All of you have seen them.
You know… those long gliding shots… the ones that have a particular field of view over beaches, snow covered mountains and shiny new housing estates in outer urban areas that property agents are trying to flog. Film clips to impress. Or not, as the case maybe.
Shot from drones, or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) as they were known by the military that developed them for target practice and weapons carriers, the camera drone has become an inexplicable and rather annoying tool in the kit of both commercial and amateur photographers.
These pilotless flying cameras… or the quadcopters of every teenage boys wet dream with a go-pro attached…. seem to have infiltrated photography with the least creative and most tiresome camera work I have ever seen. Well perhaps the first time I saw a photo, or the first 15 seconds of footage I saw I was impressed by a new perspective, but similarly to the invention of Photoshop…. and its initial users and their sometimes crimes against sunsets… I just have to say… “Dear God, haven’t we had enough yet?”
A quick search of Shutterstock shows that they have about 73,000 stills images and 251,000 film clips shot on drone cameras. Each of them with sweeping views of green paddocks, pine trees, beaches, cityscapes or whatever. Each clip appears to be about 10-20 seconds long and with monotonous and tedious repetitiveness, the same angle, with the same intention is captured by these mechanical mosquitos in the sky.
While few people understand that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority controls all things that are buzzing around in the air above us… (oh except for birds… like the one featured in todays image!) According to this article in Gizmodo if you don’t know and understand the limitations of being in control of a drone camera the CASA can hit you with some severe penalties if you infringe the rules.
More importantly, as proven by several unfortunate drone camera accidents, these machines, just like aeroplanes, have a slight tendency to fall out of the sky. As the unfortunate photographer Warren Adams found out when his camera drone, flying over the Geraldton Triathlon and photographing competitors, landed on the head of one of the triathletes causing them minor head injuries. Undoubtedly one of the more interesting camera drone interactions recorded was when a red-tailed hawk righteously downed one of these flying contraptions.
Perhaps though, its the insanely boring images that are being recorded by this method that is the greatest downfall of the technology. Devoid of actual contact with the subject matter, as the photographer is physically unable to be in the camera position, the camera operator/photographer is simply unable to sense the atmosphere of what they are photographing. Its like the camera drone is the Etch-A-Sketch of the 21st century.
Indeed, when the first choice of the photographic landscape prize in the Headon Photographic Contest this year appears to be the most boring drone photograph of all time, by self described amateur photographer Todd Kennedy you have to wonder, when will this all end?
Martine Perret photographs from the air and she does so with an artists practiced eye and a sense of connection to the landscapes she so lovingly describes in her photographs. As a veteran United Nations photographer she says “As a peacekeeping photographer I had flown almost weekly on UN helicopters on mission to remote places. I remembered there was no better way of getting an understanding of unfamiliar terrain than to see it from above.” The sense of connection and wonder that Perrets photos exude are palpable. She is there in the sky looking down at the earth with tenderness.
Famously Robert Capa, legendary war photographer and founder of equally legendary photographic agency Magnum, once said “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” . ‘ Point taken. Camera drones merely distance the photographer from their subject allowing technology to subjugate feeling. Like the dodo’s of the past centuries lets hope that this particular fad of technology fades as quickly as it took flight.