I’ve recently completed all the various steps to obtain CAA permission to operate a drone or UAV in CAA speak on a commercial basis. When I was looking in to the process in spring 2017 I found it difficult to find all the stages I would need to go through to actually receive the paperwork from the CAA. This is not an exhaustive guide to the route merely my view as a architectural photographer and video maker wanting to extend their services to offer clients aerial imagery. At the start of the process I had little experience with remote control models and no experience with the usual quad rotor drones.
After a number of enquiries from existing clients wanting aerial imagery I decided to begin the process of obtaining the relevant CAA permission to operate. The first thing I found was that I would need some training to prove to the CAA I was competent to operate a drone. There are loads of companies offering training and assessment services on the web but the CAA publishes a list of approved training organisations here.
I contacted a few of the companies on the CAA list and picked Cambridge UAV Academy because they were very efficient when answering my queries, they ran regular monthly courses, offered free retests and they were fairly local. They weren’t the cheapest but the cheaper firms would have required greater travel costs, hotel accommodation and some didn’t offer free retests which I thought I might need.
Around the middle of March I booked onto Cambridge UAV’s 2nd/3rd May course, at the same time and after a fair bit of research I purchased a DJI Phantom 4 Pro and a Seyma X5. When you come to take your flight test you need to show that you have at least 2 hours flight time on the drone you are being tested on. Having never flown a drone I was a bit reluctant to risk the £1500 Phantom 4 at the start so would practice on the £35 Seyma X5 toy drone in the evenings before using the Phantom at the weekends. It took me about 10 hours on the Seyma before I could get to grips with the control reversal you need to use when the drone is coming towards you.
When the course came round I joined about 20 other people at Cambridge UAV’s offices in Godmanchester and was treated to 2 full days of classroom lectures on Air Law, Meteorology, Flight planning etc. all fairly boring stuff but the instructor Alan Perrin shared enough anecdotes and real world scenarios to keep it all interesting. There was an exam on the afternoon of the second day and everyone passed.
Once you have passed the exam, have at least 2 hours flight time on type and obtained commercial drone insurance you can take the flight test. I was lucky in that I had said to Cambridge UAV that I could be flexible on dates for the flight test, this combined with a run of decent weather meant that I was able to take and pass the flight test on the 10th of May. It could easily take a couple of weeks to get a test if the weather isn’t great.
With the exam and flight test in the bag I then had to complete a Commercial Operations Manual outlining how I was going to apply the theoretical knowledge gained on the course to my real world drone operations. Covering everything from pre-flight assessment, risk assessments, drone maintenance, record keeping etc. The idea being this is a bespoke document written to support a specific operation and a typical manual is about 60 pages long. In my case there were a couple of ways of creating this, the first was to produce the document from scratch and then forward it to Cambridge UAV for proofing and editing before CAA submission. The second option was to use Cambridge UAV’s Ops. Manual writing service, where they take your specific details and modify their template accordingly to produce your bespoke manual. Although this isn’t a free service it will save you a considerable amount of time and effort. I went for the Ops. manual writing service and soon received my draft manual from Cambridge UAV. It needed a couple of hours modification but I was able to submit it to the CAA on the 12th on May. When I submitted my application to the CAA I used form SRG1320 and include the following,
All of the above had to be submitted via email in pdf format. When I submitted it I didn’t receive any form of receipt. The CAA advise they can take up to 28 working days to process the application. I received my permission via email on the 12th of June 2017 one month after submission without any issues. This permission is valid for 12 months.
Another thing that is a bit difficult to identify at the start of the process is how much it is going to cost. In my case I have spent the following.
|Cambridge UAV Academy Training and Flight test||£1,194|
|Cambridge UAV Academy Ops Manual Service||£358|
|Commercial Drone Insurance||£407|
|CAA Submission Fee||£173|
|All these include VAT where applicable||TOTAL £2,132|
I hope that’s of use to anyone contemplating applying for permission to operate a drone commercially. There is a lot more information on the CAA site and it’s worth checking on there regularly as guidance and the regulations appear to be changing constantly.
Get in touch if you would like any Architectural aerial video or stills work throughout the UK but particularly in Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.
After completing all of the necessary exams, flight tests and reams of paperwork submitted to the CAA I am now able to offer drone 4K video and stills work on a commercial basis. Modern drones are amazing tools and provide access to a whole new ways capturing images that would have been impossible or extraordinarily expensive to achieve.
Please get in touch if you are interested in any stand alone drone imagery or as part of a conventional stills and video package.
Here are a few film stills from a recent match day video currently in production for the Northampton Saints shot on location at the Frankiln's Gardens stadium in Northampton.
Congratulations to rhp on their recent win in the RIBA East Awards 2017 for the Combined Colleges Boat House overlooking the Cam in Cambridge. I really enjoyed photographing the newly completed building last summer and you can see more details about the award and more photographs on Architecture.com
When I give my basic photography CPD sessions about half of the people that attend don't have any form of camera other than the one on their phone. While you can get good results with a phone camera one of the problems is a lack of manual control over the settings. I recommend these phone users get some sort of camera control App to unlock the potential of their phones.
Use of something like the Camera+ App will allow you to make full use of your phone and give you a lot of the functionality of DSLR,
Version 9.1 of the Camera+ App gives you full manual control over,
White balance, including the ability to set the colour temp in K
It also provides useful composition tools like a display grid overlay and horizon level and the latest version allows you to save your files in RAW format to give you the largest scope of adjustment in postproduction.
Use of these manual controls is going to allow you to create much more effective Architectural imagery and provide greater scope for your creativity.
Here are the results of a recent interior shoot featured in Mondo Arc a magazine specialising in lighting and lighting design. These images commissioned by TRILUX were used to illustrate the use of their light fittings during the refurbishment of the National Farmers Union HQ in Warwickshire.
Photographs by Andrew Hatfield
Case study project managed by Too Busy For Words, www.toobusyforwords.co.uk
I have been asked by a couple of people about the best way of photographing fireworks.
The first thing you need to do is get your night photography basics and equipment, right you can see some guidance on night photography lower down the blog.
Once you have the right set up consider how high the fireworks are going to go. The largest commercial fireworks go to about 400m high. The ones in the shot above which are still spectacular but can be brought by the public look to have gone to about 70-100m high. The people running the display may be able to give you an idea of the height they will go to. Ideally you want a bonfire or a crowd at the bottom of the frame and it’s better to get a bit too far away as you can always zoom in a bit. Once you are in the right place focus on something at the same distance as the firework base, then switch to manual focus, you don’t want to be trying to focus during the display.
When you are all set up you need to work out your exposure, and you will need to end up with a shutter speed of sufficient length that you can record the flight of the firework and the starburst in one shutter opening, on the above I used about 3 seconds. If you want to capture multiple burst just use a longer exposure. Before the display set your shutter speed to about 3 seconds, then adjust your aperture and ISO to give you the background look that you want, keep you ISO low to minimise image noise. And you won’t need a very small aperture as you will be focusing near infinity so you will have plenty of depth of field. The above was shot at f/5.6, 3seconds, ISO 100.
Then when the display starts keep shooting and try and get the timing right so that you are opening the shutter between shell launches. Also keep an eye on your exposures during the display because some of the fireworks can create a lot of light and may cause you to over expose. Be ready to select a smaller aperture if things start to look over exposed.
The new Combined Colleges Boat House serving Selwyn College, Churchill College, King’s College and Leys School opened this summer. Designed and project managed by rh partnership of Cambridge the boat house over looking the river Cam was completed for a project value of £2.5 million and replaces the previous dilapidated boat house on the same site. Due to the high risk of flooding in the area all habitable rooms are located on the first floor, accommodation on the first floor comprises a combined rowing gym and individual clubrooms for the individual colleges.
You can read more about the project on the Cambridge News website.
After 200 years the refurbished Woodberry Wetlands near Finsbury Park has opened to the public. The centrepiece of the new nature reserve run by the London Wildlife Trust is the new café is based in the old Coal House. The refurbishment of the coal house and public access work to the reservoir was carried out Bolt & Heeks and official opened by Sir David Attenborough on the 30th April. The scheme was designed by kaner olette Architects and has been submitted by Allen Scott for a 2016 Landscape Institute Award.
Congratulations to kaner olette Architects for their recent win in the 2016 RIBA South East Regional Awards with the Gateway Café at Peacehaven.
Entries for the 2016 RIBA UK awards are now closed, my images have been used for 2 submissions this year, the Peacehaven Big Parks project and the new Crausaz Wordsworth seminar building at Robinson College, Cambridge. The awards will be announced in June 2016. From a photographers perspective the RIBA Awards should be commended as they are one of the few awards that require the photographers consent for the submission of their images.
Big Parks, Peacehaven, Kent
The Gate way Café in Peacehaven, Kent was designed by Kaner Olette architects of Tunbridge Wells and my original commission came from Crofton Design consulting M&E engineers on the project. This Café building has already won a Constructing Excellence Sustainability Award and a category winner in the AJ Retrofit Awards 2015. Big Parks is a visitor Café was forms a gateway to the new Big Parks community park a new recreational space in Peachaven, Kent.
The Crausaz Wordsworth Building, Robinson College, Cambridge
The new dedicated seminar building has been built in the grounds of Robinson College and opened in 2015. The building was designed and the photographs commissioned by rh Partnership of Cambridge and Brighton.
In addition to occasional lecturing on photographic techniques and presenting Architectural photography CPD sessions I will be running several one day courses on DSLR photography over the spring and summer of 2016. The courses will be produced and presented in partnership with Zoe Plummer a Commercial Photographer and Photography Lecturer.
These courses will be aimed at amateur photographers wanting to lean more about and improve there skills in relation to,
All of the subjects would be covered over a single day through the use of short lectures, practical sessions and group critiques.
Courses will be week days and located in the East Midlands Area.
Groups will around 10-12.
Exact dates, prices and locations to be confirmed.
Central London Architectural and Interior Photography courses are also planned for later in the year.
If you would like to know more or have any comments about possible course content, locations etc. we would love to hear from you.
It has been a while since I have been out to photograph things purely for the pleasure of just seeing and capturing something. When studying photography and working full time as a professional photographer the simple interest in aesthetic photography can be easily lost. Because of this I think it's important to put the work aside though and allow yourself to just be creative.
I particularly like woodland when it's clad in flat overcast light, compressing the dynamic range to something your camera can easily capture. This means the scene you can see will be very similar to the scene you can capture and the dull flat light allows to compose without having to consider blown out highlights and impenetrable shadows. When creating work for purely for aesthetic reasons I often compose and crop for a square format even when shooting digitally, I have always loved this format since I had to master it with my 500cm.
Here is a series of five monochrome images captured at the end of December 2015.
I was recently commissioned to photography a newly refurbished apartment by Interior Designer Sandra Boitel of didiE Art & Decoration, Zurich. The apartment was located in the heart of Mayfair London and unfortunately for me on the 4th Floor with no lift, as I was passing the 3rd floor for the second time loaded down with equipment I promised myself I would go through and rationalise all of my kit. One of the problems with being a professional photographer is that you need to take back up kit or have a work round for most failures. This means you end up taking almost twice as much stuff as you need and on most shoots it is never even unpacked.
Anyway back to the shoot, Sandra the designer wanted to show the affect of her lighting scheme on the interior. This meant using a high proportion of the ambient lighting. Unfortunately for me most of the lighting was provided by vintage Edison type bulbs which produce a very orange light at around 2400K as opposed to the normal 3200K for tungsten lighting, also this type of lighting has quiet a narrow colour spectrum and therefore gives quiet poor colour reproduction. To try and maintain the ambient look I applied local fill flash only and covered the flash heads with ¼ or ½ CTO Orange gels this allowed some of the true colour of the furniture to be brought out without destroying the natural ambient look. It would have been much easier to have added more flash but I think this would have destroyed the natural look Sandra was looking for.
I have been spreading the word in the last couple of weeks, by running a full day Architectural Photography workshop at the University of Northampton, and 2 Architectural Photography CPD sessions at London architectural practices. The CPD session this week at GRID architects in SE1 was particularly well attended with 25 people ranging from enthusiastic DSLR users through to dedicated iPhone Photographers. The CPD session ran through the complete process of capturing an architectural style external and interior images from initial concept through to post production.
Although there was a lot to get through people at all levels took something away from it, here is some of the feedback from the staff at GRID.
"People don’t usually comment on the CPD’s unless they’re really bad which makes it even better that I’ve had positive feedback from a number of people who found it informative and well presented. It’s good to get someone coming in who teaches us something useful, understands our way of thinking, and isn’t trying to sell something to us." Stefan
"The composition part was particularly relevant as it applies to so much of the work we do, not just the photography. Also, our bid presentations always rely heavily on photography to describe both the existing context and proposals so I think the range of material you covered was really good." Andrew
I don't make anything from the CPD sessions, and so I am only able to offer a limited number, but get in touch if you would like the either the 1 hour CPD session on the Theory and Practice of Architectural Photography or the Advanced Architectural Photography talk.
The Rule of thirds and it's use in Architectural photography