Learn more about Daniel Peckham
Daniel was born in Papua New Guinea and spent most of his early years living in the remote rain forest of West Papua, Indonesia. This has profoundly shaped his outlook on life and given him an appreciation of people and places all over the world. These days he lives in southern California and travels as much as possible.
Daniel’s drone photography is first for himself, and for business second. He says: “When I head out with my drone, I am primarily pursuing my passion to create beautiful images and cultivate creativity. Of course, it still helps to make some money, so I do keep that in mind. For example, though I tend to focus on still images, I always try to shoot some good-quality video also, since the demand for high quality video seems to be greater than for stills.”
How and when did you start flying drones?
I’ve been interested in photography for many years, and I’ve always tried to capture unique angles to make my work stand out. I’ve always loved flying on airplanes (big and small), and choose the window seat every time. When I first found out about the DJI Phantom (back when the only camera option was a GoPro) I was blown away by the possibilities. I immediately funneled all my photography profits towards getting set up with drone photography.
What was your first aerial photography aircraft?
I started out with the DJI Phantom 2 with GoPro (and no FPV or live video feed).
What is the best advice you can give to people who’re just getting into drone photography?
First of all, spend a good amount of time flying in a safe place such as a big field in a park. Get to the point where the controls are second-nature. Once you’re comfortable flying, start thinking about unique places to fly, and just start exploring. Expect that once you get in the air, you’ll start seeing new things that you wouldn’t have anticipated from below.
Give yourself time to explore around and try different heights and angles. Don’t forget to look every direction. Focus on top-down shots. And follow basic photography advice like shooting early in the morning or late in the day. Use Google Earth or satellite view to scout out locations beforehand. Find people online that are doing great aerial work and get inspiration from them. Put people in your photos. And of course, use common sense when flying. Don’t be an idiot.
Do you think photography experience is a must in drone photography?
I wouldn’t say it’s a must, but it definitely helps if you already have a good eye for what works photographically in terms of composition and also lighting. One of the hardest (but also best) things of drone photography is that your composition options are almost limitless since you can put the camera anywhere in the sky. As with most things, practice is essential.
What’s your favorite shooting location?
I love shooting along the coastline. There is so much beauty and variety to capture from the air, whether it be beaches, piers, cliffs, rocks, wildlife, beach bums, surfers, sailboats, etc. Flying above water gives me the opportunity to shoot with slow shutter speeds to blur the waves for more interesting results.
My favorite shots tend to be top-down perspectives because it is such a unique vantage point that we don’t usually see. I try to include people in my photos as much as possible for perspective and human interest. I love using shadows as well.
What gear do you use in the air?
I fly the DJI Phantom 3 Professional with an iPad Mini and PadHat sunshade. I often use ND and polarizing filters. Perhaps the most unique part of my setup is my trusty Pringles can which is a perfect size for the props. I look forward to upgrading to the Phantom 4, mostly for the faster write times which make a big difference when shooting brackets or panoramas.
What’s your editing workflow? What software do you use?
I always shoot RAW (the best thing about the Phantom 3 & 4 in my opinion) and do basic edits in Adobe Lightroom. Sometimes I will do more editing in Photoshop, and also apply some filters from Color Efex Pro.
What inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by others on Instagram doing amazing drone work. I want to pursue creativity and try new things. I feel like there’s a lot more to explore in terms of using a drone for photography. A couple things on my mind currently are 360 videos/photos from the drone as well as mounting a bright light on it to use it to light scenes at night. I have too many ideas and too little time.
Drone photography has re-kindled my creativity on a deep level which spills out into traditional photography, and also to the rest of my life. I think anyone who has done something (like photography) for a long time can get burned out on it, or lose creative juices. For me, aerial photography has sparked a new level of creative thinking that has boosted me in many ways. My drone photography has also helped my work stand out more than it would have otherwise, and gain a larger following online that I have ever had in the past, which has been very rewarding.
Share your best drone experience!
One of my favorite shoots was with Michael Matti exploring the city and surrounding rain forest in Hong Kong for 3 action-packed days in which we both flew our drones as much as possible.
View this post on Instagram
Forest + Skyscrapers + Harbour = Vertical Hong Kong. To get a slightly different perspective on the classic Victoria Peak view of Hong Kong, I flew my drone out closer to the edge of the skyscrapers to capture more of the vertical perspective. Thanks to @MichaelMatti for inviting me along to explore this incredible city. I have many more photos to share in the coming days. #VictoriaPeak #HongKong #HK #HKG
View this post on Instagram
The Big Buddha of Hong Kong. Moments after I took this photo the clouds completely covered the mountainside. Thanks to a friend for picking me up at the airport and taking me on his motorcycle to some of the out-of-the-way spots outside the city. This was our last stop of the day. I’ll be sharing more from our day of exploring soon. Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island, Hong Kong #lantau #bigbuddha #HongKong #lantauisland
Most recently, I met up with cgballing who contacted me through Instagram and we did a fun shoot in Laguna Beach that involved him sitting in a bright pineapple inner tube in an ocean pool while I zoomed from 4 to 400 feet with the drone.
One of my most challenging shoots was launching my drone from a moving boat in windy conditions in Fiji to get aerial shots of parasailers who were attached to the same boat.
View this post on Instagram
Parasailing above the reef in Fiji. This was one of the toughest flights I’ve ever flown with my drone, since I was launching from a very windy boat (I had someone hold it above their head for takeoff) that was also moving, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t hit the parachute (I didn't think @MichaelMatti would appreciate holes in the parachute) or the line holding them to the boat.
My most epic crash (which I captured on video, see below) happened before the auto-orbit feature existed, so I was flying manually. I was concentrating so hard on flying a perfect orbit that I didn’t realize I was approaching a tree branch…[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Where can my readers find out more of your work?
I’m most active on Instagram:
Other sites (in order of importance):
Thank you, Daniel! It was a pleasure.