In addition to renting the usual range of professional photo gear, Fixation also offers the DJI Phantom 4 drone to give photographers the chance of a different perspective on their shoots. We recently loaned one to Chris Breen to try on his recent trip to Zambia.
Chris runs a travel company called The National Travel Collection, in which there are several different brands that offer different experiences. One of these, called Wildlife Worldwide, specialises in taking people to see some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife. And, as it turns out, a good deal of that wildlife resides in Zambia.
“I know Zambia very well,” Chris says. “I used to guide there. I was out in Zambia towards the end of last year with a group. That’s what I do – I lead trips, I design holidays, I build itineraries and I go to wild and wacky places.”
Elephant © Chris Breen
As you might imagine, travelling the world’s finest and most beautiful places can leave one with an urge to snap a few pictures, and as a consequence Chris has become an accomplished photographer. He’s always on the lookout for new ways he can get a new perspective on the animals he encountered, and for his trip to Zambia we had a suggestion.
Fixation very kindly lent me a drone to take on the trip. It’s an amazing device - very easy to use and even though I’d never flown one before, I found it simple and responsive.
The drone in question was a DJI Phantom 4, and we were keen to find out how Chris had fared.
Young Lion © Chris Breen
Thanks for talking to us, Chris. Was your trip to Zambia your first experience using a drone for photography?
Until the middle of last year I’d never used a drone before. I was lent a DJI Phantom 4, and I experimented with it at home before flying it up in the Arctic. I didn’t get a huge amount of flying done up there due to some technical issues, but I did get some quite nice footage over one of the ice fields.
After that I took it to Zambia and got some beautiful aerial shots over one of the world’s greatest national parks.
What was the experience of using the drone like?
It’s an amazing device to fly. It’s very simple, it’s very easy, and for that reason it’s quite liberating in many ways. Even though I’d never flown one before, I found it very simple to use and very responsive. It’s really a game-changer from a photographic point of view. I’ve always enjoyed wildlife and scenic photography, I’ve been doing it for the past quarter of a century, and to suddenly find you can take the kind of images that you would otherwise only get when you’re sitting in a helicopter, which of course costs a lot of money, is wonderful. And to be able to see it on a screen as you’re doing it is exciting, so I thought it was brilliant.
Lion’s Paw © Chris Breen
So it’s easy to fly, easy to use – it’s also manoeuvrable and incredibly stable. I also found that once I got it to a certain height I couldn’t hear it. When you’re out in the wilderness the last thing you want to do is make a lot of noise. In Zambia there are a lot of ambient sounds from the wildlife, so you only need to get it to a relatively low height before you can barely hear it. That enabled me to fly very safely and quietly upriver without disturbing anything. I did some low passes over some hippos on the river and lots of stuff like that – it was really neat. A great trip.
It’s presumably an important consideration of yours to avoid disturbing the animals?
Yes, it’s really important. I don’t want to disturb the wildlife, and I also don’t want to disturb the people who are going there for the peace and tranquillity of the place. That’s crucially important. So I found the DJI Phantom an absolutely brilliant device to work with, and I’m hoping I can work with it again.
Carmine Bee Eater © Chris Breen
What are your plans for future excursions?
I’ve got a number of projects coming up. I’ll be in Mexico at the end of March to do some whale watching off the Pacific coast, and I’m hoping to take one of the drones out with me, which I’ve never done for whale watching before. I’m interested to try the newer DJI drone – the DJI Mavic Pro. From my point of view, as I travel with a lot of camera gear, it’s the fact that it’s much smaller that’s particularly important.
I’m going into the rainforest in Borneo, where I’ve been a number of times before but never taken the drone, and I’m also hoping to take the drone back to Zambia when I go out in mid-September. One of the cool things about that trip will be that I’m going at a different time of year – a couple of months earlier than I did last year – so the landscape will look totally different.
Chris Breen is the founder of award-winning tour operator Wildlife Worldwide. Find out more at www.thenaturaltravelcollection.com
NB. Please note that some countries enforce a ban on the use of drones which are sometimes used by poachers to locate target animals. Please check with the relevant authorities before attempting to fly a drone near wildlife.