Lodi Hensen, aka “The Droning Dutchman”, is a drone landscape photographer with a massive following. His photos and videos are repeatedly shared around the globe by top publications including National Geographic and Lonely Planet. We interviewed Lodi about the nature of drone photography and what makes it so unique.
Beyond regular drone shots
My goal is to produce beautiful images by finding special locations and then going a step further. Initially, I started using drones because to me the underlying technology was so fantastic. I love how drone photography lets you show a subject from a whole new perspective. Although I’d seen regular shots of famous places like the Cinque Terre in Italy, from above they look completely different. Lots of people, including me, had never seen such images before. The drone’s mobility means that you have considerable flexibility in terms of perspective. From a bird’s eye view you can quickly get an excellent overview of your location, and then assess what you want to shoot. Landscapes seen from the air can really surprise you, so your photos may not end up being what you originally envisioned, but will be truly breathtaking nonetheless.
For me, the most beautiful drone shots contain different natural elements because that allows you to create a dramatic contrast in your images. Nature combined with water looks truly incredible. For example, near Copenhagen, I took really cool shots of Møns Klint. My goal was to shoot the cliffs and the sea from above, because then I could capture how the face of the chalk cliffs continue underwater. It looks like something on another planet! Inland can be beautiful too, but I’m most enthusiastic about contrasting natural elements, and you usually find these on the coast. Often times drone photos miss a sense of depth, but I overcome that by shooting straight downwards. This perspective captures all of the distinct elements of the landscape and their place in space, giving a sense of depth but in a new way. The photo is then more in line with what I have in mind and it adds something extra to the image.
Preparing for the unexpected
The difficult thing about drone photography is that you can never be entirely sure about what awaits you. From the air, a landscape often looks completely different from what you expect. With most landscape photography, you can visualize the shot you want because you’re standing there and can see it. You may also have seen other photos taken of the landscape where you are. With drone photography, you can’t prepare that way. You’re not in the air yourself, checking out angles before shooting, and the photo you want may never before have been captured, so you can’t get an idea of what to expect from looking at other photos of the landscape. I always do a test flight to get an overview of the location and the current light situation before I start shooting for real. Like traditional photographers, I make use of the right time of day and weather conditions when planning my drone photo shoots. Images with a lot of sunlight are lovely, but the same landscape in misty conditions is much more unique and more interesting to look at. It has a feeling of mystery about it.!But of course, weather conditions can change quickly, and when your equipment is literally up in the elements by itself, it can be tricky. If it suddenly starts to rain or the wind becomes too strong, I land my drone as quickly as possible. The only thing you can do then is wait and hope for a dry spell. Of course, I take the weather forecast into account in my preparations so that I’m not faced with unpleasant surprises very often.
Drone photography can be complicated
I try to select locations abroad based on their landscapes so that I’m sure to get beautiful drone shots. To avoid any surprises, I always try to find out the local drone regulations in the country I’m visiting before I get there. There are handy apps available that list no-fly zones. However, sometimes it’s more complicated. For example, in Gran Canaria I was only allowed to film on one side of the island and I was bombarded with information on what I could and couldn’t do. This costs a lot of time, but generally I can figure it out. If it gets too difficult, I usually get in touch with the authorities in charge of the applicable rules and regulations.
Multitasking to the max
When I’m flying a drone, I’m doing all kinds of things at the same time – I really have to multitask. I have to constantly keep an eye on the wind. If there’s a headwind, it will drain the drone’s battery much faster so I need to make sure my battery can handle it. If the wind is too strong, I can’t fly safely and would need to land. I must also be certain that there aren’t too many birds in the area. Seagulls are known to attack drones, for example, and that would damage my equipment and my photos. These are all factors that play a role when you’re trying to take the most beautiful shots you can.
I need to feel good about my photos
The photos I have on the wall are the ones I’m most proud of, the ones I’d really like my guests to see. My friends and family love to see my latest drone shots on my wall after each trip and so do I. My wall prints represent memories from amazing trips I’ve made, but they’re also the photos that show my best shots, the ones in which it all comes together. The best example is my shot of the beach at Monterosso al Mare. How the rock and the beach come together, the colors and the perfectly placed parasols – it totally works! That photo makes me ache for that trip and I hope it also inspires others to visit that spot in the future.
An Xpozer print on a wall is worth a thousand JPEGs.
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Every other week a new photo and the story behind it will be published here on Photofocus. Clemens and Ivan have made copies of “Amazing Photography” available for the cost of shipping — $8.99 alone. The book retails for $29.99 regularly. Here are some highlights …
- More than 100 breathtaking photos by professional and hobby photographers
- 13 personal stories from pro’s and hobbyists such as Albert Dros (pro-photographer), Laura Vink (pro-photographer), Andre Kuipers (astronaut and photographer), Ori Guttin (co-founder Viewbug) and Evgeny Tchebotarev (co-founder 500px)
- 4 practical photo guides to help you enjoy your photos to the max
- 7 DIY quick fixes for unexpected photography situations
- World’s top 15 under-the-radar spots for stunning photos
- Would you rather …? A hypothetical photography game for friends
- The science behind how your photos can affect your happiness and well-being.