10-08-2017 03:29 PM
I was invited to photograph some drone racing which was a new venue for me. I didn't know anything about it but I thought that the Auto focus systems of my cameras would not be up to this due to physical size and speeds. This proved to be true but fortunately it was possible to pre focus on a zone and wait for action within that zone. A bit of experimentation on shutter speeds (it was a bright sunny day) found a decent shutter speed range between 1/2500 to 1/3200 second to almost freeze the drone while showing some prop blur (which is desirable). With most of the action occurring at the single gate in the center of the course that became my target zone but I hadn't brought a tripod so held the camera to my face to try to keep the gate in frame, watched the drones approach with the other eye and used the “spray pray” method of holding the shutter button down as they passed near the gate. A tripod and shutter release cable would make this a relatively easy job.
My advice to anyone trying to photograph these is to set your ISO high enough, (but no higher) to allow shutter speeds between 1/2500 - 1/4000 using shutter speed as the priority (Tv or SS setting) that produces an aperture in the f 8 to f 16 range. This should give a bit of a depth of field and freeze the drone. Try to frame the gate (or another area) and then let the AF focus your lens slightly in front of it and once focused turn the AF off (usually done with a switch on the lens). Repeat this if you move the camera relative to your target zone.
At first I tried shooting them in the air as they approached the corner marker closest to me. I pre focused on the marker & tried tracking them as they approached the marker across the field & then made their turn towards me. I got a few keepers but not many I'd call interesting enough to make an event album with.
Next I tried shooting from the back side of the timing gate but the sun was on the entry side so I decided that was my best chance of catching the interesting action. These are just a few examples of my results but it was the right place to catch the action. Drones sometimes hit the gate loosing all control with interesting crashes & some crashed but continued on even after bouncing a few times. They are pretty tough little things.
10-10-2017 07:27 PM
Nice job. My favorite is the second to last shot, the one with flying grass and drone parts.
10-10-2017 07:57 PM
Thanks. Got lucky with that sequence. I think one arm broke on that crash but although just about every heat had crashes most caused either a broken prop or 2 or the drone ended up upside down on the ground without damage. They seem to be extremely durable with the exception being the batteries which are soft packs & take enough abuse that 2 or 3 were set aside in a safe area just in case they caught fire . LiPo batteries are fragile in that department.