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Flying Over the Obstacles

Fergus faced quite a few challenges with this project, however. For a start, matching shots across different activities in a variety of locations would be problematic. This would be hard enough to do with such fast-paced action, but even more so when they were flying the drone in a dense forest. There would be other challenges when flying over the sea with a relatively strong wind for the sequence of kite surfing shots.

This came particularly to the foreground during the kitesurfing portion of the shoot. “We were on our fifth flight,” explains Fergus. “The drone was at about 5m altitude and around 200m out to sea, when it lost power, but not completely. It wouldn’t respond to putting the throttle up, and sank slowly into the water, never to be seen again.” Fergus reckons one of the cells in the main flight battery failed. Luckily, an insurance claim later and they were back up in the air. “The new drone has six batteries rather than one,” adds Fergus. “So, if one fails now, it won’t go down!”

“This shoot required the careful orchestration of the activities of three people – the drone pilot, the camera operator, and the athlete whom we were shooting,” continues Fergus. “All three had to get the timing just right, which was tricky – we ended up having to do each shot about 20 times to perfectly capture the action.” The 5D Mark IV’s reliability and flexibility proved invaluable, by giving Fergus and his team the confidence that every shot the trio executed would be captured by the camera beautifully.

“The lighting conditions posed many potential issues,” adds Fergus. “The forest was dappled with deep shade and very bright highlights. Over the land, if you’ve got a reasonably bright sky, the ground is in shadow, so you need to dig into shadows without blowing out highlights. Over the sea there are lots of points of reflected bright light. This is all quite taxing of the dynamic range, latitude and codec on a camera, because a given exposure might work well for the bright areas but not for the shadows, and vice versa. If you’re taking stills you can deal with that by shooting RAW. But when shooting video, you need as much latitude as possible to make dynamics look attractive in post. This is where the arrival of C Log on the 5D Mark IV has been so beneficial, since it gives you that latitude.”

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