The September meeting of the Calvert Photography Club was held on September 18, 2016 at our new location at the College of Southern Maryland in Prince Frederick, MD.
Our guest speakers today were Terry and Belinda Kilby, who spoke to us about Drone Photography. Terry and Belinda began working with drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, in 2009 when Terry became interested in building them. At that time, since drones were still pretty expensive, building your own was really the only affordable option. Terry, who was a mobile software engineer, had always enjoyed tinkering with remote control cars and helicopters in his spare time. And Belinda, a visual art teacher and aspiring fine art painter, saw great potential in this new venture from an artistic standpoint. As their knowledge and experience grew, they were able to transform their hobby into a business and thus Elevated Element, Maryland’s premiere Aerial Imaging company, was founded.
Terry initially purchased a small lightweight digital camera known as a gum-stick camera and attached it to a small store bought remote control helicopter. After the Go-Pro camera was released, however, Terry began building his first custom tricopter prototype for mounting the Go-Pro. Once they realized the potential that lay in capturing images from an aerial perspective they began to look toward creating a custom built flying device that could carry a better quality camera and thus capture higher quality images. They sought information on the subject through the online community getting to know other multi-copter enthusiasts from all over the world. Through this online community they also became exposed to the Maker Movement, a subculture of do it yourself problem solvers and builders who apply their practical skills to creating new things.
Though the Go-Pro images were pleasing and inspired them to further pursue their interest, they found that the quality of the prints when enlarged were somewhat grainy. They began to learn more about photography including HDR and other post processing in Photoshop which eventually led to obtaining better cameras. They also say that the Smartphone has been a key ingredient in advancing the industry due to GPS and other applications that can be used to control the drone. Advancements in technology have made it possible to gain more control of their vehicles, making them easier to stabilize in the air and thus less subject to movement due to wind and weather conditions.
Early on in this endeavor they captured images of some of Baltimore’s iconic architecture, usually working in early mornings when there were fewer people and cars around. They soon found, however, that there are many uses for unmanned aerial vehicles other than artistic. They have been used for things such as infrastructure inspections of bridges, roofs, or other high structures, search and rescue operations, and even precision agriculture (flying over a field to see where more water or fertilizer may be needed.) Terry and Belinda have done video footage that was used in a commercial for the Maryland Board of Tourism. They have been published in other media outlets, as well, including National Geographic, CBS Sunday Morning, and Entrepreneur Magazine. They have worked for notable clients such as Nike, The U.S. Army, The State Department, and several TV and film productions often combining different technologies such as 3D animation, video, and still photographs.
Terry pilots the drone while Belinda controls the camera. They say that this 2 person system gives them the best control over the images they are able to capture. Battery time lasts only about 20 minutes so it is essential to make the most of the time you have in the air. Most of the camera functions can be controlled from the ground through an IPAD. There are a number of FAA regulations that must be followed when flying a drone, including keeping the vehicle within your line of sight. They are also limited to a height of 400 feet (except in certain instances such as an inspection.)
The services they offer include aerial photography, Cinematography, Photogrammetry (photographing a subject from many different perspectives, then stitching those flat 2D images into a 3D object using software algorithms), and software development. They have also been active in Outreach to educate the general public about the many capabilities of drones and their positive uses.
They have written two books on drone photography: Drone Art, Baltimore released in October 2013, and Make: Getting Started with Drones, released in October 2015.
You can find Elevated Element on the web at: http://elevatedelement.com/ You. can also view their work on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCszCsimT0AdBHH8RMJzOmVA/videos Or f.ollow them on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
The photo assignment for September was “Backlight and Silhouette”. The winners for this month were: 3rd Place by Beth Phifer, 2nd Place by Sandy Carr, and 1st Place by Tammi Gorsak.
Two slide shows were presented by Tammi Gorsak entitled “2016 Massachusetts” and “2016 MAFF Fireworks”. The October photography assignment is “Color, Color, and More Color”.