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Make best of your drone photos
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11790 121 2015-11-3 23:58:03
Madebyvadim
Intern Pilot
Russian Federation
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Best practices to get your drone’s photo to the full potential.

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye


Hi my name is Vadim (aka Madebyvadim) and for a few months now, I've been using awesome DJI Phantom 3 Professional version quadcopter & I would love to share some of my experience with you to make the best out of your next areal photos.

First I would like to say that I only use the Phantom 3 product, but I am sure all the points here are well applied to many other drone models. However, my advice are mostly applicable to those of you who want to consider drone photography as a logical step forward and/or addition to your current photography gear. So saying that, let’s begin.
Let’s face it, Phantom camera is great, but not without it’s faults. Yes, it shoots in 12Mb RAW format, but noise and focus are a week point, shake due to the low wind is also an unavoidable thing. So, to make best of it I follow these principals when I use it:

1. The Raw is the key

Dolomites, Italy

Dolomites, Italy


Every professional photographer will tell you that the best way to shoot is in RAW format. They always shoot in raw in order to be able to correct any flaws or colour correct at a greater precision. And this is even more applicable to drones. Since the camera resolution is only 12MB it will be a crime to compress it into .jpg format and not to use it at its full advantages as a RAW format.

Yes, but I only shoot for fun … Even doing so you might accidentally or for a reason shoot the-best-drone-photo-ever and how disappointed will you be not to able to use the full potential of post-processing it correctly when you stick to compressed .jpg format.

But seriously if you are serious about using the drone photography and I suppose you are then forget .jpgs and use RAW. Period.

2. 16:9 or 4:3 format question

CIvita di Bagnoregio in 4:3 format

CIvita di Bagnoregio in 4:3 format

CIvita di Bagnoregio in 16:9 format

CIvita di Bagnoregio in 16:9 format


Ok I do confess I started to shoot in 16:9, since I came from post-production background and it’s more pleasing ratio for me, but I also shoot in 4:3. Even more, I sometimes shoot both at the same time.

Actually I am not so sure why DJI is using 4:3 and 16:9 as a photography format, when the most used format is 3:2. I suppose it has something to do with video being the primary format of drone usage. Not sure.

So, I advise to use both aspect ratios to see what is working better for you, or even recompose and shoot in both ratios at the same location. Yes, it takes more time, but I think it’s worth it, especially later in post-production when you have more flexibility in choosing the right shot for your portfolio.

3. Bracketing is the king

Rome

Rome

5 shots bracketing

5 shots bracketing


This is really awesome feature and I am glad Phantom has it. Bracketing serves a few purposes for me.

• If I made a mistake in assessing the correct exposure, then I can choose the right one from 3 to 5 bracketed photos I’ve made.
• I also use them to create the HDR (not that eye-poping-over-the-top-saturated-100-%-hdrs, but more like an intelligent HDR).

In that case the bracketing is an absolute must. In fact 95% of my shots are bracketed shots, so I would be able to bring shadows back later or show highlights even more, instead of having only one option from a single shot.

4. P (auto) and M (manual) mode

Mozaysk, Russia

Mozaysk, Russia


I almost always shoot in Manual mode. This lets me choose the lowest possible ISO as well as shutter speed I desire. The DJI app does not let you know if you have over or under exposed your picture like a traditional camera would. There is also no half-released shutter button, unfortunately. So you would need to rely on histogram or use this trick.

First, switch to P mode and see what DJI auto mode is offering you, then switch back to M and build on what you saw in P mode.

5. ISO, how low can you go

Mountain high pass , Italy

Mountain high pass , Italy


My advice is always to shoot in lowest possible ISO, which happens to be 100 on Phantom 3. It let's you minimize the noise in photos. Be aware of shakes when shooting during the night and use common sense. I would not recommend going over 3 sec exposure and advise, to rather go higher ISO, in order to stay in that 3 sec range, than using longer shutter speed.

6. Shaking of the drone & night shoots

Moscow by night

Moscow by night


This is relevant to a previous point. The drone is a machine that flies above where the wind is and although trying its best to stay stable, still the shakes are unavoidable even in a small wind conditions. The higher you go, the more windier it gets. So even if it’s absolute still on the ground, you may get wind up above.

Although Phantom offers ability to go as high as 8 sec shutter speed at night shot, it is advisable not to exceed 3 sec, otherwise you would see noticeable shakes.

7. ND and PL Filters

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Vernazza, Cinque Terre


I use ND filters quite often but it’s because I also shoot videos. In order to get cinematic effect on the shoots one should use the double of the fps one is shooting with. For example, I use 4K 24fps which means I should ideally be shooting at 1/50 sec shutter speed. In order to achieve that on a bright day you should use Neutral Density filters, to reduce light coming into the camera and enable a slow shutter speed.

So since I use it but mostly for videos and its too complicated to shoot photo, get it back to the ground, put on ND, get it back up and shoot a video, I stick with using ND more often then I should.

Be careful of using the ND filters in dim lights. ND is reducing light coming into the camera and slowing your shutter to the point where you can get shakes into your shots. In low light situation stick to a default camera filter that is supplied with Phantom.

Polarised filter is another beast. You may know that you need to rotate it to a right position to achieve the right PL effect when using it on traditional cameras. However, there is no possibility to do so on the drone, so I have never used PL filter.

8. Post processing

Rome before

Rome before

Rome after

Rome after


The shot in my example was resized, straightened, colour corrected in both Lightroom and Photoshop to achieve a certain look of the final version.

Do not be lazy and share your unprocessed shots straight out of the camera. There is always room for improvement in any photo taken. You will be amazed how photo can be transformed by using your favourite post processing software and benefit from it. I use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to post-process all of my shots. I use bracketing extensively to combine 3 or 5 photos together before post-processing. See #3 for that subject.

9. Unique angles, panoramas, long exposure etc.

Mountain road from above

Mountain road from above

Moscow State University

Moscow State University


Be creative.

You are no longer bound by inability to use the right spot, the right location. Drones are so unique in a sense that it can take your photographs literally to the next level. So, stop thinking in traditional sense, experiment, be open to a new possibilities of shooting.

10. Drone’s technicalities

Above Russia

Above Russia


This subject may vary across the models, but for the sake of simplicity I would assume that these issue would apply everywhere.

What I am talking about is small technical things that need to be done to your drone before the flight in order for it, the flight, be as safe and productive as possible. Live it, — learn it, as they say. And I am talking from experience, which sometimes had been not very pleasant. It is better to follow couple of easy pre-flight steps, than to loose your drone together with good material.

So, firstly, one must always calibrate the drone compass once arrived on a new location far from the previous one (change landscape, say from plato to mountains side). Definitely helps to avoid drone’s abnormal behaviour.

Secondly, check your figures. And by that I mean, check the drones’ compass sensor index, after calibration. Even if your software claims that it is OK to fly, do take time and check those indexes. For instance, it is ok to fly my DJI when the index is between 1500 and 1600. Higher index means greater disturbances around, i.e. metal in the ground, some reflective surfaces, etc.

Thirdly, there is my own technique which I am just sharing and not claiming as an absolute must to follow. It is up to you and your common sense whether you adopt it or not. But it did help me save my drone from crashing a couple of times. So, hover. What I mean is, not to speed fly up from the ground once the propellers are on. Ease it up a bit and hover. It gives you time to land the drone in case there is any malfunction right away or you feel that it started behaving strangely. Allow couple of seconds in this mode and fly up once you see that you are in complete control.

Fourthly, mind the wild life in the air. I am dead serious about that. Seagulls, for instance, would be eager to attack your drone, protecting their territory.

Last but not the least - download your data. I’ve worked out a practice of downloading everything from the SD card straight after the flight. Thus I am kind of safe from loosing precious materials in case of any drone emergencies.


Conclusion

Although I really love using drones for a new and exited photo opportunities, I often wish that DJI gave us an even better quality camera at affordable price, so we could use the Phantom series, (one of the best on the market, in my opinion) at its full potential.

Thank you. Fly safe!

My original article on Medium








2015-11-3 23:58:03
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gil
Second Officer
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United States
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Hey, some spectacular photos in your portfolio and some good tips!

While your English is a little mangled in places it's easily understandable.  An unexpected but interesting effect I noticed while I was going through your text -- I was sort of "reading out loud in my brain" and I noticed I was doing it with a Russian accent!  At which point I immediately burst out laughing (guess I've been watching too many cheesy TV shows with bad Russian accents or a early childhood influenced with Saturday morning cartoons of Rocky and Bulwinkle / Boris and Natasha)
2015-11-4 00:37:05
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Cetaman
First Officer
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United States
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Aloha Vadim,

     gil has it right, "Hey, some spectacular photos in your portfolio and some good tips!"  

     If you like, I could edit it for you, but what you say is quite clear.  I only stumbled in one place (never did figure the word out, but got the idea).  But, what gil said about Russians writing with a Russian accent is real.  I have a friend in St. Petersburg and the accent comes out in what he writes to.

     Good article!

Aloha and Drone On!
2015-11-4 01:37:52
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DJI-Tim
DJI team
Hong Kong
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Your works are really spectacular! Make a thread on a forum with the same content and I believe you can get a spot on a forum's homepage
2015-11-4 01:39:29
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DJI-Tim
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gil Posted at 2015-11-4 16:37
Hey, some spectacular photos in your portfolio and some good tips!

While your English is a little m ...

LOL
2015-11-4 01:42:52
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Madebyvadim
Intern Pilot
Russian Federation
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gil Posted at 2015-11-4 12:37
Hey, some spectacular photos in your portfolio and some good tips!

While your English is a little m ...

Thank you so much!
Totally get that. I sometimes "do the English or American accent in my head my self"

Thank for the reply.
2015-11-4 03:44:57
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Madebyvadim
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Russian Federation
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Cetaman Posted at 2015-11-4 13:37
Aloha Vadim,

     gil has it right, "Hey, some spectacular photos in your portfolio and some good t ...

Bonjour Cetaman,

I love the help and correction if you up for it.
Just send me a correct sentences and I will re-edit it.
Ask me anything if you need clarification on the certain subjects.

Thank you so much for the reply.!
2015-11-4 03:47:24
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Madebyvadim
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Russian Federation
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DJI-Tim Posted at 2015-11-4 13:39
Your works are really spectacular! Make a thread on a forum with the same content and I believe you  ...

Thank you so much!

How can I do it technically?
Shell I re-edit this thres with text and pictures form article or shell I create a total new one with the same name?

Thanks!
Vadim.
2015-11-4 03:50:45
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Cetaman
First Officer
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Aloha Vadim,

     "Just send me a correct sentences and I will re-edit it.
Ask me anything if you need clarification on the certain subjects. "

That is what I was thinking.

Aloha and Drone On!
2015-11-4 10:33:11
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flying-camera
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Canada
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Great stuff!  I didin't know that you can do a long-exposure picture on the phantom?  Awesome pictures.
2015-11-4 16:23:07
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DJI-Tim
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Madebyvadim Posted at 2015-11-4 19:50
Thank you so much!

How can I do it technically?

Yes, I think re-editing will work perfect! Let me know when you're done
2015-11-4 17:47:16
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Madebyvadim
Intern Pilot
Russian Federation
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DJI-Tim Posted at 2015-11-5 05:47
Yes, I think re-editing will work perfect! Let me know when you're done

Hey Tim,

I re-edit my post. Let me know if you think something should be changed or if it Ok.

Hope to hear form you soon.

Thank you.

Vadim.
2015-11-5 02:26:11
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-=RaM=-
Student Pilot
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Amazing photo's and information..Thanks for sharing...
2015-11-5 03:14:18
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Madebyvadim
Intern Pilot
Russian Federation
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flying-camera Posted at 2015-11-5 04:23
Great stuff!  I didin't know that you can do a long-exposure picture on the phantom?  Awesome pictur ...

Thank you so much!

You can But as I mention be very cautious, also its difficult to see if there final images is blurry even on iPad mini.
2015-11-5 04:35:05
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Madebyvadim
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Russian Federation
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-=RaM=- Posted at 2015-11-5 15:14
Amazing photo's and information..Thanks for sharing...

Oh many thanks !
Enjoy! If you on the Medium by any change you could recommend that post :)
https://medium.com/@madebyvadim/ ... photos-bc92e511a8e3
2015-11-5 04:36:31
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AG0N-Gary
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United States
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Excellent article and, though no surprises, I really appreciate it being in one place.  Can this thread be a sticky?  I'd also like to see all of this followup deleted once the edit is done, so unnecessary postings are eliminated (yes, including this one).
2015-11-5 15:47:12
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Cetaman
First Officer
Flight distance : 8606
United States
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Aloha Vadim,

     Well, your edits have improved your information.  (The edits below are only suggestions - it is your article.)  What is left are
mostly "typos" and your accent.  We all like your accent, so I have not tried to correct anything that would change it.  Here is what I have found;

Recommended changes are bold (or I had to do something).  Different paragraphs or parts of article are separated by ***.

make the best out of your next aerial photos.   The whole line was bold!

First I would like to say that I only use the Phantom 3 product ...

However, my advice is mostly applicable ...

***

if you are serious about using the drone photography and I suppose you are, then forget ...

I suppose it has something to do with video being the primary format of drone usage.


So, I advise to use bothaspect ratios ...

***

It lets you minimizethe noise in photos.

I would not recommendgoing over 3 sec exposure and advise to rather go higher ...

***

Do not be lazy and share yourunprocessed shots straight out of the camera.

Drones are so unique in asense that it can take your photographs ...

***

What I am talking aboutis small technical things that need to be done ...

But it did help me savemy drone from crashing a couple of times.

************************************************************************

     Good article!  Hope this helps!

Aloha and Drone On!



2015-11-5 18:12:55
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Cetaman
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Flight distance : 8606
United States
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Aloha Vadim,

     It appears that typing into the Advanced option can lead to run-on words as noted in my edits.  I was wondering how come some posts had that problem - now I know!  The last one "articleon" has me stumped though!

Aloha and Drone On!
2015-11-5 18:19:07
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Michael M
Second Officer
Canada
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great guide. what di you shoot in? Default, aed, hdr, etc
2015-11-5 23:10:58
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Michael M
Second Officer
Canada
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nice, what do you shoot in? default, hdr, aeb etc
2015-11-5 23:11:36
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Michael M
Second Officer
Canada
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oops sorry for the double post, forum said it did not work last try
2015-11-5 23:12:44
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Madebyvadim
Intern Pilot
Russian Federation
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AG0N-Gary Posted at 2015-11-6 03:47
Excellent article and, though no surprises, I really appreciate it being in one place.  Can this thr ...

Hey Gary!
Really appreciate it! I think you right it shout be without followup. @DJI-Tim was talking about featuring on forum page, so he might delete those comments including all mine.
2015-11-6 00:56:23
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Madebyvadim
Intern Pilot
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Cetaman Posted at 2015-11-6 06:12
Aloha Vadim,

     Well, your edits have improved your information.  (The edits below are only sugge ...

Thank you so much in taking time and helping me improve this article.
All done. Thanks!
2015-11-6 01:12:33
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Madebyvadim
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Michael M Posted at 2015-11-6 11:10
great guide. what di you shoot in? Default, aed, hdr, etc

Hey Michael,

Thanks! I really appreciate!

I never shoot DJI's HDR mode. I think is too limited. I prefer to shoot 3 or 5 bracketing photos and do my own edit into more "intelligent HDR".
2015-11-6 01:15:47
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Madebyvadim
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DJI-Tim Posted at 2015-11-5 05:47
Yes, I think re-editing will work perfect! Let me know when you're done

Hey Tim,

I think I fully done. With help from @Cetaman, I finish correcting typos and the article is ready. Let me know if you need anything else form me. Could wait to be on the forum's homepage, of course if its good enough for that

Kind regards,
Vadim.
2015-11-6 01:17:52
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DJI-Tim
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Madebyvadim Posted at 2015-11-6 17:17
Hey Tim,

I think I fully done. With help from @Cetaman, I finish correcting typos and the articl ...

Hey Vadim! Thank you! that is a great thread! You can expect it to be on a main page next week
2015-11-6 02:10:12
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Madebyvadim
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DJI-Tim Posted at 2015-11-6 14:10
Hey Vadim! Thank you! that is a great thread! You can expect it to be on a main page next week

Hey Tim,

Thank you so much!  Couldn't wait
2015-11-6 03:38:54
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m.friedl
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Austria
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Congratulation to this Thread - wondering because of low Likes but you´ve got mi one

Mike
2015-11-6 06:21:08
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m.friedl
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Austria
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Congratulation to this Thread - wondering because of low Likes but you´ve got my one

Mike
2015-11-6 06:44:44
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Madebyvadim
Intern Pilot
Russian Federation
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m.friedl@a1.net Posted at 2015-11-6 18:21
Congratulation to this Thread - wondering because of low Likes  but you´ve got mi one :hands ...

Thank you so much!! I glad you like it!
2015-11-6 08:07:36
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DJI-Tim
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Madebyvadim Posted at 2015-11-6 19:38
Hey Tim,

Thank you so much!  Couldn't wait

NP, it worth to be there
2015-11-8 23:02:18
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Geebax
Captain
Australia
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Vadim, I could not help but notice that many of your shots seem to be taken during the 'Golden Hour' ?
2015-11-9 00:14:57
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KaiserSoze9
Intern Pilot
Flight distance : 1750022
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Italy
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Thank you very much, nice tips!
2015-11-9 03:42:01
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BoomStrike
Hobbyist
United States
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You did not need to change anything because even if your posted in another language your shots speak for them selves - Thanks!

Mike

www.rotory.com
2015-11-9 04:10:46
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starfighters
Student Pilot
United Kingdom
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Privet!!!!
Prosto super!!!!!!!
2015-11-9 06:45:34
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rodger
First Officer
Flight distance : 426
United States
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Great Post Vadim.
2015-11-9 06:50:16
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Madebyvadim
Intern Pilot
Russian Federation
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Geebax Posted at 2015-11-9 12:14
Vadim, I could not help but notice that many of your shots seem to be taken during the 'Golden Hour' ...

Hey Geebax!

Yes it's at golden hour or the borderline between golden and blue hours. I actually should write it in he post as well. I love the time when the light on the building is already switched on abut there is still cool lights on the clouds from the sunset.
Some of my pictures were taken on the daylight as well, btw.

Vadim
2015-11-9 06:53:50
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Madebyvadim
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KaiserSoze9 Posted at 2015-11-9 15:42
Thank you very much, nice tips!

Thank you. I glad you like it.
2015-11-9 06:54:11
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Madebyvadim
Intern Pilot
Russian Federation
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BoomStrike Posted at 2015-11-9 16:10
You did not need to change anything because even if your posted in another language your shots speak ...

WOW! Mike, thank you so much!!!!
2015-11-9 06:54:39
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Madebyvadim
Intern Pilot
Russian Federation
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starfighters Posted at 2015-11-9 18:45
Privet!!!!
Prosto super!!!!!!!

Hello! Privet!

Spasibo!! Thank you so much!!
2015-11-9 06:55:03
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