DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Landscape Photography

The Drakensberg Amphitheatre during a special sunrise - panorama captured using the Phantom 4 Pro. This image took 3 separate images to make, all stitched together in Lightroom.

The Drakensberg Amphitheatre during a special sunrise - panorama captured using the Phantom 4 Pro. This image took 3 separate images to make, all stitched together in Lightroom.

As part of my ethos in photography, I try to photograph the natural world in unique ways. A lot of my photography is done in very popular areas, so producing unique work is very difficult. Although the Drakensberg, for example, holds many secrets, I have yet to venture out far enough to find these new places and photograph them. A popular area of the Drakensberg I love and have visited several times is the Drakensberg Amphitheatre. Coming away with something different from this location is difficult, but not impossible?!

At the end of 2016 I looked into buying a drone to add a new dimension into my photography. I was new to drone photography at the time, but the internet was full of useful information and I managed to educate myself enough to make my first purchase. I initially purchased a DJI Mavic Pro as I liked how compact and lightweight the unit was. I used the Mavic for a few months, but really struggled with image quality issues and factory defects and eventually after my second replaced unit, I opted for a full refund. I was initially unsure of what I wanted to do next, as the Mavic was great because it was easy to take hiking, but the image quality was not good enough for what I wanted. Together with the poor manufacturing quality control on the Mavic, this made me wary of the model.

I chose to step up a league and buy the DJI Phantom 4 Pro from LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA (for ease of reference I will call the DJI Phantom 4 Pro the "P4P" for the remainder of this post). I knew the P4P would be a lot more cumbersome for hiking, but employing the use of a porter would negate that issue on longer hikes. Also, for shorter day hikes and walks the F-Stop Gear Sukha and Telemaster ICU backpack combo is perfect to carry the P4P drone, controller and a full pro landscape camera system. I ruled the larger size of the P4P as a non-issue for me. The image quality of the P4P is so worth the extra effort it takes to accommodate the size of the drone.

During July 2017 I spent a weekend at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge in the Drakensberg in South Africa, and I was excited as it was my first proper outing with the P4P. I didn't have high hopes of capturing anything spectacular as winter in the Drakensberg is not the best time to photograph the mountains unless there is snow, but I was excited to fly the P4P anyways. And besides, I was away with family so I was ok with getting nothing from the photography aspect on the weekend.

The trip, surprisingly, turned out to produce some spectacular conditions, and I managed to capture some epic 4k footage as well as new portfolio images of the Drakensberg. The 4k footage will be kept under wraps for now, though.

Early morning sunlight illuminating the "Sentinel Ridge" rising above the cloud inversion below.

Early morning sunlight illuminating the "Sentinel Ridge" rising above the cloud inversion below.

Aerial photo looking north towards the Mahai valley during sunset on a hazy winter evening.

Aerial photo looking north towards the Mahai valley during sunset on a hazy winter evening.

For me, this is an unseen side to the "Witches" viewpoint close to the Sentinel car park close to the Sentinel peak. Amazing morning light hits the cliffs of the "Witches" formation.

For me, this is an unseen side to the "Witches" viewpoint close to the Sentinel car park close to the Sentinel peak. Amazing morning light hits the cliffs of the "Witches" formation.