Drone on, David!

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Annual visitor creating some special aerial photography of Siesta Key, and is happy to share it on social media

By Jane Bartnett

Getting that perfect shot is for what every photographer strives.

 When photographer David Geyer first began working with a drone camera, he was instantly captivated. This winter, his beautiful aerial drone images of Siesta Key sunsets and area landmarks that he posted on Facebook have made him a bit of a local celebrity.

“The perspective that a drone offers is amazing,” he said. “It’s so liberating.”

Most of his pictures were posted on the page entitled SIESTA KEY, with dozens of positive comments and “likes” coming his way.

Having documented numerous corporate and commercial events, weddings, and local news events in his hometown of Merrimack, New Hampshire with a traditional camera, Geyer found that a whole new world opened up before him when he began using a drone.

 Geyer and his wife have been visiting Siesta Key since 2017, recently staying at Siesta Dunes where they’ll be back next winter, and this past visit he spent many days capturing the natural beauty of the island with his drone. He never tires of the ever-changing images that he discovers in his tropical island haven.

Geyer’s favorite Siesta Key location for his drone photography?

“I don’t know that I have a favorite spot to fly on Siesta Key,” he said. “It’s all so beautiful.”

What is his favorite Siesta Key drone image, to date?

Again, that’s a tough call, Geyer said. The ones that appear in this article are on the top of his list, he said, for one reason or another. They include the Gulf, sunsets, moons, the beach, the Village, and the Stickney Point area — all Siesta Key focal points.

David Geyer operates his drone at Nora Paterson Bay Island Park on Siesta Key. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

Meanwhile, gone are his days of wondering how to get an ideal vantage point.

“When I first got a drone, I realized that for a photographer looking for that perfect angle the drone gives you more options. I can get a high shot and keep my feet on the ground,” he said with a laugh. “It’s great not to have to kill yourself trying to get that shot.”

 Speaking of the many advantages that drone cameras have over traditional hand-held digital cameras and cell-phone cameras, Geyer said “Drone cameras have all kinds of details in the phone app that controls the drone. Using the app, I can control the shutter speed, the white balance, and the ISO — allowing for more or less light.”

Getting a variety of images was Geyer’s goal, which meant his take-off-and-landing spots also varied. He went from one end of the Key to the other.

“Drone operators are bound by regulation to keep their aircraft within their sight,” he said. “So, in order to get the shots I got, I was operating from pretty much all over the island.”

 For amateur photographers interested in trying their hand at drone photography, Geyer urges anyone considering the hobby to first became familiar with federal rules and regulations regarding drone usage. The FAA’s webpage devoted to recreational drone users has all the vital information clearly spelled out at faa.gov/uas/recreational_fliers/.

“Everything is there for a new UAS (unmanned aircraft system) pilot to know how to fly legally,” he said.

Knowing the rules is especially critical in a populated place like Siesta Key. There are restrictions on flying above large groups of people and too close to buildings.

“Unlike what many of my fellow drone flyers have reported, I have never had an angry or negative confrontation,” Geyer said.

Instead, he has attracted many a spectator and many an inquiring mind.

“People are curious. They’ve heard about this new phenomenon and want to learn more about it,” Geyer said. “Many of them have considered getting into it and want to know what’s involved in terms of cost, effort, learning, and regulations.”

And Geyer’s always learning to share what he knows.

“I may have made a few sales,” he said.

 As of June 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began requiring that anyone operating a drone for fun or personal enjoyment purposes have an FAA-issued recreational certificate.

“A lot of people, even if they have been doing this for years, don’t know about it since the new rules only went into effect less than a year ago,” Geyer said.

 To obtain the free FAA recreational drone certificate, all applicants must take a free, short online course and then take the multiple-choice test called The Recreational UAS (unmanned aircraft system) safety Test, or TRUST. All recreational drone operators must carry the FAA certificate with them when the drone is in use.

 Geyer also noted that drone photographers must be aware of the FAA’s distinction between recreational and non-recreational drone use. Drone users who are not compliant with FAA rules and regulations may face penalties.

The FAA states that the non-recreational category includes things like taking photos to help sell a property or service, roof inspections, or taking pictures of a high school football game for the school’s website. Goodwill or other non-monetary value can also be considered indirect compensation. This would include things like volunteering to use your drone to survey coastlines on behalf of a non-profit organization.

 Photographers who want to use a drone for non-recreational purposes are required to take an FAA course and to pass a test to obtain their Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate with Small UAS Rating. Visit the FAA at faa.gov/uas/commercial_operators/ to learn more.

  Popular Mechanics Magazine made its picks for the best drones of 2022 and cited the DJI Mavic Air 2 as the “Best Drone Overall.” It sells on Amazon for $787.95. The DJI Mini 2 won the “Best Small Drone” pick at $449. It is available from Amazon and Walmart. The publication’s “Best Drone for Photographers” was the DJI Air 2S, coming in at $999 from Amazon.

 Geyer’s advice for would-be drone photographers?

“Start slow. Get your FAA certificate. Fly in your own backyard at a low level until you get used to the controls and keep the drone in sight,” he said. “Watch YouTube videos and join some Facebook groups for drone photography.

“Most of all, have fun.”

Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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