Cornwall's Port Isaac and Rock

Last month, I travelled down to the North coast of Cornwall.

I was with my family, visiting the beautifully picturesque coastal villages of Rock, and Port Isaac - home to the ITV show Doc Martin. It was about time I filmed the sea, and my drone responded terrifically to the strong winds and seagulls, high above the raging water. The Cornish coastline has never looked so stunning.

Filmed and photographed by my Inspire 1 drone.

Drone Flying UK - Do's & Don'ts

As Christmas fast approaches, I expect that loads of Santa wishlists', from writers big and small, now include a drone.  The U.S. alone is expecting sales of over 1 million over the holidays - and the trend will likely be similar here in the UK. 

So now is probably the perfect time to explain the rules, regulations and guidelines surrounding drones, and how to fly them legally and safely in the UK.

Here's what you can and can't, and should and shouldn't do when flying your <7kg drone (quadcopter, RPAS, UAV, SUSA etc.) in the UK - and why.

The Don'ts

  1. Don't fly within 50m of any person, vehicle, or building not under your control.
    Don't fly too close to property or people that don't know what you're doing. This is much more for safety than privacy. If suddenly a rotor fails, or battery dies, you want to make sure you don't crash into someone or something that you can do serious damage to. This rule is reduced to 30m when taking off and landing. 
  2. Don't fly over or within 150m of any crowd of 1000+ people.
    As soon as that crowd ticks over from 999 people, it is now deemed impossible to 'control' that many people. Again, if you're out of control, you want to make sure you only hit the ground when you come down.
  3. Don't fly over or within 150m of any congested area.
    A 'congested area' is any residential, commercial, recreational or industrial location - including roads and your quiet neighbourhood. Pretty much any area that makes it difficult to avoid breaking rule 1, and dangerous to make an emergency landing, is a no fly zone. 
  4. Don't take off or land anywhere you don't have the landowners permission.
    Not only is this rude, it's simply against the law.
  5. Don't lose sight of the drone, or fly more than 500m laterally away from you.
    Just don't do this. If a malfunction occurs, or you lose connection without a return-to-home failsafe, or even enough battery to get back, you're in trouble. Good luck flying a drone safely back to you when its too small or difficult to see. This should be unaided too, so no binoculars!
  6. Don't fly higher than 400ft (122m).
    This is where Class G airspace, our playground, ends - and where manned aircraft soon starts. You don't want to be the first jackass to impact a helicopter or plane, do you? Rule 5 applies here too - any higher and it gets harder to see your drone. And don't just watch your drone, keep an eye out for anything that may fly into it. It's almost impossible for a pilot to see your small drone in time to evade it - it's your job to be out of harms way.
  7. Don't fly within 5 miles of an airport, without permission from the ATC tower.
    Seriously, don't be that guy. You'd just be fuelling the media firestorm by risking a collision. I guarantee your shots won't look that cool, compared to the risk involved.
  8. Don't be a nuisance.
    You may think you're helping emergency services or the local news by filming a fire, but you could just be really irritating or actually doing harm by getting in the way - as some Californian operators found earlier this year. Simply, just don't fly close to anyone or anything you don't have the active cooperation of.
  9. Don't get distracted.
    This is the quickest way to lose sight of your drone, and possibly crash it. A spotter is advisable, especially on flights where you're concentrating on framing your shot. They can watch the drone, and handle any distracting guests until you're in control or back on the ground.
  10. Don't fly for money or 'valuable consideration'.
    At least not without Permission for Aerial Work (PfAW) from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).. You shouldn't be accepting 'work' with your drone, where you or somebody gains something from your flight, without appropriate training. This is to make sure everyone is safe, and that you are insured!

Okay, that's a lot of don'ts. I bet you're thinking there's absolutely nothing you can do now right? I remember thinking the exact same way. All that changed once I realised that its all just about managing risk, getting the right permissions, and is all for safety anyway - for people and your drone!

Most of these rules aren't absolute either. You can apply to the CAA for exemption if you can explain why you need to break a rule, and how you plan to mitigate any risks. You'll probably need a PfAW at the very least.

That's the hard part done! Just keep them all in mind and have fun. Now enjoy the do's...

The Do's

  1. Do have fun!
    Let's face it, drones are awesome and heaps of fun to fly.
  2. Do a flight plan, and check the weather & NOTAMs!
    Before you fly, have a decent idea about what you plan to achieve, and how to mitigate any risks. It doesn't have to be anything formal. It just helps you be prepared, and maximises your productive battery time. You should at least check the weather forecast, so you don't get caught in strong winds or rain while flying. And please check for NOTAMs (Notice to Airmen) in the area you plan to fly, so you don't interfere with someone's reserved airspace! You can check here.
  3. Do get some training!
    Even if you don't plan on making money from your drone, I recommend the training. The 3 day course opened my eyes immensely, and completely cleared up my understanding of the regulations and how to fly safely. I think if you can afford it, do it. Too much knowledge is never a bad thing.
  4. Do solve problems and create new markets!
    Get your Permission for Aerial Work and carve out a niche! It's so exciting seeing the development and power of drones in new industries. As well as take pretty pictures, drones can now 3D map disaster zones, stadiums or neighbourhoods in a matter of minutes, pinpoint crop disease, or deliver medication to hard-to-reach places.
  5. Do help emergency services, with their permission!
    An aerial perspective can be a tremendous help in search-and-rescue missions for example. If you have permission, I encourage you to use your drone for good! Just remember to watch out for police helicopters etc.
  6. Do fly safe!
    Sorry to sneak this one in again. Just remember it's probably at least a kilogram of solid plastic, metal and spinning blades, just hanging in the air at the mercy of gravity. Use your common sense, follow the rules above, and enjoy your drone!
  7. Do take some amazing pictures!
    You have the power to see the world from perspectives that have probably never before been seen by humans. That's awesome! So record it and show the rest of us.
  8. Do explore!
    Take the opportunity to visit places and meet people that you never would have done otherwise. A new community and world of possibilities await you and your drone!

I told you it wasn't all bad! 

If this summary wasn't enough, you can read the CAP722 "Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in the UK", in all its glorious detail by clicking here

I personally take pride in operating safely and legally- and that requires knowing and practising all of the above, on every flight.

If you have any questions, drop them in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them. Happy flying!

The Parrott's Narrowboat Parade

Back in September, I had the pleasure of being invited to film Rebekah and Matt Parrott's wedding celebrations.

On the Shropshire Union Canal in the heart of England, they would lead twelve vintage narrowboats full of family and friends, in a spectacularly leisurely parade to the Anchor Inn. It was a beautiful day with the most lovely couple and people.

Filmed entirely on my Inspire 1 drone.

Sarah Hart in the Studio

Model & Styling - Sarah Hart.
Photography - Matthew Thompson.
Place - My Studio.

Em Theresa

Model & Styling - Em Theresa.
Photography - Matthew Thompson.
Location - Oxford.

Equipment Used

Nikon D750 + Sigma 35mm ART
Outex Underwater Housing
Adobe Photoshop + Alienskin Exposure 7

Maria Zur Nedden in London

Model & Styling - Maria Zur Nedden.
Photography - Matthew Thompson.
Location - St Katherine Docks, Shad Thames & Hyde Park, London.

I met Maria on Instagram while browsing hashtags one evening. I never expected I'd be photographing this stunning German just a few weeks later.

It turns out that Maria was coming to London for a month's work experience in a law firm. The timing was perfect. Just days after she arrived, we met at Starbucks at St Katherine Docks and it wasn't long before we started shooting. We spent the day exploring central London, eventually chasing the sunset across Hyde Park.

This wasn't my last shoot with this fascinating girl. Two weeks later we met again to shoot in Greenwich - click here to see that album.

Walking through Wonderland

'Wonderland' by Kirsty Mitchell, is one of those collections whose magnificent elegance and monumental intricacy can only be truly appreciated when you stand face to face with it. The massive prints allow for every minute-yet-deliberate detail to speak out, and tell each picture's story in a vivid and brilliant fashion.

I would never, and could never speak for Kirsty on what the Wonderland series is about. So here is a passage from the artist herself:

"'Wonderland' began in the summer of 2009 as a small summer project born of grief for my mother Maureen, who died 7 months before in November 2008. Back then, as I sat in my kitchen sewing the first rough costume, nothing could have prepared me for the 5-year journey that lay ahead. What started as a desperate distraction from the pain of reality, led to a dramatic turning point in my career, and consequently my life..." - Kirsty Mitchell.

Often taking a month, or even a year of waiting and preparation, each picture in Wonderland is a masterpiece of passion, inspiration and dedication. Kirsty's experience as a fashion designer allowed her to build unique worlds of fantastical characters, that have now been immortalised in the most colourful and pristine images.

"She'll wait for you in the shadows of summer." - My favourite piece.

"She'll wait for you in the shadows of summer." - My favourite piece.

Looking up at the artwork I have admired and followed for years, was a truly humbling and inspiring experience. It encourages you to reflect on your own creative process and inspiration, and on what truly matters. Another photographer, the curator and I all marvelled together. I only wish I could have met Kirsty to congratulate her myself.

Sadly, only hours after I left, the gallery closed for final time on this 6-week exhibition. I strolled down Regent Street to meet my muse Kristina, at the end of her day modelling for a Nikon masterclass, positively buzzing. I had so many ideas flowing.  I wanted to create my own wonderland. It was the perfect study in patience and detail, thought and exploration. Not to mention the perfect advocate for the argument that we 21st century photographers need to print our prized and invested visions out more.

It was a wonderful experience to walk through Wonderland. 

Thank you Kirsty.

Click here to see the full Wonderland series on Kirsty Mitchell's website.

Let's Fly!

Say hello to the newest member of my photography family. Eve, the DJI Inspire 1 UAV.

It is a terrific feat of engineering, enabling me to explore an entirely new world. The stunning 4K video camera is granted a mesmerising, uninterrupted 360 degrees field of view, as the carbon fibre arms lift the propellers out of the way while in flight. It is a dream to fly.

I think there's cause for celebration!

For a limited time, I am offering to work with some amazing people on some incredible projects, for free.

All you have to do is go to my Contact page, and send me a message saying what you can do, and why I should work with you.

The only catch is this. Your talent, possession, location or project has to be really cool.

Maybe you're a free runner, and want some footage of you in action? Or a kite surfer? Or a rock climber?
Maybe you own a classic or luxury sports car, and want some footage of you driving against the sunset? Perhaps you're a rally driver?
Maybe you know a really cool location, like a castle, and can get us in?
Maybe you have your own creative project, like you're recording your own film, and want a new perspective?

Anything is possible! I want you to surprise me.

I can't wait to hear what you guys have to say!

Let's fly!

Kristina Nikitina in Malta

Model & Styling - Kristina Nikitina.
Photography - Matthew Thompson.
Place - Bahrija, Malta.

MORE FROM THIS SESSION COMING SOON

Fire Breathing Hippy

Model & Styling - Jordan Wellard.
Photography - Matthew Thompson.
Place - Howe Park, Milton Keynes.

Dos Ojos

Featured in Latch Magazine.

The beautiful caverns of Dos Ojos were the setting for my most favourite and ground-breaking shoot to date. 

Kristina and I first heard about Dos Ojos in the resort pool on our second day in Mexico. The one-legged Canadian sipping his mai tai, proudly claimed to have visited almost everything worth doing in the area, but this spectacle was one of his highlights. It was unknown from most of the Quintana Roo tourists, with barely any mention of it at our hotel. It's just as well, as its majesty wouldn't be quite so apparent if it were crammed with people.

Hidden under the jungle canopy at the end of a long and dusty road, Dos Ojos is a flooded cave system that still hasn't been fully explored. It is one of the planets longest and most impressive underwater cave systems, made up of 28 cenotes at 51 miles long. Derived from the Mayan word 'dzonot' meaning 'sacred well', a cenote is a natural limestone sinkhole giving way to pristine groundwater. 'Dos Ojos' refers to two of the larger caves, the 'two eyes', that were believed to look to the underworld.

As an experienced SCUBA diver, I've never seen water so beautiful since off the coast of Fiji. We peered into the darkness of the caves, watching the bats dodge stalactites, and knew we'd struck gold. We wandered between cave entrances for a while, before settling down at the second eye. We watched as swimmers and divers disappeared and emerged from the tunnels, their torch lights whipping around and revealing patches the filtered sunlight couldn't reach. I couldn't wait to get in the water. But first, we wanted to take some 'dry' pictures.

Watching and photographing Kristina pose on the rocks in her white bikini, occasionally dipping her toes in the water, was everything I needed in life at that moment. 

But the water was soon calling. I encased my camera in its new Outex underwater housing and waded in. We set off exploring one of the nearby branches, finding the setting sun bathing one stretch of rocks in some stunning light. The crystal clear waters shimmered in beautiful blues and greens, occasionally illuminating submerged stalactites below. We soon realised we were facing a race against the sun as we chased the light through the cave. It was time for our biggest challenge.

We had only practised this once before in an open air cenote a few days earlier, which is testament to Kristina's talents. We wanted to create a majestic vision of her diving underwater, in amongst the fish, rocks and stalactites. With the sun setting and water temperature dropping, our challenges began to mount. Our learning piled up during each dive. She began to tire, I was getting colder, the ISO was getting higher, but the pictures were stacking up.

Much too soon, the Caribbean sun had set. The cave was dark and deserted, and we reluctantly pulled ourselves from the now-chilling water. It's a shame we didn't have more time, but it only makes me prouder of what we accomplished from the 6 or so dives we made. The other caves will have to wait for another time.

We learnt so many lessons from this experience - not just how to swim, model and photograph underwater. Which, by the way, turns out is much harder than anticipated.

I've learnt that this is the kind of art I want to be producing. Every day. The kind that pushes boundaries, and shows off lesser known parts of the world in new ways. The kind that makes you look twice. The kind that is hard.

A few may already know my ultimate plan is to conquer the land, sea and air.

I guess I'm almost halfway there.

Model & Styling: Kristina Nikitina
Photography: Matthew Thompson

Location: Dos Ojos, Mexico
Bikini: Accessorize

Featured in Latch Magazine

I will be writing a follow up post soon about the challenges facing this shoot and underwater photography. If there's anything you would like to include or know, please leave a comment or email me at hello@matthewthompson.photography. Follow me on Facebook to find out when I release new content too! Thanks!