When I saw the post of Tom on Facebook I was facinated by the images. I always wanted to do some kind of nature vs human body shoot. The mail contact was good and to the point so we made an apointment. Why ˜Het land van Ooit"? Because it holds a very dear space in my heart. At first I was hesitant because I never done nude moddeling but Tom is a calm and friendly and after a while you don't even notice you're naked cause that is not the big point;) At some point it is also kind of liberating to be honest:) My friend who joined me also did a little moddeling and we loved how Tom had brought some heat packs and tea to warm us. It was funny to have a little encounter with some guests who where just walking around but even then Tom was very helpful and quickly brought me my jacket before checking his drone wich crashed. I'm very happy with the results and hope to work with him again some day at this awsome project.
Kloontje responded to my call for models on a FaceBook page. She proposed to model in a special place: 't Land van Ooit, which is actually a deserted theme park (link, Dutch, https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Het_Land_van_Ooit_(Drunen)). This theme park was aimed at children of age 3 to 6, and after its bankruptcy in 2007 it got overgrown by nature and became a magical place, to be rediscovered by the public when someone who made a beautiful drone-movie about it (link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wW4Rj4zqNJ0 ). Recently the local government demolished all damaged buildings to be able to open the park for the public. Although the park is now stripped of 95% of its features, it still houses a pink castle, a long natural hallway with iron and ivy and a pond with statues of French soldiers. The park is now open for the general public and it is mainly visited by people having a stroll or walking their dog.
Kloontje had much experience in modelling for different kinds of shoots, especially with fantasy clothing. She has beautiful curves and is very flexible. Kloontje proposed to bring a friend along for assistance and possible modelling. I expected a shy girl, but Julia was not. Julia told me she hand an interest in archaeology and experience with street performing, which is perfect for modelling in a deserted theme park. Both models proved to be very creative, very brave, and I hope to work with them more often.
We started to shoot Kloontje on the ruins of a small castle tower, Kloontje volunteered to climb on top of it. The ruin was situated between trees, so the drone had to stay clear of them. I made some photos, and a zoom-out and zoom-in film. I had some problems with the exposure setting, direct sunlight forced me to lower exposure settings. Seemingly changing the exposure in the automated setting of the drone camera did not work, so I had to override the settings in manual. By changing the ISO sensitivity of the camera, I could make the exposure better. Photos of Maaike seemingly in the middle of a round form in a tree were interesting.
After that we went to a lake on the premise. An ugly transformer building was next to the water but I tried to make photos without this building. Kloontje was happy to see a tree fallen over into the water. She climbed on top of it to lie down on her stomach. I made some photos, a zoom-out film, and a panoramic photo. Lying there with hands in the water was very cold since the water was partly frozen. Also, lying on top of some broken tree branches hurt Kloontje, who was a little bit bleeding but refused to be unhappy about it. It would be beautiful to have a model floating in the lake but it was too cold for that.
Third, we went to find a more secluded spot for Julia to try nude modelling for the first time. Kloontje spotted a small hill, which is good for drone shots and good for hiding from people walking their dog. On top of a sandy hill, the two models created several predefined poses, like a heart shape and a fish sign pose. The drone hovered on top of them, and filmed several poses. After the poses, I started a panoramic sequence to be able to create a 360 photo. During the shooting, I recharged the drone batteries with a power bank battery of 150 Wh. This would give enough energy to get 5 or 6 flights out of my three batteries.
The fourth spot was more challenging, it would be in the front of the park, near the castle at the pond with the French soldier statues. I tried to re-do the movie (link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wW4Rj4zqNJ0 ), but this time with two nudes on the pond side. The shoot was more difficult than I expected. I made two errors: first I had over-exposure, and after that I flew the drone too fast for the setting of the film-quality. If the Phantom 4 is set to 4K movies, it will only produce sharp images if the images do not change too much per still. I would have flown slower or have lowered the film-quality to 2K. Or I should have used a filter. Perhaps buy a Phantom 5 as soon as it is released.
Since Kloontje had looked forward to model with the pink castle, the castle seemed to be not inhabited, Kloontje was feeling courageous by the previous shots and we had not seen visitors for the last quarter of an hour, we planned the next shot to be right in front of the castle. Kloontje positioned herself in the sun on the pavement just before the front door, when.... we had visitors. What do you tell a model when you see two elderly people with two small dogs approach from around the castle? I did not know what to do but to inform Kloontje. She did not have time to move. Luckily, the two dogs were happy to see Kloontje and greeted her with wagging tails, and the elderly couple found it amusing. The couple walked by and showed some interest in the images. Then, since the drone battery was low, I quickly started another zoom-out film by flying the drone up and back. Stressed by a low-battery warning and the unexpected visitors, I did not check properly how tall the nearby trees were... and I flew the drone into a high tree behind me.
The sound of drone propellers hitting thick branches was stressful. The worst-case scenario would be that the drone would get stuck in a high tree like in an earlier crash with M. This time I hit a tree at 23 meters. I tried to break the drone free from the branches by steering down and I was happy to see the drone come down, but the drone fell to the ground instead of hovering. When all sound was off I first helped Kloontje into her clothing, and then I walked to the drone. It had hit something hard, the battery had fallen out of the drone and one of the propellers was shattered: only 1/2 of one blade remained. But I had hope, the Phantom is sturdy. So I put on a spare prop, used a spare battery to start up the drone and checked for warning signs on the DJI app. None: the drone had seemingly survived another crash. The only part that was missing was a tile, a Bluetooth location devise which I added to the drone in case it would get lost in high grass. I started the tile-app on my phone, and located the tile with ease. Later I found that the ejected battery prevented the drone to save the movie being shot at that time, but the flight telemetry did get stored. Next time I should crash less brutal to get a good movie from it.
After this ordeal, we went to a long natural hallway created with iron and ivy. Kloontje and Julia walked, the drone followed, just like in the Helene running shot. Kloontje and Julia tried to re-enact a game of thrones shot. However, this shoot proved very difficult because of the small dimensions of the hallway, the drone’s tendency to fly to the walls, and object avoidance system which often stopped the drone when it was accidentally triggered by the nearby walls. I did not dare to switch off the forward obstacle avoidance system, perhaps I should have tried. Finally, we did a shoot in the backyard of the castle, where a symmetric garden was located. At one of the shots from high up, some birds flew underneath the drone. After this final shot, Kloontje and Julia could finally warm up in the clothing they brought for this purpose: onesies. At that moment, a visitor of the park walked by and asked us amused if were re-enacting the Land van Ooit, Kloontje and Julia happily acknowledged.
It was a stressful day for me but very productive. I thanked the models for their creativity, endurance and courage. I tossed the idea to do a group drone shoot, which they said might be possible by involving their boyfriends. I hope this might be the start of group-modelling for DroneNudes shoots, which would open new artistic opportunities. I am looking forward to shoots where the number of models would make the topic of the photos less about the individual model, and more about the lines of the models and the landscape. At home I saw that I had shot more than 20 GB of data, which I shared the same night with Kloontje via WeTransfer. Much material, many different settings, it will take some time to select the most interesting shots and create panoramic photos and short movies.
Lessons learned: when I am stressed I make bad decisions, Tile locator works, filming objects at short range with a moving drone requires alternative settings or a filter, recharging batteries with a power bank works, dogs and elderly visitors are not shocked by a nude model but wag their tail/show interest.
To do: test alternatives for filming nearby objects with a moving drone: set lower quality of the footage, move the drone slower, use a filter, or a use a combination.
Ideas for future shoots: model floating in the water, group shoots.