Drones are on the rise as they have become more and more affordable. As I enjoy technology and wonderful gadgets, it was only a matter of time when I got my drone. When The DJI Mavic 2 was released, it was time. There are two versions – the Mavic 2 Pro and the Mavic 2 Zoom. They differ in the camera being attached to the drone. After long and painful consideration I opted for the Mavic 2 Pro with the 20 MP Hasselblad camera. Now stop right there! I did not opt for the Mavic 2 Pro because of the fancy name, I know very well that this is part of a marketing scheme. I compared the sensor of both the Mavic 2 Pro (28 mm lens, 1″ sensor, 20 MP) and the Mavic 2 Zoom (24-48 mm, 1/ 2/3″ sensor, 12 MP). The bigger sensor tipped the scale and outweighed the zoom function for my usecase.
I do not want to write excessively about the functions, handling and technology of the Mavic 2 Pro, there are plenty of other articles on that. But here are a few cornerstones that might be helpful.
- The Mavic 2 Pro is super easy to fly. Especially if you have ever played videogames. The layout of the controller is very similar to a Playstation controller, and I reckon that’s intended. The interface is easy to use, no problems here.
- Superb flight control – once you let go of the controller’s stick, the drone stops in mid-air and hovers on the spot. Even in windy conditions it holds its position as if nailed to the sky. he flight time on one battery charge is indicated with up to 31 minutes, but reality shows that 25-ish minutes are more likely. Anyhow, at 25% battery level the controller starts to beep annoyingly loud to inform you it’s time to fly the drone home.
- Excellent video and photo quality. The camera is stabilized and delivers incredible results. More on that later in the article.
- The anti-collision systems have been upgraded as compared to the Mavic 1. There are cameras in all directions and IR sensors check the clearance above and below the drone to avoid crashes. The system is very powerful and saved my drone at least one time while flying backwards. But beware! There are different modes in which the drone can fly, the fastest one is the “Sport” mode. That means the drone can zoom across the landscape at appro. 72km/h (!!!), but the anto-collision system is disabled in this mode. Sadly this is where I accidentally crashed my drone into a lamp post (stupid user error, moved the stick in the wrong direction). Luckily I only had to replace the rotors, the drone suffered scratches and a cracked, but not broken landing leg.
- You might want to buy the Fly more package. It includes two extra batteries (“intelligent flight battery”), a carrying bag, extra rotors and a charger for up to four batteries. Also DJI care is recommended, which is an insurance plan in case you crash your drone (I did not get DJI care and now I regret it, see above).
- Fly responsibly! Get familiar with the rules and regulations for flying a drone. Identify your vehicle with a tag, get an insurance, obey flying height limits and don’t fly over areas you are not allowed to fly. There are wonderful Apps that help you to check if flying in your spot is allowed. That’s the short version. Don’t be one of those jackasses that let their drone fly near an airport, which will eventually lead to stricter regulation or a ban of drones.
After this brief introduction on the technology of the drone I want to dive into the question of what you can do with a drone when photographing motorcycles. As written above I struggled whether to get the Mavic 2 Pro or Zoom version. The Mavic 2 Pro has a fixed focal length of 28 mm, so it is a wide field ov view (77 deg). The problem with wide-angle lenses in motorcycle photography is, that the bike tends to be very small in the image once the camera is a few meters away from the bike. As a starter I give you the above image. In case you did not notice: It is always the same bike in this image. And this demonstrates the excellent positioning system of the Mavic 2. I let the drone hover at a height of around 60 m, and it was a windy day! The drone hovered and took images every few seconds (2 s intervals are the fastest, why not 1 s images or 1/2??). I drove back and forth a few times. Later I stacked the images and copied myself into the final image multiple times. The stunning fact: All images show the same frame. The drone hovered for about 10 minutes and did not drift or change its position otherwise. Fantastic.
The power of drones is that you can shoot images from a position you normally can’t reach with your “regular” camera. This makes drone photography prone for birdseye shots, and in fact most of the shots I have taken so far are from that perspective. The image above was taken on a small road close to the location where I work. Usually I shoot the sunrise from here, since the sun comes up very close over the horizon (no trees for a few kilometres).
The next one is also a birdseye view shot. Here the sun was standing low and cast a beautiful shadow portrait of me and my bike on the gravel.
The Mavic 2 also makes an interesting prop as seen here. An encounter of two technological beasts in the wild against the rising sun…. (whoaaa, calm down Mr. Fancypoet).
If the surroundings are good, shots from another angle are also possible like this one below. This one would be way more impressive if it was shot against a tall mountainside, but we are lacking mountains here in the Hanover are. Anyhow, it is a demo of what is possible and feasible.
Generally speaking, photographing a motorcycle with a drone is a new challenge as you have to think in other categories as opposed to “earth-bound” cameras. Usually your look goes towards the horizon when choosing a location. “If I place the bike here, what is behind it will it look good?”. But with a drone the gaze goes towards the ground and the immediate surroundings of the bike. Will it look good when hovering several meters in the air?
Bottom line. I have just started using my drone for motorcycle images. And I emphasize “images”, as I have not filmed a lot with it yet. The images I made so far show the potential of drone photography, but there is so much more to discover. And I am looking forward to it.