Working with technology - Photography reaches new heights

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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

Remember the early 1960s when computers were first introduced? Many people were worried that they would be used primarily in surveillance or to snoop on the general population. The phrase “Big Brother’s watching” was tossed around a lot back then.

Fast-forward several decades and practically everybody has access to some sort of computer or computerized device. And now that we know how to control them for our own work, communication and entertainment needs, we wonder how we’d ever get by without them.

So we’ve gotten comfortable with computers. But what about drones? Since their introduction a few years ago, people have slipped back into “Big Brother” mode. Even drone owner Dave Beck, Elkader, had concerns before purchasing his model last September.

“I was somewhat apprehensive about getting it because of the stigma of it being a technology for spying or destruction,” he admitted. “My reason for getting this has been purely for unique photographic perspectives.”

Beck is widely known for his photographic talents. His stunning images have been made into postcards and framed prints, and he often shares his best shots on social media. Always looking for ways to expand his craft, Beck several months ago considered using a drone to capture from the ground a bird’s eye perspective for his photos. He set aside his initials concerns, did some research, purchased a unit and has now (pardon the pun) taken his work to new heights! Amazing flood footage taken by a drone in August by his cousin, Tony Puelz, Garnavillo, was another factor in his decision-making.

“I guess you could say it pushed me over the edge,” Beck said. 

In making his purchase, Beck looked for a quality product from a known company that provided good after-sale service.

“I was in the dark as far as expectations because so few people own drones,” Beck said. “I read a lot of reviews online to help with my final decision.”

Operating a drone sounds complicated but Beck insists it’s not, once you get the hang of things.

“The drone creates its own WiFi connection and the controller, which I have in my hands, gives signals to the drone,” he explained. I use an iPad connected to the controller to see what the drone camera sees.”

The unit has a stabilization feature that keeps the camera level at all times even when the drone is tilted. Beck can tilt the camera from horizontal to vertical. He can also hover directly above an object and tilt the camera straight down for a unique bird’s eye view.

“A pretty cool feature is time-delay shots,” Beck continued. “I can hover the drone away from me, set a timer for a 10-second delay, put the controller down and compose myself in the shot.”

“I can take a photograph no matter how distant the drone is from me. I just touch the button on the screen and I have the shot instantly!”

Beck’s initial flights with the drone were done in open spaces, which helped him master the basics like up, down, side-to-side, and landing. 

“Sending the drone out over water and out of my sight and hearing range has been nerve racking,” Beck admitted. “When I cannot see it anymore or hear it I am totally reliant on the iPad screen to see where the drone is. I have to be very careful of power lines, trees and other obstructions. I have sent it out about a mile over water and brought it back successfully.”

Beck continued, “Another interesting aspect I had to get used to is understanding I don’t have to go drive or hike to a high elevation to get a shot. For my first shot of the town I drove up on Kramer’s hill and flew it over the hillside and got some nice shots. After I got back down to my house I realized I could have flown it up there from my back deck and got the same shots!”

Beck, who remains vigilant about respecting the privacy of others when shooting, has been satisfied with the results of his drone-assisted photography, and he’s received “an outpouring of interest” in the photos he’s taken so far. 

“We’ve all seen aerial photographs of the town from a plane, but these are more intimate because the photos are not only from above but also much closer,” he said. “It’s really pretty cool.”

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