Drones in Winter

Flying Drones in Winter

Winter is a great time to fly your drone and get some unexpected angles on beautiful snowy days. Some of my most exciting photography has been done in winter time, and while it isn’t the most comfortable time for flying or photography, it has a lot of upsides too.

Take the light, which is the #1 factor for taking great pictures. In winter time, the sun tends to be much lower on the horizon than in summer, giving softer and also warmer light, and prolonging the magic sunset light to almost double. That should help.

When landscapes are covered in snow or even just frost, they look entirely different from the rest of the year, which gives an excellent opportunity for catching a new angle on even well-known sceneries or areas. Ever took a shot of the lake when it is covered in ice? Capture that approaching snow storm and the sun flickering through it as it prepares for sunset? Those moments are magic, and they only appear in wintertime.

drone photography winter.jpg

But there are downsides too, and some of them might need your full attention. Flying drones in winter means that your equipment might cool down more than it should for safe operation. Especially batteries lose much of their power, sometimes to dangerously low levels, when colder than room temperature. Be sure therefore to always fly with warm batteries. They cool down during the flight, but not that quick. Calculate with a 20-30% shorter flying time, and allow lots of safety margin on the bottom end of battery charge.

And then there’s the photography. While those sceneries might be breathtaking and unique sometimes, the winter light can be tricky, especially in the presence of snow. Snow reflects a lot of sunlight and increases the overall amount of light available. When it gets too much, your camera could be overwhelmed and respond with very short shutter speeds. What is OK for photography could be lowering your video quality. Therefore I recommend using an ND filter for both photography and videography in snowy conditions.

flying_drones_winter.jpg

Another issue is contrast. A snowy landscape is beautiful to look at, but some cameras have difficulty showing any contrast, and especially in cloudy conditions it might be tough to distinguish any details of the ground. Therefore avoid overcast days in winter, work with low-angle sunlight that casts shadows over the landscape, and plan your shots to have interesting light situations! Taking bracketed shots helps too so you can do an HDR image.

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