Photography News Issue 61

Photography News | Issue 61 |

Interview 32

Aerial artist Profile Lee Mansfield is a professional drone photographer who specialises in 360° sphere images. We talk to him about his techniques and how he prepares for his shoots

Left Lee likes to shoot 360° images with a very tall central subject; in this case, LythamWindmill.

PN: How did you get started in photography? Before you got your drone, what kind of images were you taking? LM: Since Iwas young, I have always had a camera with me – 35mm film then later a digital DSLR. Before the drone my photography was mainly landscapes and sport events – my children were very sporty and capturing high-speed action shots of my children gives me tremendous joy, knowing they love what they do and I love what I do. PN: How do you choose the subjects for your images? We’ve noticed that for the 360° images there is usually a tall central subject, for example. LM: In Lancashire we have so many beautiful towers, buildings and landmarks such as Blackpool Tower, India Mill, Darwen Tower, Clitheroe Castle and Oakmount Mill. Being local to a lot of these towers makes it easy to plan with not a lot of travelling. Having such a high building or tower works really well with the 360°. Getting the right angle, position and height makes them good projects to work with. PN: Do you tend to head out shooting with a photograph in mind or do you look around for inspiration? LM: I do planmyphoto shoots. A few days before, I check the weather and use Google Maps and Google Earth to check locations and parking. I also do a lot of research on towers, castles and historical landmarks – the Internet is essential to planning my shoots. PN: What are your ‘go to’ pieces of kit? LM:IuseaDJIPhantom4PROwhich has a fixed 1in, 20MP sensor which is also capable of recording video at 4K. When I heard that DJI was developing a sophisticated drone with a 1in camera sensor and capable

which outputs anywhere between 60 and 150MB. The final image will print to size A0 (84.1x118.9cm). I have spent a long timemastering 360° photography and now I seem to have perfected it. Every 360° photo I create is not just a photograph – it’s a project. A lot of time, effort and skill go in to this style of photography. PN: Colour seems like an important part of your style. How important to you is colour correction when shooting? Is it mostly a post-processing step? LM: It is always best to try aerial photography with good weather conditions. Fortunately, this year we have had a great summer that has allowed me to create some stunning projects. Sometimes when the weather is grainy or cloudy once I’ve stitched the final 34 images I will use colour correction and possibly HDR effects to adjust the background mood. PN: The lighting and scenery must change over the course of your shooting; how do you manage this at the time and in post-processing? LM: Due to the style of 360° photography some of the images will be of the sky, trying to get good weather is a key point. I do have many ND filters to reduce lens flare, exposure etc. I can also adjust the camera settings such as ISO, aperture and shutter speed live in the air from my controller. The DJI Phantom 4 PRO drone allows you to take full control of a lot of settings in real time. Post processing I use various software such as AutoPano for stitching and Affinity Photo, Nik collection, Darkroom 3 and Snapseed for editing and colour correction. PN: How long roughly can each image take in post processing? LM: Each image is a project in mind, there is time spent travelling to locations, setting up and getting the photos youneed. Planning your time is important. I check parking, weather, hazards and NFZ (no fly zone areas etc). Once I have all the images then post-processing probably takes a lot longer than the travel and photos.

Every 360° photo I create is not just a photograph – it’s a project

PN: How do you create the stunning 360° images? LM: Once I am happy with the height, position and angle I start the shooting procedure. I generally take four sequence shots at slightly different altitudes which works out

of recording in 4K I had to invest in one. This is one of the best cameras available for a drone, giving pin-sharp imagery. It also has many modes including ‘sphere’; this mode takes 34 images at approximately 10.58°.

at 136 frames. From there I go back to base and look at all 136 images, select the best 34 images, stitch them together using AutoPano, align them up then fix any missed images. Next I adjust the colour, brightness, clarity and then process the image

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