So big and loud. Garnered a LOT of attention. However, because I was doing flights for well-paying clients way back then, I didn't care. When I tried to get photos or videos for myself, I was always nervous, no matter how much research and planning I did.

I then purchased Mavics, Airs, Evos, etc., and felt the same, with all of them, including my Air2S, which was the smallest of the bunch (aside from our OG Mavic Air which was SOOO loud).

Then, I got the Mini 3 Pro. It has to be the smallest and quietest drone I've ever had. I went to get some footage of a downtown Orlando lake with it last week and NO ONE batted an eye, turned to face me, or even acknowledged it. This was during lunchtime and at one of the busiest public lakes downtown. That experience gave me the peace of mind to go out and shoot without worry.

I have since then flown in 3 busy public parks, with the same reaction - no reaction from the public. Tuesday I intend to shoot at a busy local clear spring, one I have shot in the past, but with a lot of frowns and evil looks.

Sorry if this was TLDR, but I thought it might make some sense....
 

Hands Down

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I feel your pain. Even though I own a small business where we shoot for clients regularly, when I shoot FOR ME, just as a little side project or to get photos, I fall into the category of being anxious about where to fly.
You know, I think you’ve hit on something here with the mindset - the difference between the amateur and professional mindset.

I’ll relate another experience. Over the years, I’ve filmed band performances for friends to help them out with promo material and such. When I’ve done that, I’ve really adopted a mindset of a professional who is on the job (whether they paid me or not). As part of it, I’d shoot whatever B-roll I felt was needed - people in the audience cheering, people dancing on the dance floor. If I was anxious about doing things like filming people I don’t know without their permission, I somehow just set it aside, because I had a job to do and I was going to get the job done. And no one ever stopped me or seemed to care.

If I were to walk into some venue today, as just some random person who showed up and start shooting video of strangers, I’d feel very differently about it. Probably I’d be anxious to the point where I wouldn’t do it. But really the only difference would be my mindset. It’s not like I’d be dressed differently. It’s not like I was wearing some badge, or that the people I was filming were somehow informed “hey that guy’s working for us, cooperate with him”.

Even though I have my Part 107 cert, so far my drone usage has been recreational, and I have a recreational mindset. I think there might be something to adopting a more professional mindset of “I’m supposed to be here. I have a job to do.” And in turn, projecting that confidence. Even if not being paid. Food for thought!

Totally with you on the Mini 3. I can’t imagine operating a Phantom or Inspire outside of very remote areas or maybe in a closed set situation at this point!
 

Dan AISCF

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You know, I think you’ve hit on something here with the mindset - the difference between the amateur and professional mindset.

...
This is exactly it. When doing work for others (paid or not), it needs to get done...period. So there is a type confidence there, indeed.

Once I was filming at a beachfront community on the Gulf where only millionaire's+ lived. 3 security guards descended on me out of nowhere. I gave them the Realty Brokerage I was working for and was sure to reek of authority (lol), and needless to say I got everything I needed to be done without incident.

If I was just down there filming their Gulf Shore for my own personal project, I would have packed up and fled surely at the first sign of attention...

Over the years, I have come head to head with plenty of authorities for the sake of customer shoots without batting an eye. It's amazing that I'd never do that for myself... But as stated, it helps, too, when you have a drone that no one sees as threatening. The mini 3 looks and feels like a toy, so it is so unassuming. DJI has nailed it with that one.
 

Hands Down

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This is exactly it. When doing work for others (paid or not), it needs to get done...period. So there is a type confidence there, indeed.

Once I was filming at a beachfront community on the Gulf where only millionaire's+ lived. 3 security guards descended on me out of nowhere. I gave them the Realty Brokerage I was working for and was sure to reek of authority (lol), and needless to say I got everything I needed to be done without incident.

If I was just down there filming their Gulf Shore for my own personal project, I would have packed up and fled surely at the first sign of attention...

Over the years, I have come head to head with plenty of authorities for the sake of customer shoots without batting an eye. It's amazing that I'd never do that for myself... But as stated, it helps, too, when you have a drone that no one sees as threatening. The mini 3 looks and feels like a toy, so it is so unassuming. DJI has nailed it with that one.
I definitely appreciate having the quietest drone possible. Even if I’m in a situation where I know flying is 100% cool, the fewer people I can bother with it, the better. For me I guess that goes for anything, not just drones. Some people like to attract attention to themselves. I’m not one of them.

That said, I struggle a bit with which is better: being stealthy vs. just being obvious and projecting confidence while still not doing anything to grab unnecessary attention. Part of me says if you’re trying to hide what you’re up to, and especially if you look at all nervous, people will sense it and think you’re doing something shady. Whereas if you project that you’re supposed to be there doing what you’re doing, people will also sense that and react accordingly.

Not sure why this old memory popped into my head. I used to have a ball cap that said ‘NBC News’ on it, along with the NBC logo. I’m not even sure where I got it - it was a freebie at some event. I was always amazed how many people thought I worked for NBC News just because of the hat. A lot more people than you’d ever think asked me if I worked there when I wore it. You can still buy them. Maybe I should get another one and wear it while flying. :)
 

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I was always amazed how many people thought I worked for NBC News just because of the hat.
Years ago one of my nieces worked for the Rogers Chinese Lantern Festival as a media person, and got me a pass so I could take photos for her. (Great fun, as I got to see behind-the-scenes images of the construction as well as the lanterns all lit up at night.)

Because my pass said "media" a lot of visitors thought I was a news photographer, and would even stop other visitors walking in front of my tripod. Listening to an old lady tell off a rather loutish family for poor manners (stopping right in front a photographer's camera) was amusing — she had perfect manners, a calm voice, and was sooo scathing. :)
 

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