RC aerial photography (RC = remote control) has gained in popularity in recent years largely due to the availability of inexpensive cameras.
This means affordable aerial photography is open to more people than ever before and beautiful pictures like the one below taken in Hungary can easily be obtained.
Above: The temple in the puszta near Somogyvámos, Hungary by Civertan
There are different types of remote controlled aerial photography systems such as pole aerial photography, aerial kite photography and balloon aerial photography depending on your budget and intentions.
Above: Photograph of buildings at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station built on stilts to prevent snow buildup. The picture was taken at 500 ft elevation in a plane traveling at about 100 knots: Photo by a National Science Foundation employee
If you have access to an aircraft then you might be lucky enough to get a picture like the one above - if your pilot is going near the south pole that is. However, pole aerial photography where you mount your camera on a 30 foot pole is another matter!
Pole aerial photography is inexpensive and although it sounds a bit weird and wacky, it is in common use by photographers who make images for selling real estate as you can get some interesting angles by going a short way off the ground which can really help to attract customers. I will be talking more about pole aerial photography in a forthcoming section on how to start an aerial photography business.
Above: Aligned hay bales seen from a balloon near Chateaubriant by Steve Grosbois
Balloon aerial photography is another possibility as local airfields often organise balloon flights for small parties. The photograph above was taken from a balloon over the French countryside.
The elegant composition has been helped by the simplifying effect of taking a view from on high. Sometimes though, as in the photograph below which was also taken from a balloon, great detail can be included as you get higher up and your viewpoint widens.
Above: Shooting of infrastructure projects like this key road junction in Sofia, Bulgaria, is one application of balloon aerial photography: Photo by Boby Dimitrov
Kites offer another type of RC aerial photography which is often used in archeological excavations for the great overview it gives (see below). Archeologist choose the best time of day for light so that the shadows model the land. The photograph below gives you an idea of the kind of images that are possible using a kite and a camera. Notice the kite line in the middle of the picture.
Above: Archaeological excavation at Tulul adh-Dhahab in Jordan taken by kite aerial photography; note the kite line in the middle of the picture: Photo by Jochen Reinhard
Here are a few more photographs taken by RC aerial photography to whet your appetite:
Above: Gates of the Arctic in Summer - Aerial View : Photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Above: Aerial photo from the Black Sea of Kavarna, Bulgaria: Photo by Boby Dimitrov
Above: Aerial photograph of the Castle at Bajmoc, Slovakia: Photo by Civertan
Above: Springtime overnight rains run into La Ballona Creek in this picture taken from a kite: Photo by Joelorama
The best way to get started in aerial photography is perhaps kite photography because it is just such fun. Kites are affordable and lightweight, and getting great shots is not that difficult.
I've written two articles on kite photography. The first one is Aerial Kite Photography and it gives you an introduction and some background theory. If you just want to find out about the practicalities and come back to the theory later, read Aerial Kite Photography 2 first.