Shooting Travel Video

In this post I’ll share how I created this video.   It’s a lot of fun making movies while traveling, it gives a much different perspective than photos.   Here I created something meditative and dreamy.  I kept the images stable and easy to follow, and stayed away from a lot of short or contrasting clips.  To support the smooth flow I faded a lot of the clips in to each other, and added some dreamy music.


My Tools:

DJI OSMO+:  A 4K video camera on a motorized gimbal.  The gimbal keeps the camera steady, creates smooth pans and tilts, and removes a lot of the shake that comes from shooting hand-held.  The camera connects via wifi to a phone, which it uses as a monitor and controller.

DJI Mavic Pro Platinum Drone: This 4K drone is lightweight, comes with a built in camera, and folds up small enough to fit in a back pack.   It is powerful enough to hold up on windy days and travel more than a mile away.  The drone connects to a phone, for controls and to show what the drone is seeing.

Nikon D800:  Besides taking photos, I use my DSLR to create timelapse and video.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC: Software for video editing and color adjustment.

Neak Pean moat, near Angkor Wat, Cambodia

This sunrise was shot using the Timelapse mode on my D800.  For every timelapse I use a tripod, and, to keep the look of the video consistent from frame to frame, I set the following to manual: White Balance, ISO, and Focus.  It took a shot every five seconds for an hour, and output a video.  Then I used Adobe Premiere to select the best section of the video to use in my compilation.  (I don’t use Timelapse mode on my D800 anymore because the results often contain annoying, hard to remove, flickers; frames that are lighter, or darker, than the rest of the video.)

Mt Bromo, Indonesia

My D800 was already on a tripod to photograph this sunrise.  I didn’t have to worry about the camera shaking, or the subject moving, so it was easy to switch to video mode and let it run for a while.

I edit all my videos in Adobe Premiere.  For this clip I used Premiere to strengthen the contrast and color, and I sped up the clip to show the ash moving.

Taroko Gorge, Taiwan

I shot this by, carefully, holding my DJI Osmo+ out the window of a taxi.  I kept the phone, acting as a video monitor, in the car.  That let me see what the camera saw, and kept me from loosing my phone.  I sped up the footage using Premiere, and when I altered the speed I selected Frame Blending mode to create an illusion of motion blur.

Canola Fields, Huangling Scenic Area, China

This was shot with my DJI Mavic Pro Drone.  I keep my my drone shots very simple, going straight ahead, up or down, or side to side.  I found that turning the drone during a shot was usually not very smooth, and almost always distracting.  I fly in one direction for as long as I can, sometimes for several minutes, then I speed up the footage in Premiere to make it more exciting.

I didn’t have any issues bringing my drone in to China, but after I arrived, I had to register it with the CAAC, their version of the FAA.  Registering was tricky because the website was only in Chinese, only accessible from within China, and required a Chinese phone number.  It helps to have a local person assist you.

Tea Plantation, near Alishan, Taiwan

Drones are great for selfies!   This is me walking, with the drone following, using ActiveTrack Mode.

There were no drone registration requirements for Taiwan.  But there are safety restrictions to follow.

Taipei, Taiwan

This timelapse was created by taking 500 photos, one every 3 seconds, using the Interval Timer Shooting mode on my D800.   I had it on a tripod, with manual settings for: ISO, White Balance, and Focus.

I wanted the people to be blurry so I needed a long exposure.  It was a bright day, so to get it dark enough I put an ND8 filter, a piece of very dark glass, on my lens.  By trial and error I found that a 1 second exposure created the kind of blur I liked, so I ended up with a shutter speed of about 1 sec, f / 5.6, and ISO 400.

I shoot timelapse in Aperture Priority mode.  That way if the light changes, or the sun sets, the camera is still creating reasonably exposed photos.  But this technique, like other timelapse techniques, can still end up with annoying flickers if the exposure changes between shots due to something like a dark cloud passing by.  The best way I know to deal with flicker is to shoot the sequence as many individual photos, then use  software called LRTimelapse.  LRTimelapse works with Lightroom to analyze every photo, then develop them so that they all have a consistent brightness.  It’s a time consuming process, but works great to eliminate flicker.  LRTimelapse also supports turning a series of photos in to a video file.

Downtown Chengdu, China

For this, I strapped my DJI Osmo+ in to the front basket of a bicycle.  Then I walked the bicycle through this busy shopping district.   (Next time I’ll travel with my Osmo bike mount accessory.)

I used Premiere, with frame blending, to speed up the clip and create the illusion of motion blur.   I used keyframes in Premiere to mark spots where I wanted it to slow down or speed up.  Changing the speed of clips, in small amounts, also helps fit them to the beats of the music.

Alishan Forest, Taiwan

I’m always trying to create variety in my shots.  For me, a video camera is most interesting when it’s moving.  It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking like a photographer, and shoot standing still.  I walk, and shoot forward or to the side, move the camera around things, move from behind something to reveal something else, or in this case point the camera straight up.  Shot with the DJI Osmo+.

Li River, near Yangshuo, China

This is a good example of a reveal.  At the start of the shot we just see mountains and trees.  But as the drone rises, the scene evolves, and a river appears.

I enhance the look of all my clips by adjusting the contrast, white balance, vibrance, or other settings in Premiere, using the Lumetri Color Panel.

Canola Fields, Jiangling Scenic Area, China

This beautiful location didn’t need fancy camera work.  I just started on the top of a high hill overlooking town and flew the drone steady and straight for a mile or more.

Alishan Forest, Taiwan

Every afternoon this remote valley quickly filled with fog.  I’m controlling the drone while standing on a mountain at the same level, so always had line of sight.  Safety first.

What’s fun about this shot is that I sent the drone a long way, very slowly.  This allowed me to speed up the footage and make it look like a timelapse, which better shows the motion of the clouds.

I hope you found something interesting here.  There was a lot about timelapse, drones, and video editing but I didn’t go in to much depth, that would have required many more pages.  My goal was to describe my video process at a high level, and provide ideas for directions to look to dig deeper.  Videography requires a lot of new skills, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun!

2 thoughts on “Shooting Travel Video

  1. Thanks, Ron, for posting. Lots of useful info here. I would encourage you to develop a 45-minute live narrated program to share with various groups.

    Liked by 1 person

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