Photographer uses new innovation to capture aerial shot

July 29, 2013 8:10:11 PM PDT
A new innovation is helping photographers get aerial shots without the out-of-reach expense of hiring helicopters. They're doing it with small camera-equipped drones that can be flown by remote control. ABC7 News spoke to a drone photographer who has captured some amazing shots at California surf spots.

There's quite a buzz around what Eric Cheng is doing with a little helicopter. Last week, he captured striking video of surfers in Santa Cruz. Within hours it was all over the Internet.

"It's an angle you very rarely get to see in surf, except in large competitions," said Cheng.

Cheng says the video was shot in minutes, but it's the result of months of preparation that started with an ordinary radio controlled drone called a quadcopter.

"It comes pretty much ready to fly out of the box with -- a radio, and the copter itself, and a battery," said Cheng.

But that battery lasts only four minutes in the air because of what Cheng has attached to it ? a camera.

"No matter how the quad moves when it's flying, the camera will stay level," said Cheng.

The electronic gimbal, built by one of his friends, keeps every shot silky smooth, no matter what the wind does. And a tiny video transmitter lets Cheng see what he's getting. The camera's an ordinary GoPro Hero -- a favorite among surfers.

"They are priced low enough that you can take risks with them, and so putting them up in the air seemed like a natural fit," said Cheng.

Cheng says what really struck him was just how easy it was to create beautiful, dynamic images that otherwise would've been almost impossible. He hopes those images will elevate public opinion about drones, as a new way to create magical, inspiring art.

"I feel like there is potential for beauty, you know, to be associated with this word, with drones," said Cheng.

And what's more beautiful than nature? Cheng's spent years photographing sea life underwater, but his next project -- will have a different point of view.

"What I've found is that wildlife for the most part ignores it. You can hover right about something maybe five feet up, and they basically act as if it's not there," said Cheng.

Going places where even a full-sized helicopter can't, Cheng knows it's a powerful technology that could bring us a whole new perspective.


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