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Claire and Klea, frozen ground

Claire and Klea had both posed for me for model drawings before, Claire lives near Utrecht, Klea is an Albanian exchange student. They both like art and are rather adventurous. Claire told me that she likes to try new things that make her feel alive. And that part of the photoshoot experience went as planned, apart from Claire and Klea's feet, which every now and then felt kind of dead because of the cold.

This Monday I had planned a drone shoot with Klea. Just before we went to the location, Claire proposed to join, which made us a party of three. We first went to the Gagelbos, near to the area where A. modelled because I had seen an interesting area with white trees. We looked for a way to get to this area. Alas, a water filled ditch of 1.5 meter wide blocked us, and strolling through heavy undergrowth along the ditch did not reveal a bridge or another option to cross. Perhaps I should search for a tool to cross such ditches, advise is welcome.

Since this area was inaccessible, we went to the location I used before. As I had hoped for, some parts of this area were white: were the sunlight did not reach the ground, the vegetation and surface were frozen white. Claire and Klea had heard my idea that drone photos are best when distraction is minimised, which means everything other than the models and nature should not be visible: me, bags, clothing, and the blanket to lie on. To my surprise, Claire and Klea proposed not to use blankets. I feared that the models would freeze to the ground, but agreed with the models that not using blankets would be the best for the photos.

I started and raised the drone and Claire and Klea lied down in a beautiful pose. To my surprise the trees surrounding the area were completely white when seen from above, just like the white tree area which I had seen before. However, studying the settings of the camera, I quickly understood that the white colour was actually overexposure. When the drone camera is set to overexpose to get the lighting of a dark area correct, the lighter areas get overexposed and turn white. The reason that only the trees get overexposed and not the ground, is that in this time of year the sun is very low in the sky and only trees catch some light. So, there is no white tree area. However, perhaps I can use this overexposure effect for post-production and by changing the lightness of photos would recreate the effect.

Claire and Klea modelled together in three long poses, after which I asked them to get covered to get warm. Where Claire and Klea had lied down was visible after they stood up: they had thawed the ground where their bodies had touched the ground. When Claire and Klea were wrapped in blankets, I used Litchi to start a 360 degrees photo sequence of the location. However, halfway my phone went blank, the drone stopped moving and I had to land the drone.

Plugging in the Phone in a recharger got the phone battery back to 5% only. Surprisingly, the Phone battery level had dropped from 50 to 5% in just 20 minutes. So, the battery was a problem since we wanted to continue shooting. The rest of the photo shoot would have to be blind: 5% battery would be enough to start the drone and let it start filming, but after that the phone would be unusable. The drone would continue filming and the images would be safely stored in the drone itself, but without working phone it would not be possible to preview them.

Getting the models warm took some time, but hot tea, blankets and kind words helped a lot. The models proposed to model solo. Klea modelled on the edge of the forest. She found that nettle still stings when frozen, and I saw that her beautiful white skin became even more white when subject to freezing temperatures. Klea did an amazing number of poses.

Claire chose to pose in the forest at a partly open area where leaves covered the ground. The sun was already setting. I did not land the drone to move the drone by hand to this area, but flew it over the trees to the location knowing that this would facilitate an auto return. The drone hovered just on top of the foliage and Claire tried many poses. The area with leaves showed to be partly muddy, but Claire did not hesitate and posed in several sensual poses.

At a specific battery level, the remote control beeped to signal that the battery level reached 30%. After that I continued, knowing that at 20% the auto return would take over the drone. Without phone display, this could not be stopped. After some more poses, I turned the drone to fly back, but directly after that the drone reached the 20% critical battery level and the auto return function indeed kicked in. The drone raised to the height that I had pre-set: 70 meters. After that, it flew back to the location where it took off. Anticipating this, I was already there and saw the drone descending. The drone seemed to descend into foilage, but with a little steering I could get the drone to a safe landing spot. I suppose there was still 15% battery left.

Claire dressed, we drank some tea and headed back to the car. At home, the memory card of the drone did indeed contain the expected footage: 9GB for the last shoot only. Klea and Claire were to be positive about the experience they had, and even proposed to model in snow as well.

Lessons learned: auto return works but some guidance is required when trees are near the landing location, there is something with the Phone battery, perhaps an issue which many iPhone 6s also experience, some models are really tough.

To Do: study battery drainage problems in iPhone 6, get an alternative to the phone since it remains a single-spot-of-failure, experiment with overexposure in post-production, find alternative locations for drone-photography, hope for snowfall soon.

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