The latest craze in travel photography is to use drones — remote control planes or helicopter-like devices — to take photos or videos of vacation spots. It’s sort of like taking a selfie from 1,000 feet above you. The advances in technology have made it possible to buy a high-quality drone with video camera for less than $1,000, and with a little practice and some editing patience, to produce amazing aerial videos that would impress a national tourism bureau.
The website TravelByDrone collects links to over 5,000 drone videos from around the world. Jan Hiersemenzel launched the site from his home in Switzerland (the world capital of drone-ing) this March as a way to catalogue and search for the best videos. You can navigate their global map to select from hundreds of different destinations. It’s a great way to get a different perspective on one of your favorite spots, or to discover some new places you’d like to explore. Some of the videos are professional-quality productions, with fancy editing and theme music, others comically amateur efforts. It’s easy to spend hours on the website flying around the world like you’re in a high-def daydream (that is, if you can tolerate the incessant Techno/New Age soundtracks).
This new high-tech hobby isn’t without its detractors. U.S. National Parks recently instituted a “temporary” ban on the devices due to noise and potential safety issues. People have been arrested for intentionally or unintentionally flying their drones into protected airspace (near aircraft, military areas, hospitals, schools). And there are certainly privacy concerns, as not everyone will be happy to have an anonymous hovering helicopter taking pictures of them. The Federal Aviation Administration is still developing rules about what exactly qualifies as a “drone” and when and where they should be allowed to fly. So this trend may disappear as fast as it has started, particularly in the U.S., but until then, enjoy these top selections from Travel By Drone.
A drone’s-eye view of Iceland. (Courtesy: Skarphéðinn Snorrason)
Just a dude on a mountaintop sitting in a Zen position with “Matrix” glasses on, guiding the astral flight of a drone over icebergs, glaciers, waterfalls, and incredible vistas. “Game of Thrones” geeks like me can’t help but think of a warg mentally linked with his eagle in the North.