In the last few years UAVs – or drones as they are commonly known – have revolutionised film production and photography, allowing recreational and professional users alike to capture shots that were only ever possible with helicopters.

I had never previously intended to get into aerial photography but a good friend surprised me in February 2014 by giving me one as a present. The drone was the first ‘Phantom’ made by DJI, which was the first mass-produced UAV that was affordable, reliable and relatively easy to fly straight out of the box, using GPS for internal flight stabilisation of the craft. DJI is now up to the Phantom 4, and have partnered with Apple for sales, and Hasselblad for research and development. It was a mind-blowing experience connecting a GoPro to a drone for the first time and sending it up in the air. As a photographer, a whole new world opened up and I have since become a dedicated aerial photographer and videographer.


“Used wisely, drones produce perspectives that blend reality with previously imagined perspectives, capturing the world in a stunning new way.”

After the initial excitement passed, the reality of flying – and crashing – quickly became apparent. With no experience working on electronics or soldering, necessity forced my hand. The first upgrade I managed was to add a two-axis gimbal to the drone that kept the GoPro camera steady regardless of the movement of the drone. The second upgrade was to install a POV (point of view) setup, which allowed me to see through the camera in real time through a monitor attached to the remote control. These days it isn’t necessary to make modifications. As technology has developed, integration with mobile applications and devices has made using drones easier, safer and more reliable.

After working in the Niseko region as a photographer for years, being able to reassess the landscape from the air has been brilliant. The challenge now lies in shooting images that are great as photographs, rather than thinking they are great just because they are new – the aerial ‘wow factor’ is always there to some extent. Here in Japan there are restrictions in place for use over cities and towns over a certain population density, and certain other guidelines. The use of drones for industrial purposes is exploding, as is virtual reality (VR), interactive 360-degree panoramas, and VR mapping, to mention just a few other applications. At this stage there is no licensing system for users but Japan will no doubt be implementing one in the not too distant future.

NOTE: Niseko United has banned the use of drones over the ski field so please don’t operate them over any of the resorts without approval.

Find Glen Claydon’s photography at or at

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