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.