29 January 2018
Wildlife Photography

Drone Photography in the Canadian Arctic

Sharing the stories of our adventures requires excellent equipment and thinking outside the box. From Arctic Watch, Arctic Haven to Weber Arctic, our family run adventures have always relied on excellent photography & the right tools. Keeping batteries warm, fixing damaged drones, lenses - operating in an enviroment far from the nearest retailer means you can't send your equipment back for repairs. 

Nansen and Tessum, the third generation of the Weber family, have recently returned from New York City, where they attended the launch party of DJI's newest drone - the Mavic Air. Drone photography is a huge component of our work - it allows us to share our experiences in perspectives that one could not previously capture. 

Nansen testing the new hand gesture flight software on DJI's Mavic Air. 

Sports & Action: The speed of being able to launch a drone means that we can capture better images when the moment arises. Less planning required. Here's a great drone shot of Tessum & Nansen skiing a fiord on Baffin Island. the combination of blue skies appearing and soft light meant a great shot was captured in just a few moments! Newer drones also allow for self-tracking - a very neat function that enables your drone to follow your moments. (Credit: Nansen Weber)

Wildlife Photography: drones are far smaller than helicopters and make far less noise. It often means that one can capture images of natural interactions between animals. Belugas playing in Cunningham Inlet, near Arctic Watch. (Credit: Nansen Weber)

Two gorgeous bull caribou on their migration path south near Arctic Haven. Using a helicopter for this image would have scared the caribou; completely oblivious to the drone, the perfect picture was captured. (Credit: Nansen Weber)

We always recommend travelling with your drone. Be sure to read these quick tips before packing

1) Practice, practice, practice. 

There is nothing worse than seeing someone arrive in the Arctic with a brand new drone and no idea how to use it. Your drone’s autopilot GPS system works great ‘down south’ but can have a hard time calibrating north. Because of magnetic interference, we recommend you fly your drone in manual mode to avoid your drone meeting a tragic end. So invest some time flying it in manual mode before heading to the polar regions, that way you’re sure to return home with nice clean footage. 

2) More batteries than less

While you may have access to power at certain points during your visit to the Arctic; always bring additional batteries while on excursion. Cold kills battery power. 

3) Check-in with your guides

Let your guides or local experts know that you are planning to use your drone. Knowing the area, they will often have good tips and can plan for longer stops which will allow enough time to setup your drone. It is also courteous to make sure fellow travellers aren’t disrupted by the noise of your drone. 

4) Keep your distance

For the same reason that we give wildlife lots of space when on foot, flying your drone too close to wildlife can scare them off and cause unnecessary stress on animals who are already living at the extremes of the earth. Depending on what animals we are out seeing that day, ask your guide or local expert what is an appropriate distance to fly your drone.

Modern drones offer the convenience of being able to launch from virtually anywhere - maximizing your opportunity for the coolest photo possible! (credit: Nansen Weber)

5) Be aware of the sun

Fortunately, during the arctic summer the sun remains low in the sky which not only means great light for photography but also means that a high midday sun won’t cause an ugly prop shadow if you’re not paying attention. However, the sun’s lower position in the sky might catch you off guard and result in a bunch of overexposed footage. Keep an eye on the sun think about your drones positioning before you take off. 

We have been fortunate to work with DJI over the years to capture the beauty of the Canadian Arctic using their drones. Here is a great video of some of the footage Nansen captured using the Mavic Pro this past summer at Arctic Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVNm3z0eSJA