After he got his first drone in August 2018, Johan is continuously trying to get the best aerial shots around the world. He is not only a professional drone pilot but he is also a full-time traveler. Johan is actually from Belgium but you can find him and his girlfriend anywhere in the world anytime if you would be following his drone adventures. You can catch him on Instagram with the name of ‘Johan Drone Adventures‘. Besides of all, he is also a blogger that he shares all his travel experiences and drone photography techniques on his website.
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What was the first sparkle to consider to be a drone pilot? Was there any inspirational person or incident for you?
In 2018, a friend of mine shot a little movie with his GoPro and DJI Spark. And those drone shots really triggered my interest. So I flew his drone in a practice session and then I was hooked. The same evening, I ordered my first drone: the DJI Mavic Air. This was the first foldable drone of it’s kind, so I could put it in my backpack while traveling. I’ve used this drone extensively on our trip to Slovenia and it was so much fun! That’s how it all started really. ?
I didn’t have any photography experience prior to this, so I had to look up all the information online. Learn how to expose properly, learn composition, and also editing in Lightroom. Those months before our world trip was a lot of practice and experimenting! And also getting inspiration from other great drone photographers on Instagram!
How many drones do you use? Can you also let us know about their technical abilities?
I only have 1 drone. Six-months into our trip I upgraded to the DJI Mavic 2 Pro which is still the best prosumer drone out there today. This drone has a couple more settings like changeable aperture (vs fixed) and 20MP (vs 12MP) and 10bit RAW D-log video (vs 8bit semi-RAW D-cinelike) etc … But other than that, it’s pretty similar to other drones in how it flies and what it can do.
- Meaning each battery gives you about 20-25 mins of flight time (that’s why I always travel with 3 batteries).
- You can fly the drone until you lose connection which can be all the way up to 8 km with the M2P. But then it will come back automatically! Max. height is capped at 500m.
- It flies in wind, during the night and it can take a little splash of water. But, as with all electronics, if you push it too far, it might short-circuit and crash. ?
Do drone pilots need a permit in advance especially in urban areas to fly a drone? Have you ever had a memory that you faced with some legal problems because of flying a drone in a certain area?
Yes, in most countries you need to register your drone and have a pilot permit. Moreover, if you want to fly over urban areas, you need to have explicit permission from the local authorities to do so which obviously isn’t easy when you’re traveling all the time and only have a couple of days per location. So my advice, in general, would be to use your head. If there are not a lot of people around, if you’re not in a national park, urban area, or archeological site, I would say it’s pretty safe to fly. In either of those other 3 cases, you need to watch out. ? And, yes I speak from experience!
I haven’t had any legal action taken against me, luckily, however, I have had to talk my way out of security and police on several occasions … haha
Is it a costly hobby? What are the some major costs?
Well, the drone is obviously the most pricy item which can range from around $400 all the way up to $1.400. Then you probably still want to get some ND filters which cost you about $150 as well. And a couple of spare batteries etc … After that, you still need to buy a software license to edit your footage. And you need to travel to cool locations … So yes, it’s a costly hobby. That’s why so many people are afraid of flying their drones! It’s like buying a Ferrari and only driving 50km/h, haha …
I don’t see it that way. I see it as a tool and only if you push your drone to the limit, is where you’ll get the ‘bangers’. ?
Anecdote: I once flew it in really heavy wind over the ocean to take photos of the high cliffs. Until I realized the wind was blowing faster than my drone could fly back, so even at full speed it was drifting away from me … oops! Luckily I was able to get it down below the edge of the cliffs and out of that strong wind to fly it back and then quickly grab it as it came back up … That was a tight one!
How do you finance your trips? Are you able to make a considerable amount of money from your Instagram account?
I try to make as many partnerships as possible where I take photos/videos in exchange for free lodging, transportation, or excursions. This works well and helps you to lower the overall budget. But the rest is just financed from my own savings.
You can find some examples of these exchanges on my website: https://www.johandroneadventures.com/real-estate/ https://www.johandroneadventures.com/drone-videos/
Instagram is not a money-maker, this mainly serves as a portfolio. And if you have a couple of thousand followers, it also shows the brands you want to work with, that you’re serious.
Do people need training to become a drone pilot or can it be self-learned? Are there any crucial tips and bits of advice to share with our readers especially for beginners?
Well you need to distinguish between 2 different things here: being a licensed drone pilot (the legal part) and being a good drone photographer (the creative part).
If you want your license, it all depends on your country. So check out the necessary information and get your license.
That doesn’t make you a good photographer yet! So next, I’d say you have 2 options: either you are a self-made man and you go through hours of YouTube videos and try out different stuff. That’s what I did 2 years ago, but it’s chaos out there, haha. So it takes a while … Or you speed up the process and you buy a course from someone with experience.
If you’re looking for good advice online, first of all, download these 2 free ebooks on my website filled with tips on how to shoot better, so go ahead and download these:
Next to that, I’m publishing a drone adventurer masterclass to take you from drone pilot to drone adventurer! I would strongly advise new and ambitious drone pilots to buy this. Or something similar … However, options in this field are very very limited, that’s why I decided to make one myself. ? Here is the link for the masterclass:
Where and when was your first trip for drone photography?
Slovenia in Sept. 2018.
What’s your favourite drone?
I love my DJI Mavic 2 Pro, but I’m also looking forward to the Mavic 3 coming out after the summer.
How many hours does it take to capture a great photo?
20 mins to capture it, as the drone battery only lasts about 20 mins. ?
The most reasonable drone to use for beginners in terms of price/quality performance:
DJI Mavic Mini is the best ‘cheap’ drone for sure.
City or nature?
Both, however somehow 80% of my shots are nature, haha.
Top 3 countries with its nature:
Indonesia, Australia, Colombia.
Top 3 cities you enjoyed photographing:
Lille, Gold Coast, Hoi An.
Hardest place to fly a drone?
I’d say from a moving boat. That makes catching the drone a lot more difficult. But that shouldn’t stop you … Look at my amazing whale pictures! Push the limits!
How many days do you stay in a destination usually?
Usually a couple of days and then up to the next. ?
How many countries do you visit per year and where’s next?
Last year we did 11 countries, but that was extremely busy because of our world trip. I think over the summer we’ll be in France, The Netherlands & Portugal.