The Polar Vortex of 2019 will be forever ingrained in our minds.
It’s been a tough winter for much of North America, hopefully warmer temperatures are on the way. The Polar Vortex of 2019 set all-time low temperatures in places like Chicago where freezing temperatures in January are as common as Binnys Beverage Depot’s, free samples.
Cold weather is typically not ideal for flying your drone, but for the adventurous, or should I say foolish pilots, cold weather can present some exceptional drone footage. Take for instance the breath-taking images of a frozen lake Michigan, with the backdrop of the Chicago’s Miracle Mile. Some would label these as ‘once in a generation’ photo ops.
I happen to agree.
These photos were taken with a drone, which surprises me because 40 below and Lithium Polymer Drone Batteries (LiPo) go together like alcohol and reasonable debate.. However, It’s comforting to know the DJI Go app provides a warning when the battery temperature falls below 59 degrees fahrenheit or 15 degrees celsius. The warning will embolden the conscientious pilot to warm the battery back to the ideal temperature of 77 degrees fahrenheit.
So, how were these pilots able to fly their drones during the Polar Vortex of 2019 and capture such incredible winter pictures?
For starters, they likely kept their drone batteries in a battery heater, right up to the very moment before flight. My guess is they only flew the drone for a short period of time, likely less than 5 minutes. The cold temperatures will zap the chemical activity in the battery, and cause significant and rapid voltage drop. As you may have guessed, rapid voltage drop over a frozen Lake Michigan can present daunting challenges to drone retrieval.
As far as the camera settings for taking crisp images in a Polar Vortex, its ideal to be in manual mode with your images set to RAW, or uncompressed. This allows you to jazz up the images in post-production. You know…Photoshoping. C’mon, don’t be fooled, everyone’s doing it!
Shooting snow scenes in Auto mode can result in dark images, and will limit your creativity. Snow and Ice can often play tricks on the camera’s exposure system by inadvertently underexposing the snow, making it appear gray, rather than pearly white. Making these adjustments before you go outside is preferred.
When its 40 below, your fingers aren’t working properly, and you’re in a rush to to get that perfect shot of Navy Pier, don’t waste indispensable time. Pre-planning your drone’s camera setting for snow is prudent, you may not have another opportunity to get these ‘once in a generation images’ again, so be prepared.