The latest issue of the National Geographic is out now, migrating through the mail and on the newsstand, and in it is my long suffering story on UAVs, or, unmanned flight. I say long suffering in that it kicked around the publishing schedule a bit, as sometimes happens, finally finding a resting spot in the month of March.
It was an interesting and difficult story to shoot, as they all are in their own way, but this one had the extra fillip of balky technology and temperamental flying machines. We shot a range of these contraptions, from winged drones the military flings into the sky by hand (think of a quarterback slinging a sixty yard Hail Mary as the game clock winds down) to tiny, bug-like flyers with wings based on the anatomy of a bee. It was also the first story I think I ever shot where I couldn’t, because of technical difficulties, shoot the central premise of the coverage, which was the notion of a UAV photographing another UAV in flight. More on that later.
The prompt for the story was the sudden newsworthiness of drones in general, and not so much the highly sophisticated types flying over theaters of war, but the off the shelf, over the counter, basic kit flyers that just about anybody can buy. You need training to pilot these things, but they are compact, relatively easy to maintain, and they are popping up in all sorts of endeavors, from movie making to agriculture to real estate. Which in turn has prompted the FAA to blow some loud whistles about regulating these whirligigs flooding our already crowded skies. Further, the embrace of this new technology by law enforcement, and the fact that they can easily maneuver around bearing high res digital cameras, has pushed some buttons on the whole privacy front.
What I’m going to do over the next week or so is pick apart this story–what went right, and what went wrong. I’ll do a BTS on both the technique and the wherefores of the coverage. I’ll show what ran and what didn’t, and try to offer up a rationale for what the editors do with a story and why. I’ll try to walk through the various locations and ideas and techniques that lead to a picture that hopefully pertained to the story line.
We’ll see where it leads. More tk….