NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Eagle-Eye View Offers New Photographic Angles

Photographers are always looking for a new angle. Jared Eischen found his last winter when he acquired his drone.

“I’ve always been kind of interested in remote-control flying,” he says. “When I found out you could put a camera on this thing and send it into the sky — it was so cool. I had to have one.”

Today Jared, a senior film studies major at Minnesota State University Moorhead, has grown adept at sending his 14-inch, 3-pound flying machine hundreds of feet in the air, scanning the landscape with a high-resolution camera and capturing images from a perspective only birds can imagine.

His DJI Phantom III drone ascends at more than 10 miles per hour and flies horizontally at 35 mph. Connected to his controller by Wi-Fi, its range is close to 1½ miles. GPS enables it to hover with remarkable steadiness while capturing multiple bursts of still images.

Back on Earth, Jared often combines sets of pictures into broad, deep panoramas. He has combined as many as 35 separate exposures with HDR (high dynamic range) processing to bring out details in shadows and sunlight in the constantly shifting vistas.

And he’s shot sky-high video as well — “drone video is almost better than the stills,” he reports. On the Fourth of July, he captured rockets bursting in air over the lake in Spicer, Minn. He has traced a motorcycle-riding friend’s progress tooling down the road. At a friend’s wedding, he focused on guests leaving the quaint country church — then pulled back to show the little structure from angel’s altitude nearly lost in the lush green landscape.

Personal drones are so new that rules have only recently been developed. The Federal Aviation Administration has been hustling to catch up to their popularity among both hobbyists and commercial users. Originally, when the first small drones hit the market less than two years, commercial users were expected to have a pilot’s license, while personal users simply could register their machines’ serial numbers online. With interest exploding, the FAA issued a set of common-sense regulations for their operation in June, including a testing and certification program far short of full pilot credentials that goes into effect Aug. 29.

The agency has drawn up recommendations for those who fly their drones for fun. They’re expected to soar no higher than 400 feet, avoiding airports and other aircraft. They should maintain a line of sight with their drones. They must meticulously avoid airports and all kinds of aircraft. They are forbidden from flying over groups of people, sporting events and stadiums, as well as emergency rescue efforts like fires, where they can get in the way. And one final point is obvious — no flying under the influence.

Yet peering at life down below can be intoxicating in its own right. Jared takes his drone out of its case, attaches its four little rotors and presses a button to start it. He clips his smartphone to the drone’s handheld controller then launches the app that links the drone by Wi-Fi. He judges his progress and frames his views through the smartphone camera’s eye, steering it much as you’d play a video game. When he has composed his shot, he clicks the virtual shutter on his phone … and the high-resolution image is written to a SD card.

Though he stresses that he ranks as just an avid hobbyist, Jared’s love of the eagle-eye view has already made the local news –— not necessarily as he might have wanted.

“I was helping a friend in graphic communications finish his senior project, a 3-D walk-through of his third-floor apartment,” he remembers. “To get the right view off his deck, I was flying the drone just beyond his balcony.”

In real life, Jared works as a part-time floor assistant at Valley News Live, operating cameras and audio along with other production tasks. Thus, he wasn’t surprised to get a text from one of his newsroom co-workers telling of a curious call call to the station’s Whistle Blower Hotline: “You won’t believe what this woman told me,” his colleague texted. “She says someone is creeping her with a drone outside her bedroom window.”

Ha, ha, Jared responded. What did it look like? White, four propellers. Where did it happen? That sounds familiar. And what time? Ten minutes before, as it turned out … just as he’d headed home, only minutes ahead of the police, whom she’d also alerted.

“Well, that’s awkward,” he told his co-worker. “It’s me.”

VNL’s crack investigators had their culprit. They interviewed the victim — who, it turned out, lived next door to Jared’s friend — as well as the responding officers. Finally Jared got his chance, too, to explain what was going on. The tale led the 6 o’clock news.

“You get a little more attention with the drone,” he advises. Out in the country, for example, he’s gotten used to curious farmers who pull up in their pickups, quizzing him on how much the curious device cost him and how high and far it can fly. “And they always, always ask one other thing,” he adds. “Have I cracked it up?”

Well, yes. He did clip a power pole once on an early adventure, but neither the pole nor the lightweight drone ended up the worse for wear.

“I think this is the coolest thing,” he says, counting the ways he might use the mechanical bird in months to come. “You get a whole new perspective on things from up on the air — things you’d never give a second glance here on the ground.”


2 thoughts on “NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Eagle-Eye View Offers New Photographic Angles”

  • Katherine Tweed August 4, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Will you be able to block Russ from buying a drone? Looks like fun

    1. Nancy Edmonds Hanson August 4, 2016 at 5:48 pm

      Too late ….


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