A Drone’s Eye View

Traverse City from the West Part of Grand Traverse Bay

Just back from four days in northern Michigan where I took my drone up and got some great shots. It’s good to see images from 400 feet in the air these days and get away from the six foot social distancing rules for a few moments. Still, even drones are not free to fly anywhere. There are maps of no-fly zones near such places as airports, large sports facilities and prisons. My drone will not work in these areas. Its technology is controlled by the Chinese, makers of the DJI Mavic 2 Air drone I have. It’s got a 48 mega pixel camera on it. (In the 60s, I might have said it’s got a 450 under its’ hood.) This is unheard of in most photography.

I remember how excited I was to get my first digital camera with over 1 mega pixel in the early part of this century. Some model of Canon I bought at this chain of tech stores that served as a model for future chain stores like Circuit City and Best Buy. At the time of that first digital camera, I was living in the Valley of the Moon part of Sonoma County and hiking in the 5,000-acre Annadel State Park I lived right next to. It rose like a great island over the Santa Rosa city limits and then into a type of suburb of Santa Rosa in the 15-mile-long Valley of the Moon. It has always been my favorite as well as the most beautiful and naturalistic environment I’ve lived in and was so happy in. I carried the camera on all my hikes up into the 5,000-acre Annadel. I took my new digital camera to get photos of the world around me and then communicate this world to others. I simply needed to create and then need to communicate a creation.

1/11/2009 – Tree in Annadel Park, Valley of the Moon – Sonoma (First HDR Photos)

My original experience with the half-pound Canon camera gave way to a Canon with more pixels and the ability to take High Dynamic Range photos. One of the first HDR photos I took was of a tree in Annadel Park. Ten years after this photo was taken in 2009, the camera is now reduced to weighing just 1/10 of a pound on my Chinese DJI drone I carried around on our recent trip to Traverse City on the southern shore of Grand Traverse Bay in Michigan. (The mitt of Michigan as they say) The small camera (both video and photography) on the drone packs incredible power into a small device. 45 times more powerful and weighing maybe 5% what my Canon camera weighed.

I shoot photos with the drone using a process of automatically bracketing photos called High Dynamic Range photography. I’ve been using this type of photography for the last 15 years with my photography as I was involved with it pretty much since it first came out. The premise: to combine three (instantly taken) photos into one photo through software like the Photomatix 6 Pro software. One photo is over-exposed. Another is regularly exposed. The third one is under-exposed. They are recorded on this Micro Card on the drone. I download the photos and work with them to express what I want to express using the incredible Photomatix software. I just got their latest software and use it in creating drone shots I get around and over-using HDR photography around the Traverse City & northern Michigan area.

5/1/21 – Grandview Parkway below into Traverse City

Since our accomdations at the Hotel Indigo in Traverse City (on the shore in the center of the above photo) was in a no fly zone because under the flight path into the local airport, I couldn’t fly the drone in front of the hotel so had to drive over to the western side of the western part of Grand Traverse Bay. I waited until around 6:00 when the sun was sufficiently low in the west to provide its “magic hour” light on the city.

When I got back to the hotel room, I merged the three bracketed photos quickly taken by the drone camera in Photomatix program on my MacBook Pro. I manipulated the photos to create the image or feeling I wanted to express in taking the photo. I had the below photo sent to be put on canvas by my old standby Discount Canvass and then sent online for a 12 x 18 glossy photo printed by Midwest Photo. I printed it online to  today and picked it up. I was impressed by the quality of the print. But then it was not surprising to me coming from Ohio’s major photography store – Midwest Photo –  that I’ve been a customer with for many years. The photo caught much of what I wanted to express at that moment of time. 400 feet above Grand Traverse Bay at 6 pm on May 1, 2021.

Looking North in Grand Traverse Bay


(See more of our High Dynamic Range Photos at the Photos Page on the Midnight Oil Studios site)

One thought on “A Drone’s Eye View

  1. You captured the sight beautifully. i definitely noticed all the different colors and the light and shadows.
    That is such a beautiful area. I haven’t been back there since my honeymoon. I am sure it has
    grown so much. You certainly can see the different colors of springtime there, also the water with
    the different depths of colors. Thank you for sharing John. Barbara

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