Always perfect drone photos

Today I’m reporting back from my home region. More precisely from Steins­berg Castle near Sins­heim. For this morning I had planned to take some wonderful drone shots at sunrise with surroun­ding fields of fog. In this blog, you can find out whether I succeeded and what I look out for when taking the perfect drone shots! 

You can see the VLOG to the BLOG at the bottom of the page or you can reach it via this button:


Sony a7IV
Sony FE 2.8/16–35 mm GM
Sony FE 4/24–105 mm G
Sony FE 100–400 mm GM
DJI Mini 3 Pro

Steins­berg Castle

The summer is simply sh… shitty for land­scape photo­graphers. It feels like the alarm clock goes off far too early. Even at a spot quite close to my home town, such as Steins­berg Castle in Sins­heim, you have to get up more or less in the middle of the night around the solstice in order to be there well before sunrise. 

So I peel myself out of bed. Just don’t make any unneces­sary noises now. If I wake my daughter now, my plan will be over before it has even begun. Somehow I manage to steal out of the house without waking my ladies, so I’m ready to go. 

Even on the drive to Steins­berg Castle, I occa­sio­nally look up at the sky. The clouds are not bad. Maybe there’ll be some fog in the surroun­ding plains as well as the dawn. That would be bril­liant. After a few minutes’ drive, I head for the parking lot. Some of the clouds are still there. Maybe it will work. 

I look around for a suitable take-off and landing site for my drone. I quickly realize that if the sun doesn’t hurry up soon, the clouds will be too far above the castle and I won’t be able to get a picture of them. I launch the drone to have a look around and see where the sun will rise and so on. 

Steins­berg Castle can be photo­gra­phed from all direc­tions. It is slightly elevated on a hill and can also be easily seen from a distance. It can be photo­gra­phed from the surroun­ding villages and hills using the light to strong tele­photo range, or from close up with a drone. Wide-angle shots from close to the ground are less suitable. 

The village of Weiler is located towards the sunset, i.e. to the west. If you are disturbed by the presence of houses in the village in the pictures, you should concen­trate on the sunrise. To the east, there are almost exclu­si­vely fields, meadows and small woods nearby. The castle itself does not have a parti­cu­larly photo­genic side, so anything is possible. Morning, evening, summer or winter doesn’t matter. 

The Castle and the Moon | DJI Mini 3 Pro

Advan­tages and disad­van­tages of a drone

I flew a first round with my drone. For me, a recon­nais­sance flight like this not only serves to record the first video sequences and images, but also to look out for subjects, get my bearings and analyze the direc­tion and effect of the light on the subject. 

Die Vorteile der Drohne liegen also ganz klar auf der Hand. Ein ganz substan­zi­eller ist, dass man deut­lich schneller eine Umge­bung erkunden kann, als man dies per Fuß könnte. Man kann also schnell von A nach B fliegen und schauen, ob das Licht in Rich­tung C oder D besser ist. Aber auch die geänderte Perspek­tive, von etwas weiter oben, oder manchmal auch Top-Down ermöglicht uns Fotos aufzu­nehmen, die wir so herkömmlich niemals aufnehmen könnten, was immer wieder für einen Aha-Effekt sorgen kann. 

Nicht nur das Fliegen als solches macht also Spaß, sondern auf das Filmen und Foto­gra­fieren mit ihr. Und so manches Motiv habe ich schon durch sie entdeckt, die ich dann mit ihr, oder auch mit der Kamera noch aufge­nommen habe. 

Aber vergli­chen mit einer DSLM hat sie auch einige Nach­teile. Allen voran der kleine Sensor. Man bekommt zwar mitt­ler­weile fast die gleiche oder eine zumin­dest annähernd so große Pixel­an­zahl wie bei einer Kamera auf den Sensor, doch dadurch entsteht ein Problem:  Das hohe Rauschen bei wenig Licht und der deut­lich gerin­gere Dyna­mik­be­reich. Aber für beides gibt es Lösungen. Es gibt nur bei der Aufnahme vor Ort schon ein paar Dinge zu beachten. 

Steins­berg Castle in soft morning light | DJI Mini 3 Pro

Important do’s when photo­gra­phing with a drone

It is ther­e­fore important for you to analyze the scene on loca­tion and pay atten­tion to the histo­gram. If you have a high tonal value spread, i.e. many bright and dark areas, then you cannot avoid an HDR shot, i.e. a series of expo­sures. This can usually be created with just one click. Make use of what you have available. If you can take 5 pictures at once, then go for it. 

If you have a scene in low light, i.e. if you are flying into the twilight, you may have to deal with a higher ISO and signi­fi­cantly more noise. Here it helps to create a series of shots. As the noise of the sensor varies from shot to shot, Photo­shop can remove the noise afterwards. 

St. Anna Chapel in the morning light | DJI Mini 3 Pro

What needs to be considered during processing

You can easily create HDRs in Ligh­t­room. You can see exactly how to do this in the video below. To do this, select all the images in your expo­sure bracket, right-click on one of the images, go to “Merge photos” and select “HDR”. Alter­na­tively, you can also use the shortcut Ctrl+H.

In the dialog that opens, you can also select the strength of the ghost effect removal. This is useful if you have image elements that have moved between the two shots. Once the HDR has been created, you can edit it as usual in Lightroom.

The proce­dure for taking a series of photos to reduce high levels of noise is slightly diffe­rent. The best way to do this is to first make your basic settings in Ligh­t­room and synchro­nize the settings for all photos in the series. Then select all the photos in the series, right-click on one of the images and select “Edit in…” and “Open as layers in Photo­shop”. Make sure that the images are perfectly aligned. If not, go to “Edit” in Photo­shop and select “Auto Align Layers”. Then convert the layers into a Smart Object. Via “Layers”, “Batch mode” you can then select “Average” and the noise should be signi­fi­cantly reduced.

If there is little noise either way, as in my pictures of Steins­berg Castle, then this method is super­fluous. In this case, you can also use the “Denoise” method under “Details” in develop mode. This does a perfect job in most cases. With these methods, you can achieve sensa­tional images at a very high quality level, even with drones with small sensors. 

Die Sonne steigt auf über Burg Steins­berg | DJI Mini 3 Pro

This and all other shots of this post you can request under “Prints” as an art print for your wall at home directly from me. 

Pictures from the VLOG

I think I took some wonderful shots of Steins­berg Castle with the drone in the short time available on this rather ordi­nary morning. I’ve uploaded some of them from the VLOG for you here. 

VLOG to the BLOG

Today I have another little VLOG from my home region. More precisely from Steins­berg Castle near Sins­heim. This morning I had planned to take some beau­tiful drone shots at sunrise with surroun­ding fields of fog. In this video, you can find out whether I succeeded and what I look out for when shoo­ting to get perfect drone shots!

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