Drones are everywhere from the battlefield to the backyards of America. For such a simple concept, the possibilities for how we can use drones is vast and still being explored.
One of the most interesting ways to utilize drone technology is photography. Photographer Amos Chapple knows this better than most.
As soon as consumer drones came on the market, Chapple knew he needed one. After purchasing one and learning how to fly it, he began traveling the globe, photographing famous landmarks before such photography was made illegal.
“There was a window of about 18 months where it was possible to fly these things anywhere and people were excited to see it. I’m glad I made use of that time,” Chapple told Business Insider.
Now, with drone use illegal in many of these locations, his collection of beautiful drone images are some of the only aerial photos of their type. Chapple shared many of them with us and told the stories behind his shots. Check out more on his site.
Photographer Amos Chapple captures the world’s most famous landmarks — from the Taj Mahal to the Kremlin — using a drone.
When the commercial drone first hit the market in 2013, Chapple says he sifted through new product reviews, searching for the right model to help his art take flight.
Finally, Chinese technology company DJI came out with the Phantom drone and Chapple was sold.
The Phantom allowed him to shoot from almost 400 feet in the air, and take 100 or so images during a single flight.
He wasted no time in getting started. Agencies, tourism bureaus, and other clients commissioned Chapple for photos of iconic sites, such as Hotel Ukraina in Moscow, Russia, seen below.
He soared over the Church of Spilt Blood in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Here’s another view of the church at sunset.
Chapple’s drone also floated over the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
In the early days, Chapple flew the drone in busy areas, but he quickly realized that could be dangerous.
His first drone had a design flaw which caused a propeller to fly off mid-flight.
He crashed a second one recently during a commercial shoot in which he was forced to use an unfamiliar model of drone. At about 100 feet up, he lost control and the drone disappeared. After chasing it down, he found it smashed to bits. He suspects Wi-Fi signals scrambled the drone’s radio communication.
Even though he’s flown his drone more than 1,000 times now, Chapple always runs the risk that something will go wrong.
And frankly, the drones freaked people out. “It’s a nuisance now that it’s no longer a novelty,” Chapple says.
Now, Chapple avoids people as best he can. “I’m just using it at dawn, or in isolated places where I’m not annoying people trying to enjoy a stroll,” he says.
Sometimes, the best pictures don’t require much altitude. Here, two wrestlers practice the ancient Indian sport of Kushti in a pit they dug.
During a typical shoot, he maintains a flight path just above his head, never veering off into the distance.
The drone doesn’t allow Chapple to see what he’s photographing. While it may snap 100 photos, only 10 to 20 images will be framed in a pleasing way.
Here’s one view of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, on the banks of the Moskva River.
And here’s a slightly different shot, showing more of the church’s architectural detail.
The surprise doesn’t bother Chapple. “There’s a magic to not knowing what you have until you have the camera back in your hands,” he says.
Drones also offer a huge advantage over manned aircrafts: You can afford to take risks with the weather.
“When you’re paying $1,000 an hour for a helicopter flight, you make absolutely sure you’re going to get some sunlight,” Chapple says.
“As a result, most aerial shots [are] blue, bright, sunny, and boring,” he says. “My best shots have been in unusual weather, but it’s taken several flights to achieve. That kind of experimentation would have been impossibly expensive with a helicopter.”
For about 18 months, it was legal to fly drones anywhere. Chapple took advantage.
“For that year, when the whole world was open, it was just a case of hitting famous landmarks and moving as quickly as possible.”
“The window has definitely shut now,” he says.
In 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration made it illegal to fly drones for commercial purposes, including photography. Other countries followed suit.
Russian authorities denied him permission to fly above the Kremlin in Moscow because he was a foreign citizen.
He did it anyway. Over the course of two days, he scoped out an area tucked out of sight from the police. He waited for a burst of traffic to block the noise of the drone and got his shot.
“I ended up snatching the drone out of the air and running through the alleyways to get away,” Chapple says. “It was risky, but so much history has walked through that space, I just couldn’t resist.”
His dream location would be Iran, but current laws prevent him from shooting there.
“I even got the direct email to [Iran’s] minister of tourism, but got no response,” Chapple says.
“There are still plenty of places where this technology can legally and safely offer spectacular new imagery,” says Chapple. In two months, he plans to shoot in the wilderness of Kyrgyzstan.
While Chapple says he’s fully supportive of the tight restrictions abroad, his photos make us wish he could continue.
Drone photography allows the viewer to take in the lay of the land…
…during both the day and night.
“It’s amazing to be able to explore an aerial image,” Chapple says. “There’s such an immensity of information.”