Simple Photo Tips

Drone Landscape Photography Using the Mavic Air 2

Landscape Drone Photography

In the post I am going to share how I use my drone as an alternate camera platform. Getting into locations you cannot physically access for great angles on a photo subject. It’s not always about going high or far away. Its about going around, over or on the other side of physical barriers. This is Drone Landscape Photography the Simple Photo Tips way.

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Drone landscape photography via aerial tripod

When you first acquire a drone, the temptation is to fly it as high as possible and take photos from high up looking down.   Or to fly it far away from you to see things that are “way over there”.  From day one I have used mine a little differently.  I use it as an aerial tripod.

Before using a drone, there were often shots I couldn’t get because I couldn’t stand where I wanted to stand.  An example is standing on a bridge looking at the river below, but there were objects blocking my view.  If I could just take several steps out into space from the edge of the bridge, I could get the shot I wanted.  Now I regularly shoot drone landscape photography.

drone landscape photography nehalem
The Nehalem river in Northwest Oregon

Fences, bushes and other barriers

Sometimes the perfect shot of something would be from a position just on the other side of some barrier.  Like a row of low bushes, or a fence, or a wall.  In this case, just having the ability to position a camera just above the obstruction would allow you to get it.  To me the drone’s best capability is its freedom of range of motion.   Like a bird, drone landscape photography is able to use 3D space to its own advantage.

Yes, getting out your drone, setting up the controller and launching.  And then just getting a shot from 12 to 15 feet up seems like a waste of the drone’s full capability.  But it’s no different than driving a sports car 35 miles an hour down to the store.  What’s important is the END GOAL.  Most of the time I am flying it down low and using its maneuverability to maximum advantage. 

Drone Landscape Photography Using the Mavic Air 2

drone landscape photography bumping lake
Bumping Lake in Washington State

Using the full capability

Having said the above yes, I have flown it up high, and yes, I have taken some photos from up there. Even when I am up high, I tend to not to look down too often. I like looking out at the wide-open vistas. Taking in the vast landscape scenes. Like the photo above. This is Bumping Lake in Washington State USA, near Mt Rainer about 60 miles south east of the city of Seattle.

Drone landscape photography at the beach

I really like getting photos from locations that are impossible to be without something like a drone.  Recently, I was at the beach taking photos, and there were some rocks out in the water slightly offshore.  I did take some camera shots from the beach, but then I got out the drone.   Flying out to where the waves where just starting to swell and hovering at about 20 feet.  I was really happy with the way this photo turned out, the sun hitting the water made it shine emerald.  Photo below.

drone landscape photography beach
Offshore rocks on the Oregon coast

Drone Landscape Photography Using the Mavic Air 2

Shooting Mode Options

The drone I have is the DJI Mavic Air 2.  It offers several photo shooting modes that you can take advantage of for drone landscape photography.  Because each of these modes uses the exact same sensor, they tend to push capabilities in one area, while limiting them in another.  I will list each of these below along with benefits and restrictions of each.

12 Megapixel mode

This mode offers good dynamic range, contrast and color depth, but is limited in the detail density.  It’s also not quite as sharp.  This mode captures the image fast so there is little chance of blur due to vibration and wind buffeting.

48 Megapixel mode

This great mode for drone landscape photography because it offers a lot of detail and sharpness.  But at the slight cost of less dynamic range, contrast and color depth.  This is also a slower photo mode that actually shoots four slightly offset images and merges them to get the higher megapixel count.  Because of the multiple image merge, in higher winds the photo might not come as sharp and clear.

AEB Photo mode

This can take bracketed exposures of the same image.  From 2 to 5 shots, ranging from -2 to +2.  This can be useful to ensure you get the best exposure, or if you want to do a manual HDR merge of the images.  Individual exposures will be saved onto the SD card in sequential order.

Smart Photo mode

This is an enhanced version of the same Auto mode you see on DSLR cameras.  It will choose the best of all the available modes to shoot in based on local conditions.  This is a great mode leaving you free to concentrate on flying and photo composition.  But you give up some control over the process.

Burst Photo Mode

This shoots a burst of images on a single button press.  You can choose 3, 5 or 7 continuous shots.  This is a great option for shooting a changing scene where you want several options.  For example, you might be orbiting a subject hitting a 7-shot burst several times on the way around.  This mode uses the 12 Megapixel shooting mode to capture the images.

Columbia River Photo
The Columbia River

Using intelligent panorama options

The photo above was shot using one of the panorama modes on the Mavic Air 2 called “Three by Three”.  It takes a total of 9 photos in the following configuration.

Using this panorama option is a great for drone landscape photography.  I usually do one or two each time I have the drone in the air just to inject some variety.  There are a few other Panorama modes to try out as well.

Drone Landscape Photography Using the Mavic Air 2

Don’t have a drone?

If you are interested but don’t yet have a drone, here are a few tips based on all the research I have done.  Also based on my experiences as a drone owner and using it for photography.

If you are new to drones, I HIGHLY recommend sticking with DJI as the brand for your drone.  Their stuff is very well designed, works flawlessly and is easy for beginners to figure out and use. There are cheaper drones out there, but they are cheap for a reason.  i.e. they have limited features, buggy software, not easy to fly well, etc.

DJI Mavic Air 2

My drone cost $799, is small when folded up, flies like a dream. It is full of great features and takes excellent photos as you can see in this post. Here is a link to the Mavic Air 2 on Amazon —>>>

Keep yourself out of trouble

Something to keep in mind.  There are many places where drones are restricted.  Don’t assume it will be OK to fly.  Do some research on the area you will be in, ask at park offices, get permits ahead of time, etc.  Also be respectful of private property. I have heard of people getting fined hefty sums depending on how reckless they were being. 

Here is a pretty good and recent article covering drone laws, regulations and requirements:

If you intend to use your photography for commercial purposes, i.e. sell your images in some way.  The FAA requires that you get a commercial UAV pilot license.

Here is a link to the FAA info on this:

Conclusion to drone landscape photography

The purpose of this post is to whet your appetite for doing drone landscape photography and show some of my own work. Aside from being able to get great photos, flying the drone is fun. Especially in big wide open areas like the beach or back country where there is little to worry about crashing into. I have only scratched the surface of the flight capabilities and other features, so it may be worth more looking into. Whatever you are out there doing, have fun with it!