Lake MacKenzie- Fraser Island

Drones in Queensland: The how to and where to guide

There’s a new kid on the block in travel photography that’s rising above the once popular wide-angle action cams and selfie-sticks to reach new levels of popularity. Yes, we’re talking about drones – those remote control cameras in the sky allowing us to capture all manner of epic adventures and stunning landscapes.

As a travel photographer, it was impossible to deny the appetite for drone content of my home state from both my audience and my clients. Whether it’s a new perspective on an old scene, or the ability to see the bigger picture, there’s just something special that people love about aerial photography.

And it no longer requires a chartered doors-off helicopter flight to capture epic content. With drones now cheap and portable enough to include as a carry-on travel accessory, here are the basics on how to drone (and where) on your next Queensland holiday.

What equipment you need

1. A travel-friendly drone

This one seems self-explanatory but you’d be surprised at just how many drones are available to suit every level and budget. If you’re looking for a drone to take epic photos on your next holiday, I’d recommend looking for one that has at least a 12-megapixel camera and is portable enough to carry in your backpack on day trips or hikes. I’m currently using the DJI Mavic Pro for this reason.

2. Spare batteries

Most drones will give you around 20-30 minutes flying time which means adding at least one extra battery is a good investment.

3. Filters

Consider investing in some polarising lens filters to reduce glare from water and other reflective surfaces, as well as add colour depth and vibrancy to your images.

Rules to know

Drones are awesome but can also be a safety hazard if you don’t follow the rules. Check out this blog post with 8 drone rules you need to know for more information.

The current basics for beginners with drones weighing less than 2kg, and without a license, looking to take epic landscapes on holidays are:

  • Don’t fly higher than 120 metres above the ground and keep your drone within visual line of sight
  • Keep a separation distance of 30 metres to people
  • Controlled aerodrome/airports have a 5.5km exclusion zone 

Best time/s for shooting

Rainbow Beach | Drones in QueenslandAs with most landscape photography, sunrise and sunset are typically the best times to capture stunning drone shots with softer light and nice shadows to play with.

But given that the low-light capabilities aren’t that amazing on portable consumer drones, I often prefer to shoot around 30-90 minutes after sunrise to allow the whole scene to be illuminated and to capture more vibrant colours like the ocean and green rainforest canopies Queensland is famous for.

Best spots to shoot in Queensland (and why)

If you’re looking for inspo on drone locations from amazing pictures taken in Queensland, check out this blog post.

One of the things I love most about shooting in Queensland is that national parks aren’t off limits like they are in the other states. From stunning coastlines and tropical rainforests to the red outback and rugged mountain ranges, here are a few of the best places to shoot in Queensland:

Epic coastlines

Cape Hillsborough National Park | Drones in QueenslandWhether it’s perfect waves of the Gold Coast, the islands of Tropical North Queensland or all the rugged coastline in between, droning along the east coast offers endless landscape opportunities.

One of my favourite pieces of coastline is a place actually made famous by its daily sunrise kangaroo encounters – Cape Hillsborough National Park. Just south of the caravan park, you’ll find an empty beach and a perfect spot to launch the drone for an early morning flight and some amazing views.

Rainforests

Rainforest canopy | Drones in QueenslandQueensland is full of lush rainforests that offer some seriously beautiful photo opportunities beneath the canopy. But if you can find a clearing, the view from above offers a totally different perspective and some unique angles.

Whether it’s a dense sea of green or a waterfall you’re chasing, getting high on your next camping adventure will certainly pay dividends in the creative department.

Outback

Red landscape and mountains of Springsure, nestled south of the Capricorn Highlands | Drones in Queensland

Photo by Callan Jaensch

Outback road trips with long straight roads, bright red soil and rugged mountain ranges are ripe for epic drone landscapes. I’m yet to take my robotic bird out west but this awesome image taken by the talented Callan Jaensch just south of Emerald demonstrates the advantage of a higher perspective in the outback.

Mountains

Sunset from Mt Ngungun | Drones in QueenslandThere are more than a few mountain peaks worth conquering (and capturing) if you’re more of an adventurous traveller. As a Sunshine Coast local, my favourites are those in the Glass House Mountains but I’m also keen to explore the Scenic Rim further south and Walsh’s Pyramid (amongst others) in Tropical North Queensland. The sunset from Mt Ngungun offers possibly the lowest effort for maximum reward.

Ideas for standing out with your drone shots

Mango trees in Bowen | Drones in QueenslandSymmetry – Aesthetically pleasing and eye-catching in anyone’s Instagram feed is a simple symmetrical look-down, like rows of mangoes in Bowen, Tropical North Queensland. 

Noosa River | Drones in QueenslandPatterns and textures – Essential elements of good design and interesting images. Always be on the lookout for natural textures and patterns that only an aerial perspective would allow. Shallow sandy rivers like the Noosa Spit offer lots of interesting patterns and textures.

Noosa- Abay Beach | Drones in QueenslandPost-process your photos – To make your shots really stand-out, it often takes just as much time editing the image as it did to go out and shoot it. Colour-correcting and adding/accentuating light can really make an otherwise flat image, pop! Before and after: Shot on a foggy morning in Noosa, this image was flat off the drone and in need of a serious edit to make it stand-out.

Hinchinbrook Island | Drones in QueenslandInclude people for scale – Epic landscapes, like Hinchinbrook Island, often benefit from a sense of scale and the easiest way to do that is to include (teeny-tiny) humans in your shots. You can even include yourself in the image to make it that much more personal. Who needs a selfie-stick when you have a drone?

Paluma Range | Drones in QueenslandPhotograph the journey, not just the destination – Drones are the perfect road-trip companion and can allow you to get some really cool shots along the way. Consider investing in a car-charger if one exists for your drone to make sure you’ve still got some battery charge when you reach your destination.

Bonus tips and tricks

1. Scout for new locations and opportunities on Google Earth
2. Use the ‘Can I Fly There’ app to be aware of any restrictions where you’re looking to fly.
3. Pan with your drone to take multiple images to stitch together in post to create larger megapixel images and panoramas.
4. Use exposure bracketing to increase the dynamic range of your image.

Have you got a drone? Where do you like shooting most?